Sunday, August 23, 2009

Update Interview with Paul (intern #2)

Intern #2 Paul with his girlfriend Natsumi.

Erica here.

For those of you faithful readers who have been following the blog since the beginning, you will remember Paul Atkin. For the recent blog readers, Paul was intern #2 (2006-2007). He’s from Kelowna BC, Canada (a town not too far from my hometown Vancouver!) and he has come back to visit for one month. I took this opportunity to meet up with him and spring an interview. So if you ever wonder what happens to the interns after they leave the internship, well keep reading!

What have you been doing since the internship?

I went back and I have been enhancing my karate dojo (Kelowna Shotokan Karate). My father retired and I’ve taken over the dojo. Since returning, I went from 30 students to 90. I have about 50 kids and I’ve also opened up a second branch location of the dojo.

Aside from the dojo, I competed in the Canadian ShotoCanada Shotokan Nationals. I got gold in kumite and silver in kata.

What brings you back to Japan? The Wado Kai Nationals?

I’ve come back to visit all the friends I’ve made here, plus visit with my girlfriend's family.

What do you miss most about Japan?

The kids that I taught and the sense of purpose that the Japanese people hold. That respect and loyalty are very prominent. I find that if I ever get off track at home, coming back here puts me right back.

What do you miss least?

The weather. The hot, hot heat. That’s it.

What was the most memorable moment/event for you?

I got take part in a Budo martial arts festival. Arakawa Sensei’s dojo was chosen to represent Karate at the Nippon Budokan for the Kagami Biraki Festival in January 2007 when I was here (see post when later interns Carl Intern #4 & Lawrence Intern #3 attended the festival). I went to watch the event, but I got to partake in it. There were sumo wrestlers and people representing Judo. They broke a huge mochi (rice cake) and pieces were passed around to everyone. I stood amidst all these Japanese people representing different styles of martial arts and it was such an honour to be able to be a part of it...being non-Japanese and all.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for Louise and I?

Just always try your best. Remember that you’re carrying something that someone else had started and you are trying to make it better for the next person. If we keep finding the right people, I don’t see why that's not going to happen. Oh and never quit.

Thank you Paul for those encouraging words and the best of luck at the Shotokan World’s!

Coming soon: An interview with Carl Jorgenson, intern #4!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Carl Came Back!

Louise here,

Carl, Intern #4.0 (2008-2009) has recently visited Japan again. I took the opportunity to interview him:

How long have you been away?

About 40 days and 40 nights…

What did you do while you were at home?

I was quite busy actually. Amy and I had selections for the England Wadokai National Team a few days after we got back to the UK. We were both selected for kumite and to our surprise and more so to our horror, also for kata.

The week after that, we entered the Central England Karate Championships, Amy got 3rd place in Team Kumite and I got 3rd in Individual Kumite. It wasn’t a bad result considering that we were accustomed to fighting in Japanese events.

I ran a three week summer school for my club, Hartlepool Wadokai and started teaching some of the things I learned whilst training in Japan. I also had a lot of meetings with schools and sports centres arranging new Branch Dojo to start in September.

My dad also waited until I got back to the UK to start some major building work in his big old house. Whilst digging in the back yard we found a lot of human bones. So, it turned into a really big drama with lots of Police. Eventually, a university professor turned up to tell everyone that our family aren’t serial killers. It then turned into a two day archaeological dig that I helped with. It was really quite interesting, it turns out that my parents house was built on an Anglo-Saxon Monastery dating to about 640AD, and that the bones we found probably belonged to medieval nuns who were some of the first Christians in England.

Finally, over the weekend, we moved back into our house and started fixing 18 months of damage done by our tenants.
A busy 40 days…!

Why have you come back to Japan?

Well, when it came time to buy the flights home at the end of the internship, it was cheaper to buy a return ticket than one-way. So, I decided to make the return ticket good to compete in the JKF-Wadokai Nationals. I really wanted to see if I could improve on my ‘best-16’ placing in last year’s kumite event.

So, with my ego well and truly making the calls, I asked Arakawa Sensei to enter me into the competition again this year.

Update on the competition: I managed to crash out of kumite in the first round which naturally gave my ego a battering. I really don’t know what went wrong, my preparation was good; I was in relatively good shape and I got into the fight early, leading most of the way but eventually losing 4-3.

Carl in action

In kata, I also didn’t make it through which I really didn’t expect. I thought my kata performance was the best I’ve ever done, until I lost my balance and wobbled a bit, which lost me the bout.

The trip wasn’t all a complete waste though, because I got to climb Mount Fuji and catch the sunrise with my karate sister, Louise Fisk (New Zealand Wadokai) who is half of this year’s internship. This is something that we really wanted to do during the internship but we didn’t have time.

Where is Amy?

You’re not the first one to ask that question….! Amy is busy making our home suitable for human habitation and is already back at work with the Police, earning money to pay for everything etc… She wanted to come too, but we had a game of ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to decide who got to come back, and I won with my secret move ‘Sensei Scissors’. Amy does send her love though and she’ll be back next year for the Wado World Cup.

What do you miss about Japan?

The biggest thing is the feeling when you’re training at Shiramizu; it’s hard to put into words. The dojo has such a great atmosphere; everyone is working hard but having a great time doing it. Also, because everyone is at such a high technical standard, it makes everyone, even a cave-troll like me, perform better.

What did you most look forward to going back home?

A garlic sauce vegetarian Pizza from Mario’s pizza place in Church Street. No really!

What was the best experience you had while you were an Intern?

The best experience would have to be when Amy and I climbed Nantai-san in the Nikko national park. We had such a great time doing it, and it was the first time in ages that we had spent the day together after working and training so much. You should read the blog post that I wrote about it.

