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Wednesday, July 22, 2015


2015 Japan Training
Omagari, Akita Precfecture
Weds.  July 22.   0615. Day 5

Up early as always, since the sun is up at 0400 and there are no curtains over my shoji screen windows.  I’ve been doing miserably at blogging on this IPad.  I’m such a Windows guy that the
Little things mean the difference between losing everything you’ve written on for two hours or not.  Grrrr.  It’s happened a number of  times and with limited time to write, it is maddening to lose it.

Training begins today at 0930.  Yesterday was 90f and the heat index was about 100f, so we will be sweating profusely.  No air conditioning in the Omagari Budokan.  Just a big cavernous hot place.  Today will have us all doubting our conditioning.  Since my knees are far from 100% it is just one more thing in the balancing act when you train.  I am going to try and moderate myself over the next week before Oita and the JKF grading.  That’s not an easy thing to do when you have always been exhorted to give 110%.  I’ll know better by end of training today.  The good thing about arriving early is you get rid of the jet lag over several days, but you also eat and drink too much and start to feel that you are losing your physical edge.  It’s all a balancing act, isn’t it?

Dinner last night at the ryokan was fantastic as always.  I found out that Fujiwara Shihan has spent over 10 years as a sashimi apprentice.  I was watching him cut fish yesterday and know he could work at any top flight sushi bar if that was his calling.  He and his wife are such hard workers.  He is a top tier karate instructor and coach, travels the world, they run the ryokan and have parties and banquets here almost every night because their food is so well regarded.  And in the midst of all that, here come 25 foreigners to also stay and another 50 staying in the local hotels who have shown up to train.  I have so much respect for them and their family.  I am pleased to say that Fujiwara Shihan looks very well.

Dinner last night also filled the dining room with karateka.  So nice to meet up with old friends.  Last night we had Americans, Russians, Australians, Portuguese, Polish, British, and Japanese at the tables.  I have no idea how many will actually show up for training.  I’m missing a few I thought would be here and am surprised to see some I didn’t expect.  Shihan gave us orders to be at the Budokan and get warmed up as he is going to start straight-away.

Okay, I’d better get some food in me.  More later.

LATER:  Thursday morning 0600

Sitting by the wifi in the ryokan lobby, watching the outside, drinking a can of Boss coffee, and waiting for people to start showing up downstairs so I can Face Time with my sweetie back in Texas without disturbing anyone.  I’d stay in my room but I’m at the end of the hall and the wifi is spotty.

The training yesterday was very good and very hot.  There are probably 60 karateka here right now and we are joined by several Seiwakai senior Senseis who will also be grading in Oita.  In the afternoon we are also joined by several Japanese high school kids who will be competing in the All Japan Gojukai Tournament.  The largest international contingent is the Australians.

We started off straightaway with many moving basics and then  Sanchin kata, which has you sweating profusely after the first one.  This year, Fujiwara Shihan had us get to the Budokan early and warm ourselves up so we could start right in on karate, which was most brilliant.  All our  time was spent on karate that way and I wasn’t nearly as taxed as when we spend the first hour on hard calisthenics.  Most of the morning was taken up with moving basics and Sanchin.  I felt as good about my Sanchin as I ever have, and it seems that the recent tweaks by the Gojukai is moving more in the direction I am most comfortable with: a bit more circular and the emphasis on timing and power…not just the power.

The afternoon was spent on Tensho kata, Kumite (sparring) combinations with partners, and fast, continual attack/defense drills in which one after another attacks the person at the front of each line and eventually, Mr. Fujiwara will yell “Switch!” And you relinquish the hot seat to another karateka.  Good stuff!  I don’t know how much water and Pocari Sweat (a Japanese style GatorAid) I consumed, but it was a lot.  I’m so glad I’m from Texas because some of the people from Russia and England were pretty taxed by the heat.  I believe the heat index yesterday was right at 100F.

We finished the last hour in groups of like rank, working our proscribed grading kata.  Black belts grade on Sanchin, Tensho, and a proscribed kata.  For my 6th Dan level, my kata is Seisan, a very difficult leg kata with many turns on one leg and kensetsu Geri kicks.  My knee replacement seems to be taking it all in stride, but sometimes my balance is off from knee issues and that will be disaster if I don’t fix it in the coming week.  Lots of work needed on Seisan kata – an effect of not having any of my Senseis regularly available to correct things.  We ALL need that second set of eyes or we become complacent, or blind to our mistakes.  When you do have the chance to be graded or evaluated, it is very humbling to find you need to fix many things in the kata you thought was pretty good.   In grading in the JKF Gojukai and in Seiwakai, you are required up through 5th Dan to also do Kumite in your grading.  It can be very “spirited” to say the least.  I’m quite happy not to do grading Kumite any longer, even though I like sparring.

By the end of the day, everyone was ridden hard and put up wet, but it was a very good first day.  My knees feel pretty good and my conditioning is fine.  That’s  it from Omagari.


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