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Martin’s Japan Trip 2008 – Part 3 >> Final Grading Preparations

Another full on day, but really good.  Weather has been warm and muggy, not much different than Sunshine Coast, maybe just a little higher humidity and we have had a bit of rain this evening.

The day started early about 5.30am wake up, 6.00am taxi to the sohonbu, then morning training started at 6.30am.  As is usual form, we started with half and hour of seiza and mokuso.  It just reminded me how much I miss doing that,  it’s something that I really enjoy and just don’t make the time for usually.  The dojo was pretty full, with all the Aussies, a few Canadians and several Japanese.  Given that the gradings are tomorrow morning, I think Soke Sensei took it a little easy, although we did most of the usual kihon routine, but not speed training that he usually enjoys to do in the mornings.  Followed by all kihon kata and kata.

The seniors were in the front line, then 4th dan instructors in the second line and everyone else in the third line.  I was very fortunate to be positioned right behind Tanaka Sensei,  he’s just got such great energy, especially during morning training.  For the first time ever I forgot a kata half way through, not a good thing to do the day before a grading.  But in my defence, it’s a kata that I haven’t really been putting a lot of time into practicing lately as it is the 6th dan grading kata (Ryusan) a few steps beyond my current level.  After all kata were complete, Soke Sensei gave everyone a few minutes break, expect me, I had to redo Ryusan kata.  In the end it worked out to be a good thing, because I got a few special points to work on that haven’t been pointed out before.

After everyone else got a break, we did partner training for nearly all of the remainder of the class.  I got to work on Nage no Kata with Snow Sensei.  Given the distance between dojos in Australia, we don’t get to train together that often, so it was great to train together in this context.  We had a few good breakthroughs and enjoyed working with each other.  After training was complete, it was time for soji.  Cleaning the floor, with with small, wet towels, pushed up and down the dojo by hand.  It’s good to have so many people in to do this job as it goes quite quickly.

It brought back memories for me.  During my year in Japan the Sohonbu was very quiet, often just Tanaka Sensei and myself for morning training at that time.  I think out of the year, there would have been maybe 100 times that I cleaned the whole dojo by myself after very tough physical training, now that’s shugyo.  While it’s very tough physically and mentally to do at times, it’s also a very humbling experience and a pleasure to do.  If nothing else than a small thank you for the time that Soke Sensei so freely gives.

After that, breakfast, hotel, change of clothes, wash gi and back out to the Kamitori via the bank.  Now to say the least the exchange rate it not that amazing right now, and every day it seems to be dropping.  Just 2 months ago, AU$1 would buy 102JPY, this morning it was down to 64JPY, I think it’s going to be a bit of an expensive trip this time.

We had lunch Japanese style at a nice little restaurant, simple lunch, but good.  When you walk in the front door, there is a vending maching, where you select a meal and pay then find a spare table.  Then staff come to collect tickets and about 5 minutes later out comes the food.

After lunch we continued up the kamitori to a photo booth, where we all had to get passport sized photos to goo with our grading applications.  The locals must have thought we were carzy, one at a time we went into this tiny booth, obviously built for the locals…  Once inside, we’d change into a gi top as that is what’s recommended for the photos as one will go on grading certificate if successful.  After many bumped elbows and so on, we all managed to get it done.

Next mission, was to get to the sports store, as I needed to get a mouthguard and groin guard for the kakedameshi.  That morning Tanaka Sensei had showed us the bogu (head gear, body gear and gloves) that all entrants are to use.  It looks good, very light weight body gear, just enough to stop any major internal damage, but I think that broken ribs are still a possibility… not for me though, that’s not part of my plan.

After shopping, I ran into Noonan Sensei who I spent the next few hours with catching up sharing ideas about various things, then back to the sohonbu dojo.

We got there in time for the kids class.  Chris Taneda Sensei had arrrived a little earlier and was talking with Soke Sensei.  I was asked to join Tatsumi Takatsu Sensei teach the kids class.  It had been a while since I last taught any kids in Japan, but it was interesting.  My Japanese has slipped quite a lot so my confidence in teaching the kids was not that great, but I tried to give them something different that they might not normally receive.  Most of the kids were just in awe of my size, by Australian standards I’m tall, but not out of place at 194cm, but in Japan with Primary School aged kids it’s a bit of a novelty.

For evening classes nearly everyone was back again from the morning class, plus a few more people that had arrived that day.  Again training was very similar to the morning class, and tuaght by Soke Sensei once again.  After training, 7.30-9.00pm, Tanaka Sensei sat everyone down to explain the schedule in more detail for the next few days.  Tomorrow’s grading is going to be very big, 18 people grading in total, some for dan grading, some for teaching titles, some for both.  Given the size of the grading, what we have been asked to do is a condensed version, if everyone was to do the full grading requirements it had been calculated at nearly 6 hours just to check, plus feedback time.  Unfortunately we only have 3 hours allocated for grading so given that we have less to do, it is going to be even more important that everything is correct.

Following explanation of the schedule, Tanaka Sensei invited everyone back to his house, across the road from the Sohonbu dojo for some snacks, pizza and drinks.  I think everyone was quite tired, especially those who had arrived that day, but it was nice to sit down for a while and catch up.  It always impresses me how hospitable Tanaka Sensei is with everyone.  I just hope that next time he’s on the Sunshine Coast, we can return the favour again.

Then finally back to the hotel, wash gi, hotel onsen while I was waiting and back to writing this entry.  I hope that everyone enjoys reading about my adventures as much as I am having them.  it just makes me realise how nice it is to be able to train at the sohonbu.  I will certainly be encouraging all Sunshine Coast members to get to the Sohonbu dojo to train once they have graded to black belt.  I think it’s something that everyone should do at least once.  Soke Sensei’s growth in technique just continues to amaze me, we are so lucky to be a part of the ICKF and have direct access to a true master of karate-do.

I’m going to call it a night, it now after 1am and I need to be up around 6.30am to pack my bag.  Breakfast downstairs at 7.00am, then taxi to the Sohonbu dojo at about 7.30am for final grading preparations.  I guess I’ll get a sleep when I get home, maybe.

I still didn’t get any photos today, maybe tomorrow…