What do you think of the internship looking back on it?

I’m glad I did it and had the opportunity to meet so many nice people. If I had never applied, I probably would never have been introduced to Arakawa Sensei or got to know him. I think he’s a really nice guy who’s created something special at Shiramizu. I hope to learn from his example and re-create that feeling at my own dojo.

I think the internship is ideal for someone fresh out of university/college, before they get settled into the workplace. I think, looking back on last year, I had too many responsibilities at home to step away completely for 12 months; it really doesn’t help that I’m a total control freak either! Towards the end of the internship, I ended up micro-managing my dojo from Japan, I also took on more responsibilities within Sakagami Sensei’s association in England. This in addition to my intern duties and training made me a very busy guy…!

What’s next for you then?

We have an England Wadokai Kata Squad training session on Saturday 22nd (I get home at night on Thursday 20th), so I have a day to get over my jet-lag! Then hopefully, if I’m still awake, I’ll be able to attend the Sensei Bob Nash (US Wadokai) seminar which he is teaching in England on the Sunday too.

After that, I’ll have a few days off then Amy and I will get ready for the British Karate Federation (BKF) Championships in Edinburgh on 5th & 6th September. We’ve arranged quite a few seminars at our dojo with some of our association’s top instructors, then we fly out to Dublin, Ireland on 20th October for the FEW European Wadokai Championships.
I’m planning to come back in July next year, to have a long build up at Shiramizu before transferring to Nagoya City for the Wado World Cup. I’d also like another crack at the JKF-Wadokai Nationals again (the week after the World Cup) if that’s possible.

See you all next year…!

45th All Japan Wado-Kai Karate-Do Championships

Louise here,

Last weekend, the 15th and 16th of August, was the 45th All Japan Wado-Kai Karate-Do Championships. Erica and I were both entered in the Women's Kata and Kumite events, so had been training hard in preparation.

The programme, sideways view

The first day of the competition was held near Tokyo Disneyland at the Urayasu Park Gymnasium, and the second day was held in the Nippon Budokan. It varied, but the first rounds of most events were held on the first day, and the later rounds and finals were held at the Nippon Budokan. With about 2000 competitors, it was definitely the biggest tournament I've entered.

Women's kumite was first thing in the morning, so I warmed up and turned my fight brain on. I had no expectations as it has been many years since I've competed in kumite, but I surprised myself by only narrowly losing 3-4. I did find wearing a head guard off-putting, and I suspect my fighting style changed due to the reduced peripheral vision. However I am now inspired to take kumite seriously.

Preparing (I'm kneeling behind the Aka competitor who is standing)

Women's kata was after lunch, and the first round compulsory kata was kushanku. Again I lost narrowly, with 2 flags to 3. As usual, I need keep working on my kata.

At lunchtime on the second day, in the Nippon Budokan, a mass demonstration of basic kihon was led by Arakawa Sensei in time to beats on an enormous taiko drum. Two teams from Shiramizu also performed the Kata Niiseishi and Kushanku.

Mass kihon, Nippon Budokan

I really enjoyed the team spirit that the Shiramizu dojo had, before, during and after the competition. Everybody supported each other, from the elementary school students up to the senior instructors.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shiramizu Summer Camp!

The kids working harding during sparring drills.

Erica here!

The weekend of July 25th & 26th was the Shiramizu summer camp. There were about 120 kids ranging from 3 to 17 years old and a handful of adults that attended. We went to Kinugawa City (near the famous Nikko resort town in Tochigi Prefecture north west of the Saitama prefecture) and stayed at Manyoutei, a beautiful, traditional hotel complete with pull out futon mats and shared baths.

We arrived at the hotel around 1pm on Saturday, had lunch then proceeded to a school gym where the training was going to occur only to find the gates locked. After 20 minutes or so of phone calls and kids getting restless on the buses, we managed to gain access.

Once inside, we all did laps around the gym then had a group warm-up. We bowed in and then proceeded to do ido kihon (moving basics). After about 40 minutes of that, we split up into our different ranks and we worked on kata. The group I was in did Chinto and after another 40 minutes there was a water break after which we then moved on to sparring drills lead by Kazuhisa Fujimoto Sensei and Toya Sensei (from Takagi Sensei's Guseikai Dojoo in Tokyo). Somehow, by the end of that, 3 hours had gone by and it was time to finish up and head back to the hotel for dinner. Dinner was a delicious meal of all you can eat hot pot. Some of the guys had quite a bit of meat.

After dinner, there was some free time and then (from what I could tell with my seriously limited Japanese) there was a mini lesson on how points are awarded for sparring. This was followed by games and the losing team of each round had to get up on stage and act out a word. Everyone had a great time and went to bed tired, but with smiles on their face.

The next morning, we woke up at 6:30am, had breakfast at 7am and commenced training at 9am. The structure and content of what we did was almost identical to the previous days except there were more instructors who participated, including Toshiki Fujimoto Sensei (of Tokyo Guseikai), because they couldn’t make the day before.

On the way home, we stopped at Tobu World Square which is an outdoor museum of miniature models of famous building and places around the world. It was very entertaining and the detail in which these models had were amazing. There were little people, moving boats, cars and trains! It was a hot and sunny day, so naturally the kids were running around with ice cream cones.

Overall, it was a great weekend and everyone had tons of fun =)

Everyone waiting to board the bus.

Warm-up run.

Yamazaki Sensei having fun with the kids.

Yay!! Water break!!

Tobu World Square. Looks real doesn't it?

Shiramizu summer camp 2009!!