Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Martial arts training at the Takada Dojo

The outside of Takada Dojo

Anything interesting today? No, I spent all day at the Tokyo University library while Yoko went shopping. Time goes by so fast when doing research. But there was a highlight of the day - training submission wrestling at Takada Dojo. I did all sorts of internet research, and a former student of mine recommended that I check out Takada Dojo. All the other dojos had closed systems and you could not just freely walk in and train. Takada Nobuhiko was a famous pro wrestler, and he also made his name fighting mixed martial arts (run by PRIDE in Japan, and UFC in America). One of his disciples, Sakuraba is known as the "Gracie Hunter" for submitting four members of the famous fighting clan, the Gracies.

In the evening, we caught a train to a suburb of Tokyo to train at Takada dojo. It is a small, rather unassuming building somewhere in a suburban neighborhood. I had to take passport-sized pictures to get in, but could train for free for today. It is interesting how so many schools, dojos, and such require you to attach a picture of yourself. Yoko had hurt herself, and so could only watch.

It was rather crowded when classes started at 7:15 or so. The instructor, a muscular Japanese man, had us kneel on the floor (seza), clear our minds, and then bow to a Shinto altar. I could see born-again Christian fighters having a problem with this. Then we went through tons of warm-ups, some I have never done before, like jumping over a bent over partner. Then we did lots of takedown drills. We also had to do lots of bridging, which I had never done since my high-school days. My back began to seize up later that night. Then falling (ukemi) practice, and then the instructor taught us a move to use when fighting on the ground. Then more drills. And only then did we learn ONE new move for the evening. Then we had some free sparring. I noticed that you were not to ask the instructor questions, and to obey what he said. So it is much more structured in training than in America. Good and bad points? Good is that it is very regimented training and you do lots of fundamental drills. I think more Hawaii fighters need to practice the fundamentals and work on drilling.

Bad part? Too much drilling and not enough live sparring practice. Yes, I contradict myself. I pulled off some moves that we had specifically trained that evening to defend against because the partner had not practiced the move live. Also, the participants used too much strength, and most were huffing and puffing. The way I trained back in the U.S., the instructor would warn you if you used too much strength and power. That way we learn to conserve energy. When you do a lot of live sparring, you learn to relax, and learn to plot strategy while you fight. It would be good to combine both American and Japanese training systems.

Yoko saw Daijiro Matsui, professional Pride fighter while I was in the shower. He looked surprised that a woman was there, and she bowed to him, and he bowed back. I also met two Americans, who both taught English in Japan. One was quite big and muscular, and quite good at submission fighting. He hailed from Pittsburgh, and had lived in Japan for five years teaching English at the university level. The other graduated from UNC, and wanted to be a translator. I was impressed by their humility and they will give Americans a good name. We chatted, and I found out that Sakuraba (one of Japan’s best fighters) comes down occasionally and teaches people who are regular members.

I met a Japanese member who often visited Hawaii. We may meet up in Hawaii when he goes there. Again, the benefit of being Nikkei: once you speak Japanese, people treat you sort of normally (although you will never be treated exactly as a Japanese). No exoticism, no stares, no simple talk, just regular conversation. I was invited to eat yakiniku with him at Sakuraaba’s yakiniku shop, but just too busy this Friday. AHH!

Went home sore beyond belief. I wanted to sit, but no seats available on the train, so I spent time taking pictures instead. Don`t you love the pic of a baby staring at the tired salarymen? I was beat and fell quickly asleep when I arrived at our hotel.

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