It’s almost one year since I boarded a plane destined for Japan and two weeks of intensive karate training and testing. Some of my karate friends from around the world are set to take the trip again in around a month’s time. It occurred to me that while I have shared the Japanese medicine side of the trip, I’ve never written about my karate experience there.
I train in Goju Ryu karate, one of four traditional styles of karate originally from Okinawa. The style “Goju” means “hard soft”. This refers to the way we use a combination of sharp, powerful and also rounder, flowing strikes, blocks and breathing techniques.
Within Goju Ryu my club is part of a subgroup called Seiwakai. Seiichi Fujiwara Shihan is the highest teacher within Seiwakai. Each July, advanced Seiwakai karate students from around the world travel to Japan to undergo the intensive karate training and testing under Fujiwara Shihan. We spend the majority of our time training in the town of Omagari (in Akita province). Each day is the same with 9am-12pm and 3pm to 5pm sessions, with further training in the evenings for those who are tournament oriented.
Day one of training is a shock to the system. The training is mentally and physically challenging. It is an intense cardiovascular workout (compounded by the fact that it is hot and humid in Japan at this time of year). The afternoons are dedicated to working through the finer points of our kata (forms) for our grade level. At the end of the day, we feel tired but satisfied. As the days wear on, we settle into the training routine and our skills improve due to the intensive, master tuition. The evenings are spent dining (sometimes somewhere fancy and sometimes in the supermarket – which is not as bad as it sounds), chatting and doing karaoke with our fellow karateka from around the world (including Russia, Portugal, UK, USA and Canada).
I travelled with a group from my club: Sensei Scott, Sensei Bernie and my fellow karateka Taylor, Dave and Ryo. Most of our group underwent the testing. It was a high pressure grading situation which we were able to embrace given the training we had done with our teachers in Australia but also by running with the momentum from our intensive training with Fujiwara Shihan. Taylor, Dave and I were all successful at grading to Shodan (1st degree black belt) at the Seiwakai grading. We weren’t to know if we passed until the next day, however I knew I had performed to the best I could and actually enjoyed the pressure of the testing. It is my best karate memory to date! (Just next to the time when I took 1st place in the under ten years girl’s kumite!)
Following the Seiwakai grading and testing we travelled on the Shinkansen (bullet train) back to Tokyo for the Japanese Karate Federation (JKF) seminar. This was where the Seiwakai students joined with other Goju Ryu students and gained from the knowledge and experience from several great Goju Ryu teachers.
The trip was nothing short of amazing. The karate training was hard and intense, there were times where mental or physical hurdles seemed too great and we were too exhausted to face them, but we smashed them in the end.
It was an honour to train with Fujiwara Shihan and his group of supporting teachers. I am so grateful for the personal coaching I received during the training sessions. The friendships we made with our fellow karateka are to be cherished.
I wish all of my fellow karateka making the trip this year a fantastic few weeks of training and I look forward to seeing you all there in 2014.
To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.