Sunday, December 27, 2009

The 37th All Japan Karatedo Championships

Erica here.

On the weekend of December 12th and 13th, the All Japan Karatedo Championships were held. I’m told that this is THE competition to win if you’re going to win one. To qualify for this competition, you must have won a competion in your prefecture. Then you compete with all the other gold medalists in your area and the winner advances to represent their prefecture at the All Japan Karatedo Championships.

All of Saturday was used for qualifying matches for team kumite and this took place at the Tokyo Budokan. On Sunday the 13th, the day I went to watch with Richard Sensei, the final rounds for team kumite, qualifying and final rounds for men and women's kata and individual kumite occurred at the Nippon Budokan.

Men's kumite. Intense.

We arrived at roughly 9am, when the competition started, and already the first 2 levels of seats were filled!! So we settled up on the third level and watched the individual men’s kumite. When I first started watching, the fighters were so fast I wasn’t able to tell who had scored a point first. Then after awhile I slowly began to be able to tell, with the help of Richard Sensei of course. There were 2 big screen TVs on either side of the stadium that had instant replay and that helped spectators to see the reasons for some of the calls the judges made. For example, there were quite a few times when to us it looked like red had scored the point, but the judges would award the point to blue. A replay of that point would come up on the big screen and we’d see that red had actually missed and blue had scored with a counter attack, but from our angle it looked different.

Kata being shown on the big screen.

After the qualifying rounds were over for kumite, kata started and it was amazing to watch. For me, I got to see katas that I’ve never seen before. Sitting up in the stands with Richard Sensei and Arakawa Sensei, we would guess which colour would win right before the judges made their call. Richard Sensei got all of them right except one. I stopped after awhile because I kept guessing the wrong one =_=’


Men’s Kumite -- Araga Ryutaro

Women’s kumite -- Miyamoto Yu

Men’s kata -- Furukawa Tetsuya (Suparinpei – Goju-ryu)

Women’s kata -- Usami Rika (Chatanyara Kushanku – Shinto-ryu)

Men’s team kumite -- Kyoto

Women’s team kumite -- Tokyo

This is definitely a must watch event!

Me! It was really windy =p

Monday, December 21, 2009


Louise here,

Last Wednesday, instead of going to karate practice in the morning as we usually do, Erica and I accompanied Arakawa Sensei to the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten to see how to make mochi, (rice cakes).

Rice is the staple food of the Japanese, and is very important to their way of life. According to Boyé Lafayette De Mente, in the book “Japan Unmasked: The character and culture of the Japanese” (2005, Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing), the methods of wet-rice farming have shaped their culture significantly, by requiring group cooperation and self-sacrifice.

Nowadays, most mochi are made by machines in factories, but we saw group work in action at the kindergarten, where the parents and teachers carried out the traditional way of making mochi. (Also see Wikipedia's article about mochi)

Pounding za rice, yoisho!

Rice was steamed in pots over a fire, then put in a large wooden mortar called an usu. People took turns pounding the rice using large wooden mallets, called kine, while the rest (including the kindergarten kids) cheered them on in time with the strikes. The rice was kept moist with hot water by a brave soul wiping and turning it with his hand between strikes. All the kids had a go pounding as well, though using smaller kine and helped by the parents.

When the rice was smooth, stuck together and well mooshed, it was taken out of the usu and another group of people separated it into small cakes. These were rolled in sweet soy powder (kinako), and were then ready to be eaten.

Making cakes

I had a go at pounding the rice, and I can see why it requires a group effort, because it was rather tiring. It helped having people cheering me on though, and it was fun being a part of this traditional event.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Karate Interns Past & Present!

This is a great picture of all the interns past and present, which I snatched from Carl's English Shiramizu website. (Thanks Carl!)

While we've had 2 interns the last couple years at the same time, there are two reasons why we're going back to inviting one intern from 2010. First, the part-time jobs can be maximized for a single intern increasing their income hopefully. Second, the intern's acquisition of the Japanese language and understanding of the culture should progress faster by being on their own.

While there is no religious comparison, the internship was originally thought of to be something a little difficult to succeed at, like trainee monks who enter a Buddhist temple for a few months, or even years, to go through a rigorous study program (shugo) in order to qualify for an official monk status.

It really all depends on each intern's effort. The internship is only as good as the interns in the program, and to date, our interns have been great, very motivated and positive, plus they have gotten involved in as much as possible.

We've received lots of interest in the 2010 position, so we're looking forward to starting the interview process soon.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sainokuni East Friendship Competition

The 6th Sainokuni East Friendship Competition

Erica here!

As Louise mentioned, we participated in the Tobu Taikai last week and were both surprised. Kumite is definitely not my favorite and after the Sugito tournament (where I won a gold medal in kata) Arakawa Sensei insisted that I needed more kumite practice. So practice we did, but it did not raise my confidence very much.

In my division at the Tobu Taikai, there were 5 other girls with kyu (non dan) rankings. They were all from the same university club and I was nervous and a bit disheartened (my previous kata match did not go as I planned). But for kumite we had an odd number of people in our division and I was the lucky one to be given the bi into the next round. So my first match was a semi-final one. I went in hoping for the best and surprisingly I won the match advancing me into the finals! There I hoped for the best again and at first I was in the lead, but she started catching up! I scored another point and the match was over. Much to everyone's surprise, I won gold in kumite.

Gold? kumite??

At the end of the competition, when we were all supposed to line up with our clubs and bow out, everyone was running around like crazy. I looked around wondering what was going on when I realized people were going up to the bleachers to get their programmes. So of course I went and grabbed mine and discovered a number on the back of it. The reason for it was that there was going to be a draw!! The prizes included a digital picture frame, something that looked like a mini-heater (I'm not sure because I couldn't really see) and a brand new bicycle!! That's what all the kids were excited about. It was a very nice way to end the day =)

PRIZES!! It's so new and shiny!!