Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nippon Budokan Budo-gakuen Training Camp

Louise here,

Last weekend, the 24th and 25th of October, Erica and I attended the Nippon Budokan Budo Gakuen's training camp at the Saitama Kenritsu (Prefectural) Budokan (埼玉県立武道館) in Ageo City, Saitama.

Yoshihara Noriko sensei, Yamazaki Yukiko sensei and two junior high school students also attended from Shiramizu. It was a camp also for other martial arts: there were people practicing kendo, judo, shorinji kempo, aikido, jodo, and naginata. Takamasa Arakawa sensei, and Kazuhiro Toya sensei from Guseikai Tokyo, taught the karate sessions. Including the Shiramizu people, there were maybe only a dozen karate people training.

Cover of the camp programme

I was very impressed with the Budokan training halls. The main training building seemed newly built and besides wooden-floored training halls it included an archery range.

The first day we trained in a very large hall with kendo, nagainata and jodo people. In the afternoon there was a seminar about how to treat sport sprains and strains, where we taped up each other's ankles.

The second day we trained in another very large hall. Though there were only a few of us, I enjoyed the training, especially practicing applications from chinto, kihon kumite and jiyu kumite drills. It was also interesting to see how the other martial arts trained, especially naginata, which I hadn't seen before.

One end of the main training hall (jodo to the right, kendo behind to the left)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sugito City Championships 2009

Erica here.

Last Sunday, October 18, Louise and I participated in the Sugito City Competition. It was a very small one, consisting of about 200 competitors for 4 different clubs. It took place at the Takanodai Elementary School.

l-r Louise & Erica with their medals & tournament result certificates.

Louise in kata action.

Interestingly, Louise and I were the only adult females in the competition. So for kata, we got put into the men’s division. I was in the adult coloured belt category which was made up of 5 people, myself included, while Louise competed in the adult black belt category which had 3 people. I made it through 2 rounds to get into the finals and there I won my first gold medal in Japan! Unfortunately, Louise had a very tough opponent in her category and did not advance to the finals for kata.

Then came the exciting bit: kumite! Because Louise and I were the only adult females competing, we went straight into the finals to have our match. We waited until the very end when all the different divisions had finished with their preliminary and semi-final rounds and we filed into the gym with all the other finalists in a big procession with music playing and everything. I must say, this was the first time I had such a grand entrance to a final round! With the entire gym watching, each pair went up and fought their hardest for first place and everyone cheered them on. When it came for our turn, I went up hoping to score at least one point during the 2 minute match. Louise won of course and our end score was 4 – 9. Yatta!! Personal victory for me =) It should be noted here that this is Louise's first gold medal in Japan too!

Misaki Yoshia from Shiramizu dojo - an up and coming kata champ who has won her junior high school division at the Wadokai Nationals plus had her kata profiled online by JKfan magazine.

The each age division's kumite finalists line up against each other for the final event, which is a show of each final round one after the other going from youngest to oldest.

l-r Erica vs Louise in kumite.

Kids from the dojo!

Smiles are a good way to end the day.

Because more than half the competitors were from Shiramizu, many of the matches had fighters going against a member of their club. I guess it further motivates them to do better since there is pre-existing competitiveness for some of them (especially with the junior high kids). There were smiles and there were tears and everyone put in the best efforts.

Everything ok? The Japanese sign for everything is 'ready to go' that someone far away

can see is to make a circle above one's head with one's hands.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Richard Sensei's Corner: monthly JKfan magazine column!!!

Richard here!

The very popular JKfan karate magazine has kindly asked me to contribute a bilingual 2-page monthly column starting from November! It is going to be called Richard Sensei's Corner.

One page will be my thoughts about karate in general as a non-Japanese (NJ) and the second page will include an interview I do each month with a famous, or up-and-coming, NJ karate athlete, instructor or association leader who either lives overseas or in Japan.

This is a unique opportunity to communicate different ideas and perspectives of the NJ karate world to the Japanese karate community, as well as highlight the commonalities.

It is my hope that through Richard Sensei's Corner the JKfan reader will be exposed to healthy new ideas for karate practice developed overseas, unique karate adventures, international tournament experiences as seen through the eyes of NJ competitors, increased awareness of the numerous karate communities around the globe and, simply, my own misadventures having a lifestyle devoted to this budo art.

Being the director for the internship was one of the several ways JKfan took notice of me here in Japan. I will be profiling the program, its benefits and the current interns in one column sometime in the next six months.

The column will be partially bilingual, and I have yet to work out with the magazine which parts I can use in other media, but I hope by the end of the month to have a personal website up and running that will contain as much media as possible, plus my own daily blog to provide glimpses into the various aspects of the karate world I bounce around in here in Japan.

So check back soon for more information on the new website.

After 24 months, JKfan will then publish all the columns as a book, which I want to have completely bilingual plus offer extras.

Below are images from the magazine with Wadoka personalities. Actually, I was profiled once in 2005 when I started as the head coach at the high school I work at, and every few months my picture gets included somewhere when I'm coaching at a tournament, part of the many Shiramizu short stories (they do so much they're in it all the time!) or participating at a seminar.

Dr. Hakoishi Sensei on the cover for an article on Wado Idori.

