Sunday, December 26, 2010

JKF National Tournament and Bonenkai

Peter Here,

The Winter chill settled into Tokyo on a bright Sunday 12th December morning, where Arakawa Sensei took his family and me to see the JFK Japanese Zenkoku Taikai (National Championships).

The JKF Tournament is a massive event (the finals of which is televised a week later), which is the climax of many prefecture, regional, company and university competitions, so to get here you must be really good.

Before setting out though, we first visited Masatoshi’s school, where there was an art fair and Masatoshi’s Karate Monkey had won a gold award, which we all marvelled at. Although this was a ‘best of school’ fair, it still amazes me just how good and advanced some kids can be in their field in comparison to back home, and we had a good look around the other displays before setting off to the Nippon Budokan to watch the tournament.

Richard and his international students were already there and quickly gave me a catch-up. Next was Kata, and Richard’s tournament game, which is to guess who wins each kata round before the judges raise their flags (with bonus bragging rights if you guess the correct amount of flags too). I joined in too, but as he has played the game much longer than I have Richard ran out comfortable winner.

Watching the amount of support (the audience, the recording crew, the support for the atheltes too) that the National competition has in Japan is really heart warming, and an inspiration to try and get even more support for the sport back home.

Sadly we could not watch the end of the competition because we had to get back to Kuki for the Shiramizu Bonenkai. As every Intern has written, a bonenkai is a large party to celebrate (or ‘forget’ as the name suggests) the passing of the year. This is done using a lot of speeches, food, and of course the natural amnesia aid, alcohol!

Everyone arrived in good spirits, and after settling down in their tiered positions (in such an event, seating positions are very important- with the most senior person right at the top of the banquet) we all ate and drank and listened to each other’s speeches. I had prepared one with the help Setsuko - one of my English Students - however in my ambition to make a good impression I think I made it far too long for the rapidly diminishing attention spans of the alcohol-fuelled revellers. Other people, such as Suzuki Sensei and Uchida-san, are amazing speakers and can really get everyone laughing.

The Bonenkai also had entertainment, firstly in the form of Bingo! Everyone was given a card, and a wealth of presents were available to select from. Naturally the first winners had the better pick. Gradually everyone had their numbers called, including me. What did I get? Some underpants that said ‘stinky’ and a lovely mask:

After this, Mikya performed on the guitar, singing in English as well. Very impressive! Then, a performing monkey came out and played keyboard, that monkey being me. I didn’t play very well, the nomi-hodai (all you can drink) starting to take it’s toll on my fingers a little, but people seemed to enjoy it enough. Perhaps that was because of the nomi-hodai too!

Although this was the last social event on the Shiramizu calendar, training continued right up until 23rd, with the customary 1000 punch drill.

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