IN WAKAYAMA, JAPAN - AN EXPERIENCE TO REMEBER!
After graduating from University, I decided to spend some time experiencing Japan. Chris Fung, my brother and I attended our first karate training at the Medical Dojo in Wakayama, Japan. Before class started, I watched many of my Sempais and Kohais practice their sparring techniques, looking very intimidating. I soon realized that everyone in the dojo is very serious in karate.
We started with a warm up consisting of hundreds of punches, strikes, and kicks. Most people may not enjoy doing the fundamentals but I learned that the most basic techniques are the most effective technique to reach your opponent. Timing between your jab and stepping in (must be big and low) is very important in order for the combination to be successful.
Following this very thorough warm up, we began the intensive muscle training. I remember clearly one exercise regime where we had to hop on our stomachs. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that a lot of my Sempais and Kohais were able to do such a technique! Class lasted for three hours and in between the class we had 3 five minute water breaks. During the water breaks, I was impressed how respect was shown, the lower belts passed out water to Shihan and to all the Sempais before serving themselves. After the second water break we continued the class with kata and sparring training. This is one day I will never forget as it felt as if I had spent a day at a military boot camp.
After training, the club often goes out together for dinner. Because there were so many of us (usually at least 10), often some of the lower belts had to wait longer. Each time there were seats available, the Sempais were seated before the Kohais. This show of seniority and respect was consistently practiced.
Besides the Medical Prefecture Dojo, I also trained in Shihan Hirano's home Dojo. At this dojo, I trained with Shihan and youths from 6 - 15. I had anticipated these classes to be a lot easier. Wrong!! They were just as intensive as the ones at the Medical Dojo. The warm-up consisted of 250 squats and hundreds of sit-ups. It was amazing how the children were able to handle so many squats and sit-ups. They are not to be under-estimated due to their age. I had experienced many bruises on my arms from sparring with these small children. They are real karatekas!!
One of the most memorable training event which took place was a five day intensive karate training session up in the mountain at "Kihoku Seinen No Ie". The purpose of this training was for the Medical Dojo to prepare for a tournament held in Fukuii. Training schedule ran the entire day (5:30 am - 10:00 pm). It started out with a morning run at 6:00 am, breakfast, rest, first training at 9:00 am for 3 hours; lunch, rest, second training at 3:00 pm for another 3 hours, dinner, shower and sleep at 10:00 pm. This routine was followed strictly for 5 consecutive days.
I arrived with Shihan Hirano on the second last day of the above training program. I was able to join their training for a day and a half, and already this was exhausting to me. I was so proud and in awe as to how the medical students endured all five days of this intensive training. It certainly shows their dedication to the spirit of karate.
During my stay in Japan, I attended four tournaments; Western Japan Medical School Karate Tournament, Wakayama Junior/Elementary Schools Karate Tournament, and Kansai Medical School Karate Tournament, and Wakayama Prefecture Karate Championship Tournament. Competition at these tournaments were different in that there were no weight categories or colour belt divisions. It is entirely based on the individual's skills and techniques. My participation in these tournaments has been a learning experience and opened up the differences of Canadian and Japan competition!
Through my four month residence in Japan, Shihan and the Sempais have helped me to grow and become a better karate athlete, both physically and spiritually. My initial period was very difficult and stressful, as I struggled to find strength to continue such long intensive training sessions and perfecting the many small errors made. However, with the encouragement and support of such enthusiastic karatekas, my stamina stronger, my training became easier, and my techniques improved.
On August 24, 2002, karate test day, I successfully progressed from 4th kyu, blue belt to 2nd kyu, brown belt. Hard work does pay off. Karate gives you the determination and self-discipline to attain your goals.
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