Today was soooo hard. Slept poorly. Did yoga. Walked the mile and a half to the dojo and my IT band and knee (the one that hasn’t been replaced) were already lighting me up. And it was already hot! Fujiwara Shihan always starts us out with many moving basics techniques…just about every combination of Goju-Ryu techniques imaginable…first few times smoothly and slow, and then many times at full speed and power. Most days so far this starting phase has lasted about 50 minutes. Today it was about 65 minutes. Your gi is drenched within 10 minutes and soon the sweat is dripping from your eyebrows, nose, fingers. Needless to say, I was finding it very difficult to hit the hard and fast reps because my knee was screaming at me whenever I would push off on it. I was thinking, “Good God, I’m toast and we’re only one hour into the day.”
After that we ran Sanchin kata numerous times. Sanchin requires attention to every body part simultaneously and much isometric tension. It is one of Goju-Ryu karate’s kihon (primary) katas and you never perfect it. You just drill down deeper into it. There’s nothing difficult about it…no kicks…no crazy jumping moves. It is so demandingly basic that it is extremely difficult.
Paradoxical. Usually Sanchin can feel quite demanding, and it is, but after an hour of moving basics hell, it almost feels like a mini-vacation to me. The added benefit is that men run it with their gi jacket off. You sweat profusely, but at least your gi jacket is not chaffing you. If you are not a karate practitioner you are no doubt asking why anyone would want to subject themselves to such training. About that time of the morning I am often asking myself the same thing. When you train so hard in the karate fashion, normal obstacles in life just don’t have much power over you by comparison.
In the afternoon, Akita television sent a team to do a feature on Mr. Fujiwara’s juniors who will be competing in Oita this weekend, so Sensei arranged a kata (forms) competition followed by Kumite (sparring). You would have to see these juniors to believe how good they are. Their katas are technically very precise and they develop the power as they grow and mature into the techniques, usually in their teens. The Kumite is very spirited, as Fujiwara Sensei and his Sensei, Mr. Tasaki, were both Kumite champions. What really impressed me was their speed and timing. It was very good to watch. I’ve attached a video of part of a match.
Much to my surprise, when we went back to kata after the filming crew left, I switched my position from the tatami mats to the wood floor, and something must have shifted in my knee because I felt strong again and the pain subsided. So I was able to work hard for the last two hours, primarily on Seisan kata, one of the three katas I will be graded on in Oita. By the end of the day, everyone was toast, not just “ the old guy with a bum knee!” You really do find a zone to be in to make it each day.
Back at the ryokan after training for a soak in the onsen and another scrumptious dinner. We ate in the banquet room so we would have enough places for a group of New Zealand Seiwakai members Sensei had invited. Mr. Fujiwara goes out of his way to try and get to know members of each group. At our party the other night he said we now have over 700 registered members internationally. If that is the registered number, there are probably again that many who haven’t registered yet. I don’t believe that number includes his Japan members either. It is a large organization yet, because of Mr. Fujiwara and the senior Senseis around the world, it feels like a family.
Anyhow, the table talk was more subdued because everyone is pretty tired at this point of the training. I sat in the lobby with several folks – Mumbai, Sidney, Oxford, London, Omagari, and of course Texas! It was interesting and amusing to hear English spoken in so many beautiful accents.
Almost finished in Omagari and soon heading for Oita in far southern Japan.