Wadokai member Matsukyu-san in 2007 when he won the All-Japan Nationals (Japan Cup) for individual men's kumite.

Furuhashi-Sensei, 2 time Wadokai Kata World Champ and something like 7-time Wadokai Japan Kata Champ. This picture is great because it shows how large and glossy the magazine's layout is.

World Karate Federation President letter re: Olympics!

Richard here!

Unfortunately as everyone now knows, Karate missed entry into the Summer Olympic programme from 2016, being beaten out by Rugby 7s and Golf. While Karate came third amongst the 7 finalist sports (the others were squash, baseball, softball & roller sports), this development is of course a major letdown. But not all is lost.

In conjunction with an interview I'm preparing for JKfan magazine for my new monthly bilingual column ('Richard Sensei's Corner, more on that in another post!), below is the letter I received from the WKF President, Mr. Espinos, in an email yesterday which he recently released to the public. I will reserve my own thoughts on this matter for another time, so please simply read over this letter if you haven't already. He had more comments about Karate which will be featured in my column.

I think this is interesting information for the interns to be aware of since all the former have wanted to help their home country clubs participate more in the sport's karate world, as well as the current interns too, so understanding all the facets of sport competition, including the Olympic challenges, is important. There has been lots of mis-information in the past about karate and the Olympics therefore reading details straight from the WKF President is quite valuable.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Arakawa Sensei Takes a Silver at the All-Japan Masters!

Saitama Masters Team 2009 - Arakawa Sensei is in the back row far right, and Masuda Sensei from the other dojo in Sugito, SKIF Zenshinkan, is seated far left.
(All photos from Sensei's blog.)

From September 19 to 21, the annual JKF All-Japan Sport's Masters Championships took place in Shizuoka Prefecture at the Shizuoka Prefectural Budo-kan Arena. In the Individual Men's Kumite age 40-44 division, Arakawa Sensei took the Silver Medal! This is the event he won last year. Congratulations to Sensei for still a great result!

A bruise he received during the event. He still said he would try again next year! There were 5 rounds to the final, and the pictures below I believe are rounds 2 to 5, with Sensei wearing a red belt for each one.

Sensei's final opponent was 187cm tall, 6'2'', so about 1/2 a foot taller!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Takagi Sensei`s Seminar

(Photo from Arakawa Sensei's blog)

Erica here!

Last Sunday, October 4 , Louise and I, along with a dozen or so other people, attended Dr. Hideho Takagi Sensei’s seminar held at the Ikebukuro Sports Centre (Takagi Sensei is the chair of the Wadokai's Central Technical Committee). It was a black belt event, but I was kindly invited to join as well. I was quite relieved to see another brown belt upon arriving and to Louise’s surprise; it was a fellow karateka from her dojo in New Zealand.

We started the 4 hour seminar with partner work where we would move up and down the room with one person punching and the other doing various blocks and counter attacks. Many times during these exercises, Louise and I had no clue what we were supposed to be doing so we did our best, occasionally mimicking Arakawa Sensei and/or making up our own drill. Afterwards, we moved on to ido kihon, kihon kumite and lastly kata.

As usual, Takagi Sensei was very instructive and humorous. During one of our many water breaks, Yoshinhara Sensei and Louise trotted towards Takagi Sensei for some pointers about the stance Naihanshi, upon spotting them, he proceeds to look around the room as if he hadn’t seen them and starts to jog away. Eventually, he let them catch up and gave some valuable advice on how the stance is supposed to feel.

During yet another water break, I was practicing with Yoshinhara Sensei my gyaku-tsuki (reverse punch). Takagi Sensei comes up to us and explains that I’m using too much of my upper body and that I should focus more on using the hips. I watched paying close attention when he was explaining it, showing us when out of nowhere he hits me with a chudan gyakutsuki. Obviously he held back and he had only lightly hit me but even so, I felt the force and could then imagine how it would feel to be behind a strike that had his full force.

Arakawa Sensei and Takagi Sensei (photo from Arakawa Sensei's blog)

Often, Takagi Sensei would enlist someone to assist him when he is demonstrating and most of the time; his uke would get attacked at the most unexpected times. It was quite funny for the rest of us, but a little unfortunate for whoever was his helper at the time. By the end of the seminar, my mind was brimming from everything we’ve done and desperately trying to retain everything. I’m sure I have forgotten some of it already, but it was a very enjoyable seminar and it went by really fast.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Job at the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten

Louise here,

So what do I do when I'm not gainfully employed doing karate? No, I don't lead a life of idleness and dissipation, but have various part-time English teaching jobs, picked up from Carl and Amy, the previous interns. On Monday and Tuesday mornings, and Friday afternoons I work at the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten, which is very near to the Shiramizu dojo.

Entrance to the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten

I ride one of the buses for an hour or so, saying good morning to the kids as they are picked up.

In the kindergarten bus

Then, depending on the weather, I might play outside with the kids, or help get them sorted for the day in one of the classrooms.

Me and the red hat class (a.k.a. Kobato) of four and five year olds

I usually give one or two half-hour English lessons, but for the past month, the entire kindergarten has been preparing for their sports festival, so I've been tagging along and distracting the kids as they practice. The festival is taking place this Saturday (the 10th of October), at the kindergarten's sports' ground, so by now everyone is looking pretty good. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Practice in the hall