July 27, 2015. 0506
Omagari, Akita, Japan
Being here is such a refreshing pattern interrupt. We are living monks lives: Eat, drink, karate, sleep. No phones, no television, no work, no distractions. We’re far from home and occupations and get to focus on one thing and the people who are doing it with you. And, of course, getting through the day of training.
An incredible soreness has set in that I manage to overcome. Actually it is my many years of training that allow me to compartmentalize the pain and continue to function on an incredibly high level. I can train at the highest level and intensity, yet afterwards I can barely climb a flight of stairs I’m so sore and tired. How is that? It amazes me. So do the stellar people I train with. I know for a fact each of them is sweating their tails off and just as sore and exhausted as I am, yet nobody complains except good naturedly.
Every day we’ve had school aged Japanese karateka come to the dojo for training – many of them will be competing in the Japan Karate Federation International Competition this coming weekend in Oita. Yesterday (Sunday here) they trained all day with us. Trained hard in the heat and never complained or acted sullen like they wished to be anywhere but here. When they arrive and leave the Budokan, they run over and bow to their Senseis and always to Shihan Fujiwara in acknowledgement of the teacher/student relationship. They have such character and willpower already! When you spend time here you realize there’s a system of honesty, respect for others and property, and a work ethic in general that just doesn’t seem to exist in The U.S. these days. And I hear the same from the Aussies and Brits also. The streets are clean and litter free. People will go far out of their way to help you. Transportation is on time. When I return to the States I always suffer from culture shock at the vast difference in attitude. I believe we are too obsessed with the idea of “freedom” to do whatever we wish to, even at the expense of our fellows. The concern and respect for others in Japan keeps their society in tact. I know there is a limiting downside in that they may not have an absolute freedom of expression, but the society here is very impressive.
Training yesterday was terrifically hot and tiring. What else can I tell you? Although my knees and feet are hurting continually in an extraordinary fashion, I can tell I am improving and getting stronger daily. We come here to deepen our knowledge of the art and science of karate by being pushed far beyond our perceived limits and it is effective. People need to be pushed to find their real potential. We are pushed by Shihan Fujiwara and at the same time totally inspired by one another. I arrived with very little confidence about grading for 6th Dan – Gojukai but every day makes that seem more doable. I have to also give a lot of credit to peers, who continually go the extra mile to help me improve.
Last night I did laundry after training, had a couple of cold beers here, then walked over to the Route Inn hotel by the JR rail station and met up with my Australian brother, Jamie Duggan Sensei, and his students for dinner. We had the most marginal pizza ever, but the conversation and laughs were great. The Route Inn has a “Relaxation Room” by the onset baths with a massage chair and two foot massage machines. Oh bliss! The massage chair is over the top great and I walked home feeling almost like a new man. I’m about to go down to the ryokan onsen and try to soak away some of my morning aches and pains. It’s going to be another hot one. I’ll take it one hour at a time today. Two more training days before I travel to Kyushu for the Gojukai seminar and grading.