Thursday, March 25, 2010

Introducing (drum roll please) ... Pete Williams!

Louise here,

First of all, I'd like to make a huge apology to Pete Williams, the world and any web-surfing aliens. I actually interviewed Pete back in February, but it's taken me this long to post it. He's going to be taking over from Erica and me in June, so let's hear it from Pete.

Please tell the readers a little about yourself……

My elbow; that’s quite small. Wait, that’s not what you meant, was it?

Hello! I’m Pete, 27 years old (28 in April), I have lived practically all my life in the southwest of England, having grown up, passed university, and been employed there. I graduated in 2005 with a degree in Illustration, after originally starting a degree in German and Italian. It turned out to be a smart move as I’ve been the Graphic Designer and Copywriter for an international motorcycle import company for four years now; however they’ve also got me translating websites into German as well!

I love Karate (of course), reading, travel, languages, art and drawing, music, animation and games. I’m a massive Ghibli fan and partial to the odd anime series (Cowboy Bebop being a particular favourite). Coming from the South-West means that I’m naturally a bit of a hill-walker and beach-goer too!

Pete being silly 1

When did you first start karate and what grade are you currently at?

I would say that I properly started when I was 13 - I did a little when I was between seven and nine, but didn’t take it as seriously, silly boy that I was! My first style was Bujinkai Karate, founded by shihan John Smith. It’s a combination of Wado and Goju principles with Kickboxing and other styles incorporated too. I became shodan in this style August 2000.

I first came across Wado Ryu at university - of all the styles practiced at Exeter this looked by far the most comprehensive, friendly and down-to-earth. The instructor was Paul Hammond sensei, and I’ve studied with him up to this day - he’s a really great teacher and a good friend. Today I’m shodan under the British Wadokai Federation, headed by Gary Swift kyoshi, who is a warm and inspiring teacher too. I count myself very lucky to have met the people that I have throughout my Karate studies.

Pete at 15 years old

Why did you start karate in the first place and why did you stick with it?

Because it’s cool! Seriously though it was just after the wave of everyone starting Karate and then giving up (‘The Karate Kid’ had been released in the UK a few years before - funnily enough I didn’t even see that film until I was 15!). There was a Karate class in my primary (elementary) school and I wanted to see what was going on; it was taught by Bob Etherington sensei, who had a lot of patience and a great sense of humour! I went twice a week for two years, and then gave up when I couldn’t get into a tournament. But for the four years I wasn’t involved I always felt that there was something missing, and I was constantly kicking air (and sometimes siblings) and practising what Kata and Ippon Kumite I knew at the time. Then my parents, sensible folks that they are, suggested, seeing as I was doing it on my own, that I go back to classes, and I haven’t looked back since.

Karate became one of the most important things in my life. When taught correctly, it has an amazing ability to give you both confidence and humility, which has helped build me up to be the person I am today. Karate has also helped me through difficult times, and has introduced me to some great friends. I couldn’t imagine living without it now.

Pete being silly 2

What do you believe is your greatest achievement in karate and why?

Crikey, big question. My greatest personal achievement would possibly be coming second in the Bujinkai National Championships in 1999 - I was a blue belt and only 17, and won against some older and much more experienced competitors.

However I think the proudest I have ever been is at the University Karate Championships while acting as coach when my team-mate was on the mats. He was getting frustrated and losing the bout, but I could see that changing his tactics to a more circular pattern would expose his opponent’s fighting style. I managed to calm him down, and point out the weakness. He ended up winning the fight and I was really happy for him!

When did you first think of coming to Japan?

I’ve always wanted to go to the Far East, but what really whetted my appetite was reading ‘Angry White Pyjamas’ by Robert Twigger, which I read during my first year of university. It chronicles his year studying Aikido and training in the Tokyo riot police course, as well as exploring around the country. That book made it firm in my mind that not only did I need to visit Japan, I needed to train there too.

Pete being silly 3

Please describe your image of Japan.

I think it could be both the busiest and most peaceful place in the world; where inner cities bustle and buzz with neon electronica and modern technology, but lush hillsides wait in the country, drenched in fable and tradition. A bizarre and unique oxymoronic harmony between right now and timeless. The people are welcoming, well mannered and friendly, yet know how to have a party!

What do you hope to achieve in your year as intern?

I’d like to make new friends and feel like I’ve truly experienced Japan and dedicated myself to the internship programme. I hope to achieve a lot of personal development in my understanding of tournament karate as well as Wado Karate-do and have a long term relationship with the Shiramizu dojo, along with everyone I meet. I also hope that I can give something of myself to the internship, building upon it in my own personal way, and take back enough knowledge to set up my own dojo. A competition medal wouldn’t go amiss, either!

How do you think the karate training will differ from your own country?

I would think that the classes will be much bigger, and more dedicated. As Carl, intern V4 and a fellow Englishman, has mentioned previously, politics has played havoc with Karate in England, diminishing numbers, promoting apathy and sadly splitting associations. I’d like to think that we’re over the worst of it now and that we can now steadily start to rebuild, but I am very much looking forward to training in Japan.

Where do you hope to visit in Japan?

The Ghibli Museum!!!

Actually there are a lot of places on my list, from Mt. Fuji to Shinjuku, to lakeside onsen, to Nagano… let’s just say there’re a few red circles in my Lonely Planet guidebook.

Pete being silly 4

Is there anything specifically Japanese that you would like to learn while in Japan? i.e origami

I would definitely like to learn some Japanese cuisine, like sushi. I think origami is too delicate an art for my sausage-fingers, but musically I’m very interested in learning the shamisen. If learning the Japanese language is Japanese-y enough for this question, then I’d like to learn that too!

What do you think you will miss the most while you are here in Japan?

People mostly, family, friends, colleagues. And to some extent I'll miss the work I do, but I'm wanting to help out with some Karate-related graphics and web stuff over there. I'll definitely miss my piano, though. Hopefully I'll be so involved with what I'm doing at the internship that I won't have time to think about the things I miss. If you spend most of your time thinking about what you haven't got then you're not really looking at what you have in front of you.

Sensei Swift's group in Plymouth (Pete is 3rd from right)

Is there anything else that you would like to say…………………..

Dear goodness poor readers, I've written an essay already!

I'll leave you by saying ta ta for now, I can't wait to see you all there, and a sage bit of advice that's kept me going through the years:
"If at first you don't succeed, avoid skydiving".

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