|Japan Training Tour 2016 e|
Suzuki – Ha International Japanese Training Tour.
12 months in the planning between Sensei Philip Kear, Kobayashi Sensei and Furakawa Sensei, we were finally on our way to Tokyo Japan for 11 days and we had invites to train in seven Different dojos. After 20 plus hours and working out the rail system in Tokyo, we arrived into our Hotel in Shinjuku.
Shinjuku Means “New Lodge” it was named in the Edo period, when this was a rest stop along a major route in Tokyo. Today it is synonymous with New and edgy, state of the art, Buildings of Steel and glass with neon lights. Crowds moving along the streets no matter what time it is but it has a side where history and culture thrive.
On Booking into our Hotel, we met Sensei Kear and Kobayashi Sensei, returning from some sight see around Tokyo, the day was free to fine our bearings with a Traditional Japanese welcome party later that evening, to discuss our itinerary over the next week.
Our Group included Members from Australia, Ireland, Sweden, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Chile. Our Sensei's were Sensei Philip Kear Tour Leader and Sensei Robert McGrath.
We all met in the reception at 10am and headed off to our first Training Venue with Kobayashi Sensei and his Daughter Miyuki , on arrival to Ushiku in Ibaragi, there was a big attendance. Sensei Kear had requested from Furukawa Sensei & Kobayashi Sensei for competition as part of our tour. We were invited to compete at the Ushiku prefecture competition, this was selections for competitors and referees to represent at a national level.
The two ladies in our Group competing, Taija Marimon from Sweden and Patricia Paredes from Chile, were invited to join a Japanese team.
The Competition was stopped and the delegation was introduced individually to the assembled audience and competitors, with Masuda Sensei making a welcome speech.
Then it was time to compete, everyone did very well as the speed and the intent of these young Japanese fighters was of a high standard, all hoping to go forward to the national squad training.
Sensei McGrath was our coach but due to injury, one of our teams was down a man so he stepped out onto the Tatami, holding the matches to a draw. One comment by Sensei Eamon House, “he doesn't go back. Attack and counter, every time”.
The Chief Organiser Masuda Shiro Sensei. Head coach of Toyo University gave all your group a gift, which was a nice surprise, with Sensei Kear and Sensei Stephen Alcorn presenting some Australian wine to Masuda Sensei and Nakamura Heihachi Sensei Senior Referee JKF. At 5pm we finished and began our travel back to our Hotel. A few bruises but everyone was delighted for being part of this competition and making some new Japanese friends.
After two Trains and a Bus we arrived in Kobayashi Sensei Home Dojo, this was a traditional Dojo with well-worn equipment, Kobayashi Sensei was very warm welcoming to us, we were early but Sensei started the class for us, as the evening went on his Students joined in and after what can only be called a fabulous training session, Kobayashi Sensei's Wado is superb and his style of teaching is a joy to watch and receive. He taught the 5 Pinan Katas and Nai hanchi. He also explained the change in the way the Japanese Fighters are now attacking, this way of attacking has also been adopted by the French National Team.
On Kata he explained Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei's (Founder of Wado Ryu) Way of doing moves in the kata, which also was much the same way as Suzuki Sensei did it and then he explained the more modern way that is being used in Japan, brought about by Competition.
Kobayashi Sensei spent a great deal of time and effort to explain each technique within each Kata to emphasise the way it should be performed, using the natural power, in the way of Shizentai, (natural balance of the body) as this was Ohtsuka Sensei's teaching, of performing "live" kata, doing it with feeling and purpose, not just doing the kata like a dance.
Sensei taught Nahanchi Kata, explaining and trying to get the class to understand the concept of Nairiki (Inner Power) the Kata builds body structure, coordination, balance and breath control, helping to improved self-perception, relaxation and development of muscle coordination.
“Kobayashi Sensei's teaching indeed is special”. Said Kear Sensei at the end of the class.
After Training Sensei invited us to stay and Sensei's Family set up a party in the Dojo with welcomed Beer and homemade Japanese Food. This Night went down as the making of our tour.
After Presentations to Kobayashi Sensei and His Family who were looking after us on this Tour we began our travel back to Shinjuku.
This was an early start Leaving the Hotel at 5am with Training starting at 7am in Meikai University. The morning sessions are a little more relaxed with Music in the back ground. Training started with warm up exercise.
After a lot of shouting of encouragement which lasted throughout the entire training section, we lined up in four rows. The next hour of training was to do a fast moving exercise 10 times then run as fast as you can to the other end of the dojo. This moved on to be 10 stationery techniques then fast combination to the end of the dojo. The Final hour was fighting combination with ever changing opponents, this was a very hard and taxing training with most people drinking over three litres of water in this two hours.
After some more Presentations of gifts to Ueda Wataru Sensei the Karate Club Coach and to the Club Captain by Sensei Joel Hultgren of Sweden and Photos with the entire group and individuals, as some students were just starting to change they were informed there was another hour of training for us with some of the Dojo students. This session was started with some Traditional basic and combination training this moved on to combinations on focus pads. Followed by some Kumite training.
