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Thursday, August 15, 2019


On Sunday, the 21st, we resumed our training in Jinguji, a quaint but growing town one train stop from Omagari on the local train. The civic center where we trained the first three days is being readied to be a polling place for local elections tomorrow, so we'll train here. I remember training here a few summers back, and the area has grown since then.

We all took the local train at 0940 and arrived Jinguji six minutes later. From Jinguji Station, it is a twenty-minute walk to the large gym in which we will be training.  The walk is beautiful -- first past rural homes and well-tended gardens, then alongside taro and rice fields. We saw numerous eagles hunting in the rice fields.

The gym is part of a large recreational complex with tennis courts, indoor pools, a school, and even an onsen (natural spring water baths). We were advised to pack our lunches as there is not any store close by. On day 5, I would discover there is a small restaurant at the onsen complex, that was very good. The onsen also had a number of excellent massage chairs and flat tables that, for 100 yen (approx. $ .95 US) would give you an amazing mechanical massage for about fifteen minutes!

This gym was actually better than the civic center gym in Omagari.  The floor is kinder on the feet, and the gym has excellent cross-ventilation because it is surrounded by fields rather than other buildings.

Both days, we began with walking, then stretching, and into moving basics until we were warmed up. From there, the morning session was spent on Sanchin, Tensho, kihonkata (the Gekkisai katas and Saifa), and Seiunchin. Then lunch break.

On Day 4, I ate the sandwich I brought from the Family Mart and sat outside with friends, thankful for the breeze and the beautiful vistas across the rice paddies toward the mountains beyond.  Akita-ken has some beautiful vistas, and this was no exception.

View from the training gym.

After eating, I worked on massaging my left calf and my hip, which, because of a pinched nerve in my back, have been lighting me up for the past three months. It has been a bit of a balancing act trying to keep the pain on a manageable level by stretching and massage. Good thing I have a high pain tolerance level -- the result of many years of karate, distance running, and construction. Nonetheless, I can feel age starting to exact a toll on me. The reward is that I don't see many people my age capable of doing this. For that I am thankful.

 My new vibrating roller!

On Day 5, after I ate my sandwich lunch, Glenn Stephenson Shihan, the head of Seiwakai Australia and a long-time friend, asked if I wanted to go to the onsen cafe and get a coffee. That's when I discovered (too late) that I could have had tempura or curry or ramen instead of my Family Mart sandwich. Grrrr... But the coffee was good. Then we found the massage chairs and that was like heaven for my tired and aching body. I think I need one of those chairs for my living room!

Both afternoons, we started back with Sanseiru and went through Seipai as a group, with periods of bunkai oyo (applications of sections of the kata), which were a nice break. Glenn Stephenson was my partner. What I love about Goju-Ryu kata is that everything in them is usable in combat and effective! This is not sport karate.

Bunkai practice.
Thanks to Richard Hang Hong Sensei for some of these shots.

Shihan Fujiwara shared with us his standardized training regimen for kyu ranks and asked us to record them (not for public use) so we could begin to assimilate the progression into our regimen when we returned to our home dojos. Two of his students demonstrated the syllabus. Good stuff, which I've already started to incorporate.

We were also fortunate that Fujiwara Shihan had Kazuhisa Saito Sensei demonstrate each kata before we worked on them. Saito is one of Sensei's senior students and a remarkable kata performer. I watch his kata and think, "well mine looks kind of like that..."

The final hour and a half, we were separated into groups based upon our next grading kata. Since I am still ranked Godan (5th dan) in the JKF Gojukai, although Nanadan (7th dan) in Seiwakai, Fujiwara Shihan sent me to work on Seisan kata -- the grading kata for Rokudan (6th dan) and my old nemesis. There are some one-leg balance points necessary for the kensetsu geri kicks that, due to past knee issues and my current hip and back issue, give me hell. I am either right on or far off on my balance, with no consistency. It is maddening.

This year, Fujiwara Sensei had Rod Martin from Australia, teach the Seisan group. I've known Rod for a long time, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to have him instruct me. Rod is a healing arts professional and I was very pleased that his instructional style is more from an internal rather than an external approach and perspective. Much of his instruction focused on aspects of internal application and I have to say, it really resonated with me, and immediately gave me a new perspective. Really remarkable how you can be doing something for so many years and then someone with a little different focus, approach, and vantage point can switch your light bulb on. Not to mention he was tasked with the thankless position of trying to teach a group of primadona yudansha who already think they are doing it right! Good job, Rod Sensei!

After the train ride back to Omagari and walk to the ryokan, it was time for a bath, a beer, dinner, and laundry. You can always count of an entertaining time at the laundromat with such an interesting and diverse international crowd as we have in Seiwakai.

The wonderful Seiwakai laundromat crowd. 

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