This is when you really start to feel the hurt deep in the body, even though Fujiwara Sensei is pacing us really well this year. It is gratifying to me to see the younger karateka limping around like I am.
As you can see, I am behind on my timely blog posts, but there is a lot going on in addition to the training during the day. There are sweat-wet, blood-stained gis to wash at the laundromat, meals to take, old friends to socialize with, and family to talk with. Thank goodness for the WhatsApp app to video chat Terri and Jacob back home.
Day 2 always seems to be the hardest to me. You start to feel the aches from Day 1 and the day can seem endless. Maybe we are getting old or soft (or both), but this year we are only going for five hours a day instead of the usual six, but I haven't heard anyone gritching about it. I think we are all getting our money's worth.
Both mornings we started out walking around the hall for 15 minutes as preliminary warm-up. Sensei says this is a time when we can walk and talk, and get to know our family from around the world -- by talking as we loosen up. There are some very interesting karateka here from all over, so it is an enjoyable start.
The morning "walk"
We are following the formula of Day 1. On Day 2, Carmen from Hong Kong led us in the next warm-up session with some perfect yoga-like stretches and then Abel Sensei from Portugal led us through moving basics. We pressed on into Sanchin kata, Tensho, Saifa, and Seyunchin for the remainder of the morning session. No water break, but you learn to hydrate well.
During our lunch break, I opted to stay at the training site. There is a pretty basic little restaurant in the next building, which serves the city employees who office there. Cody Cole and I ate with Jay Padayachee from South Africa. My ramen with tempura was quite good. Then it was back down to the training space to put our legs up the wall to let some of the lactic acid disipate.
Drying gi during lunch break
The afternoon session was broken into one hour of bunkai partner work and one of actual kata practice. We worked a lot on Seyunchin, which toasts the legs nicely before moving on to Sanseryu, Shisochin, and then jumped to Sesan. My hip starts going south on me about this time. The final hour we were in groups working on our next grading kata. I opted to go with the Kururunfa group, but presented poor performances as my hip and sciatic nerve were so bad by then, I couldn't hold either of the first two opening moves. It felt as if an ice pick was plunged into my hip and another in my left calf muscle. I was exasperated and Fujiwara Sensei was obviously not happy with my performance either. In Japanese karate, if you put your gi on, you signify that you are ready to put 110% into your training. If you can't, there is no pity for your pain or discomfort.
Start of a bunkai example
At the end of the day, he called us, his senior Seiwakai yudansha together, and admonished us that EVERY time we train, we should be putting in maximum effort, because we are the senior teachers, and that right now, our efforts weren't that impressive. This kind of talk actually motivates, rather than depresses us. He knows all of us well, and like the good sensei he is, he tells it without any sugar coating.
After dinner at the ryokan, I walked next door to watch some of Sensei's junior high students train for the Nationals in Nagasaki next week. Man they are amazing.
Omagari Juniors at Honbu Dojo
Day 3 was similar to Day 2. Today I felt better. I'm consuming 2 liters of liquid each training day -- water and EmergenC. Today I also brough a couple of bananas, because I think I am sweating out all my potassium, and I believe it helped. But, the last hour still has my number and I was in deep pain in my hip by then. I tried to hang with the Kururunfa group, but Sensei sent me over to the Sesan group, I believe because he thought my lame balance was a distraction. He was probably correct. Not that Sesan is any easier, but it doesn't start out with two Sagiashi dachi Stances you have to maintain after two knee kicks. I was happy to move. It is embarrassing to not be able to muster a kata that you usually do passably well. You learn humility in this art. Rod Martin Sensei, from Australia, was running the Sesan group and gve me a number of good pointers.
I walked back the 1.5 miles from the training hall to gauge my hip situation. Not great. Bob Davies from Liverpool, England told me he found an acupuncture/physical therapy (Bonesetter, as they are called in Japan) just a block from the ryokan. I was scheduled for dinner with Bob and Cody Cole, one of my Texas students, but when Bob took me by and introduced me to the therapist, Takuro Sato, he told me he was going to Tokyo tomorrow, but he could trat me in about 30 minutes, so I told my mates to go ahead and eat and I'd catch up with them later.
While waiting, there was a steady stream of high school athletes, male and female, coming in for treatment, so I knew I was in good hands with a guy who knew sports therapy. He spent an hour on me with electric Tinge treatment, needles, and a crushingly deep therapy massage, which almost had me crawling off the table with its intensity. When it was over, I felt stoned from the massive release of endorphins and still sore as could be, but by the time I walked to meet my friends for some drinks and karaoke, I was feeling pretty good again. The treatment was 5000 Yen -- about $46.
Since the morrow was our rest day, many of us ended up at the Riverview club after karaoke for some dance time. Train hard, play hard. A great day! Tomorrow we're off duty.
Stacey Karetsian and me -- Finally we can all relax