We returned back to our Hotel by 12 noon and we now had two days off for sightseeing, One of Sensei Kobayashi's students collected us in the afternoon in his Bus and with Miyuki San, they took us sightseeing around Tokyo ending up in Sensoji Temple, there are lots of shops and stalls on the way to the temple, to do some shopping, we went onto Dinner and some friendly beer drinking late into the night.
Our free days passed quickly with a lot of sightseeing and the Irish group going to a Onsen ( Japanese communal bath house) this was to ease the body after three day of hard training.
Day seven was training in the ultimate Wado University Dojo Nichi Dai, this is where most of the Wado teachers that arrived in Europe came from. Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei and Masafumi Shiomitsu Sensei both were from this University.
We were to arrive one hour early, Sensei Kear and McGrath made their way to the Dojo as we changed.
Nichi Dai has two Dojo side by side One Is the Karate Dojo the other is the Kendo dojo, on our arrival the Kendo-Ka were in full swing into their training. The clash of their Shinai (Bamboo Sword) accompanied by their Kiais (Cries) echoed down the halls adding a special feel to this venue. Adding maybe a little anxiety to some of our group.
In the Wado Dojo the White belts were in sweeping the floor and cleaning the dojo, this is done before every training session. As the brown belts arrived they stopped and Bowed to Sensei Kear and McGrath they then Bowed into the dojo The white belts stopped what they were doing and Bowed to them they then moved to their position in the dojo along the wall, as the Black belts arrived the same process accrued with the brown belts also bowing. As they sat in their position most taped up toes and other injuries. When the Club Captain arrived everyone was shouting and bowing to him. He then began the warm up, followed by some very physical jumping exercises, to our relief, we were excused these. Then Shimizu Sensei arrived he chatted to our Sensei's before giving orders to the Club Captains.
Shimizu Sensei was very soft spoken but his stature was one of a harden Karate-ka, with self-confidents at its highest. This wasn't surprising as he was multiple All japan champion and World Champion.
He Started the class with Basic training running through all the punches and kicks, if any of the students was lacking in power or techniques they were in trouble, as he took them out of the class and explained their faults. This class ran very smoothly moving onto partner work then pad work and finally Kumite training.
The power and speed of these students was different than the last dojos we visited, much stronger. The students were very helpful and pleasant. After training came to an End the Photo were taken and more Gifts exchanged. We were then invited back to Nichi Dai for more training the next day.
University Training is very intense, most students live in and lower grades are up early to organise things for the higher students morning training this is usually 2 to 3 hours nonstop full on fast physical training. After this the lower grades cook breakfast and after clean the dorms and showers after which they attend academic classes. In the evening there is more training again 2 to 3 hours this is 7 days a week. Weekend training may be combined one 4-hour session. Competition and winning for your University is a great honour.
Our second day training in Nichi Dai was very much the same as the evening before but Akihito Saito Sensei was the instructor He was very pleasant with very good English, his family owned a sushi Restaurant in Tokyo and when he explained where it was and that it had been in his family for a long time Sensei Kear remembered being brought there may be 40 years ago. Sensei Kear explained he had trained in Nichi Dai in 1970, Saito Sensei laugh and said he was only one year of age when Sensei Kear attended Nichi Dai.
On Arrival to the Dojo Sensei Kear asked for two volunteers to help the Students clean the dojo, but the Students wouldn't allow them to help, as the Volunteers were Dan grades and they (the students) would get into trouble.
Saito Sensei technique was very smooth and fast he had, at 47 years of age, no problem training with the students from the beginning to the end of class, but you could see the old school karate in his techniques. He Said to Sensei McGrath “It's fun to train with the university students”.
One other sensei an alumnus of the university , was talking to Kear sensei who explained he was there with the Famous Tanabe Brothers, Tanabe Fumahiro Sensei and Tanabe Hideo Sensei, as his Sensei he was then asked by this alumnus his name and after he gave it to him he replied “Oh the famous Kear brothers”. Sensei Kear found this very funny, but was pleased.
Saito Sensei was present with a bottle of Irish Whiskey by Sensei Eamon House and Sensei Alan Smith presented the Club Captain with an Irish Pocket watch both were very pleased.
Saturday' Training was in Tokyo University, one of the most prestigious university in Japan and it was a great honour for us to receive an invite to train in their old traditional Dojo. The Dojo has a Kendo, Judo and Karate clubs. Sensei Kobayashi and Miyuki San, collected us from our hotel and we travelled to the university, Training today was for 3 hours but as we had found in the past these training sessions can run over by one extra hour.
The training was very well organised with Water drinks set out around the dojo, Physio therapist on hand and a large box of tapping supplies for those little injuries. The Warm up was followed by some traditional hard training, the students were very help full in explaining what we needed to do as the session was run in Japanese. Most of the sessions we attend ran very similar, attacking your opponent continually, here in this Dojo a whistle would sound and everyone would change partners.
