Martial Arts

So I thought some discussion on martial arts could be interesting. I know a few of you are studying karate, aikido, taichi, etc.... I'm curious how many came to Japan with the idea of studying some kind of martial arts as agoal when they applied for JET, for me it was a major goal, but one that I sort of forgot about for most of the first year, as the place I wanted to study was in Chiba, and obviously that's a rather long drive from Saga. :-(

I had considered myself a pretty well-studied martial artist, having begun training in kung-fu at around 5 years old, switching to Tae Kwon Do when I was 9 or so, switching again to HapKiDo during high school, a few months of Jeet Kune Do when I was 22 or so, and a year or so of ToShinDo (which is Stephen K. Hayes' version of ninjitsu), I found myself pleasantly surprised when I first learned of Kyokushin's existence just a few weeks ago.

I had been mentioning that I wanted to study karate for a while, but not wanting to get thrown into a class with a bunch of kids and not wanting to drive for 40 minutes each way to Aikido or another karate school, I kept putting it off. Then a couple weeks ago, I mentioned to one of the teachers at Shougakkou that I was looking for a place to study karate. Within 2 minutes I was on the phone with her younger brother and by the following day he had been in contact with the Kyokushin Sensei and BAM, off to the races.

First class: Was feeling a bit rusty, not having done much in the way of martial arts since I got here, so the week leading up to my first class I practiced at home doing a couple hundred punches and kicks from various stances, hoping that it would help me at least survive the first class without looking like an idiot. I felt a little sore after the first day, but luckily felt pretty good, except for a looming cold, at the beginning of the first class.

So here I come, obviously at 6'3" 220lbs (190.5cm 100kilos) I'm not on the small size here in Japan, so I was happy to see when I walked in that there were a couple heavy-weights in the class. Sensei is more of a pitbull, small but very well-muscled and definitely has the look of "You live because I allow you to live" in his eyes, not in a scary way, but certainly knows what he's doing, which was a good sign.

So it begins: For the first 40 minutes or so, we threw kicks and punches, did free movements, then more kicks and punches, then more free movements, then more kicks and punches....shit I should've done more running last week I'm thinking.... then we move onto push-ups, but this was a new kind of push up. On hands and knees, your partner sits across your back and shoulders as you lower your forehead to the floor and back, 40 of those and yeah, I was feelin it. Then it was on to about 20 minutes of bag work, kicks, punches, elbows, knees, the works. and of course, my dumbass forgot to bring water, so the one break we did have, didn't help much. Gotta quit smoking I'm thinking, gotta quit....

So anyways, after about an hour and half, the regular guys started free sparring, I couldn't participate as I still need a gi, and equipment, but I didn't mind sittin out for the first day. It was fun to watch though, the only illegal move is punches to the face and groin attacks, but after that, anything goes. Fuckin awesome! People getting kicked in the head, their legs taken out from them, punched in the stomach, really hard shit. Now I could tell they weren't going totally all out, but nonetheless some hits were getting landed. Can't wait to get in their this week.

Doing some research on Kyokushin gives some interesing results. Started by a man named Mas Oyama a Korean turned Japanese, the syle believes in hard training and hard hitting. This guy used to fight bulls. 52 of them actually. He killed 3 with a single punch to the head and chopped the other 49 bulls' horns of with knife-hand (shuto) strikes!!! This is on film as well, so no BS. Lots more interesting stories to tell about the guys, but once again, gotta run to class. Talk about your experiences with martial arts, especially if you've studied in Japan, I'm curious to know how different you find it from studying back home, or just what you think in general. How is class run? What kind of exercises do you do? Do you compete? etc...

Forgot to mention....so after class, everyone's pretty tired out and decided to head to Lawson's for some ジュース. Again, being a dumbass, I didn't bring any money either, but luckily Sensei was nice enough to buy me some orange juice, could've used about agallon of water, but hey, beggars can't be choosers right? So anyways, here I am thinking these guys are all in fairly decent shape, healthy, dedicated martial artists, and what do all 12 of them do the moment we get to Lawsons's? Light up smokes of course!!! Couldn't believe it. Here I had gone all week without drinking (except on the weekend of course) cut back on smoking and just generally aimed for being more healthy and what do I find but every single one of these guys is smoking cigs like it's going outta style... aaaahhhhh, never underestimate the Japanese...NEVER.

Anyone interested in joing, let me know. Classes are near the Sogo grounds by the SagaKen Apartments if you're interested....lataz. 3000 a month, dirt cheap and well worth it.