Training in Japan
– Fukuoka -
Arigato Gozaimasu!

I was on my second trip to Japan and was visiting 3 cities in a week - Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. This visit was for work purposes but I was hoping to get some Karate in.

I had asked colleagues in Japan if I could train there but nothing was arranged. My Gi was packed in my suitcase, in the hope that something would turn up. I went to Tokyo and Osaka but was so busy working that again the chance seemed to be slipping away. I finally arrived in Fukuoka on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

My colleague, Richard Lyle, told me over lunch that there was a club near him where I could join in. My first reaction was excellent this is great news. But then for the rest of the afternoon I was a bit apprehensive, I was half expecting a good beating!

Then evening arrived and it was time to go and do some training. We drove passed the Dojo, it has a big window so the whole street can look in, and I could see a few kids padded up and practising some kumite. I started to think perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea !

Anyway, I turn up and the Sensei agreed that I can join in, so I get changed and join my fellow students in the dojo. All the club gather round to look at my badges. Richard (who speaks perfect Japanese and is kindly translating for me) tells me they love the Ishinryu badge and think it is really cool.

So begins the lesson
I had decided before I left England to wear a white belt, for two reasons. Firstly, I thought it showed respect and secondly, I hoped it would prevent them from beating me up too much, but there was no guarantee of this.

We spent ages warming up. I was told later, by Richard that they regard the warm up as very important and it should form a key part of the lesson. We then do some blocks, punches, kicks etc. This is done in line, just as we do it back home.

The group then moved on to do some kata. However, the white belts (including me) where told to stand and watch (learn). The different belts went through the various kata’s eg pinan ichi, ni, and san. I noticed how similar it was to ours, in fact apart from the odd different block everything was identical.

Are you up for some sparring?
The last half hour of the lesson was saved for some sparring. I noticed from the start the younger students had been very keen on this bit and I did wonder if that meant I was about to play a very key part - the punch bag !

However, all the group went off to put on their gloves and pads, none of which I had because I couldn’t fit them into my suitcase. So I just had to stand and watch for a while. Sensei then asks Richard if I would like to have ago. I surprised myself with how quickly I said yes and before I knew it, I was getting padded up. I joked with Richard, is this the bit were I get beaten up?

For a brief moment I thought I was going to have to spar with the Sensei, who by this time had shown he was awesome! (the newspaper pictures of him, around the dojo also seemed to confirm this). But, thankfully I start to spar with the group and everyone has ago at sparring with everyone else (see photos). I successfully manage to survive sparring with everyone and am sweaty but still in one piece.

Sadly, the end of the lesson arrives. We all line up and then perform a long bow and tribute to the shrine at the front of the class. Richard told me later, the group was thanking the instructors and confirming how hard they had all trained.

I then thanked the Sensei for letting me train at his club. He thanked me for turning up, in fact the whole group were genuinely pleased to have a new person turn up and all thanked me. This was typical of the Japanese who I find are among the most welcoming and polite people you could hope to meet.

I offered to pay for the lesson but Richard told me it was free. In fact the lesson was free for everyone because the council pays for the club. I then offered to help the students clean the floor, by this time they started to get water and a hoover out but my offer was again refused.

The Sensei then gave me a Video (which we later found out was worth almost £50) did I say the Japanese were generous too! Sensei then allowed me have a photo taken with him

I thanked the Sensei several times for letting me train. This is the custom in Japan, everytime a person leaves a shop or restaurant they get thanked several times. This time I poured on the Arigato Gozaimsu’s myself except I really meant everyone.

This had been a fantastic experience and Japan is an amazing country. I only wish I could stay there longer. Sensei said that I was welcome to train there again, I hope one day I can take up his offer.

Special Thanks
-To Richard Lyle (our man in Fukuoka) thanks for organising the Karate, and also for showing me around Fukuoka ( the 4th largest city in Japan) Good luck with the PIT exams
-The Sensei and karate club in Fukuoka for making me so welcome

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