The final hour of Training was competition fighting, Taija Marimon of Sweden fought all the female students for more than 30 minutes with only losing one bout. The rest of our group did very well in their bouts as this University are ranked number one in Japan.
We were treated to a demonstration of Kata by the Dojo's kata champion, the power and the precision was excellent and it was very enjoyable to watch.
After the training was over gifts were exchanged and many photos taken. A speech by Sensei Kear to the University students thanking them and their Karate Club Coach Yabada Sensei for inviting us to their training session.
That evening was our Sayonara Party as a couple of our group were heading home on the Sunday. The restaurant we had our Welcome party was booked and Kobayashi Sensei and his Daughter Miyuki attended.
During the evening there were Speeches by Bruce Beenie, The Tour Manger, Sensei Robert McGrath and Sensei Joel Hultgren the Final Speech was by Sensei Philip Kear who Presented Kobayashi Sensei with a gift. Sensei Kear was very happy with our tour and with all the students who attended. McGrath said in his speech, “this tour would not have been possible only for the friendship between sensei Kear and Kobayashi Sensei and the hard work both of these great sensei's of Wado Ryu karate had put in over the last eight months”.
At the end of Sensei Kear speech he Presented Sensei Robert McGrath with 7 th Dan, Sensei Eamon House with 6 th Dan, from Ireland, Sensei Joel Hultgren with 5 th Dan, from Sweden Sensei Alan Smith with 5 th Dan from Ireland and Sensei Stephen Alcorn 5 th Dan from Australia.
“It was a great honour and surprise to be presented with my 7 th Dan grade from Sensei Kear especially in Japan in the presents of Kobayashi Sensei.” Said McGrath.
Kobayashi Sensei congratulated McGrath and after the formalities were over Kobayashi Sensei played some games with a 1000 yen Notes and a Beer bottle, the task was to remove the note from under the beer bottle that was standing upside down, all failed but sensei pulled the note out from the beer bottle with ease and a little trickery. All to soon the night came to an end farewells were made to those leaving the next day.
Our last day of training was in the Famous Teikyou University. We arrived into the train station where we were met by Minoru Furakawa Sensei who is on the Japanese Olympic Committee representing Karate, He explained he was very busy since Karate is in the 2020 Olympic games, with many Karate federations wanting to join the Japanese Karate Federation for the first time.
Furakawa Sensei is a loyal student of the Late Suzuki Sensei and is very good friends with Kear Sensei as they have trained many times together in Japan. Many years ago when Sensei Kear was presented this 7 th Dan grade by Suzuki Sensei in Japan, Sensei Kear and Furakawa Sensei exchanged Belts, So these two great Sensei's wear each other's belt. This is a very great honour in Japan and makes them “Friends for Life”
The Dojo is out of this world, a modern built dojo but with traditional feel. There are three levels basement is weight and cardio Machines the First floor is the Karate Dojo, which is all wood with a controlled temperature for the wood which is still living. There is also a Doctor on the premises during training. Second Floor is the Judo Dojo and third floor is the Kendo Dojo. 2016 marked the 50 th anniversary of the University opening its doors to its first students in 1966. Sensei Alan Smith said “It's was like being in a new hospital it was so clean.”
The Class started with a fast but pleasant warm up with the club captain, suddenly a group of Lower grade students rushed to the top door and opened it. Kagawa Sensei arrived in and made his way to the Sensei's Changing Room When he returned he made his way down to where Furakawa Sensei was and greed him and Sensei Kear. He then took over the running of the class. The intensity of the training went up a few gears with Sensei training as hard alongside everyone. There was also a Group from Germany so the training was conducted as an International Seminar, Kagawa Sensei explained to all present who we all were and we were welcomed by all the Students from Japan. This was a wonderful training experience Wado training alongside Shotokan, During the training time the Japanese performed their Kata's after which Sensei would correct mistake, this would be followed by the German group performing the kata and lastly us performing the Wado version.
During the training Kagawa Sensei would go over to Furakawa Sensei, from time to time and they would compere Wado and Shotokan techniques, with Sensei Kear and McGrath joining in.
The Class ended with Kagawa Sensei explaining about the Dojo and how the floor was still living and the building as a whole. After many photos and gift giving, we said good bye and we made our way back to the Train Station where Kobayashi Sensei's Daughter and Niece brought us to a beautiful restaurant where they helped us ordered a Japanese Meal and some Beers.
“The Trip to Japan was a great experience and would never have been possible only for Sensei Kear and his contacts in Japan as he is an Old boy of Nichi Dai University Dojo.” Commented Bruce Beenie. As everyone bid good bye our next Training Tour was already being organised.
Sensei Kear said” It has been a hard negotiation over a long period, but Special thanks must go to our hosts Sensei Furukawa and Sensei Kobayashi for organising the very best in Training Venues. The Dojos were of the highest calibre in Japanese Karate”.
Affiliated to: Official National Amateur Karate Association of Ireland | Wado Kokusai Suzuki-Ha Europe | Wado Kokusai San No Ya