JAPAN TRIP 2011 by Suraj Fernando (Nidan)

Go hard ‘cause you can't go home - Japan 2011!

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to travel to Japan with Shihan and Vicki in May 2011 to train with Sensei Tsubamoto and the Sensei's in Japan. I guess it's not often in your life you are given the opportunity to train with the Grandmaster of your style. As most of you know, it was a tragic lead up to the trip to as Japan suffered one of its greatest natural disasters of all time with the tsunami that hit in March 2011. It was very humbling to think that the Japanese were still welcoming our club Shushin Kai to train with them even after such an event, which affected many of their friends and family.

Please find below my accounts from the three different aspects of the trip, The Training, The Sites and most importantly The Parties.

The Training

It was 11 days straight of training. I think I trained more in 11 days than I did the entire year.(That’s correct…..Shihan). It is amazing how your standard lifts and how your body responds when it has to.

The training received was unbelievable... one morning we had to wake up and get to Sensei Tsubamoto 's house at 6.30 after 3 hours of training the night before. We were lucky enough that day to get a lift home from Sensei Tsubamoto which was a real treat. By 9 am that morning I had already trained for 2 hours.

Most of the classes were at Sensei Tsubamoto's house. The dojo was about 3/4 the size of Shihan's dojo. The classes consisted of a lot of basics and there were a few classes where Sensei would sit up the back and watch us train. Basically my punches, blocks, kicks and basics were crap so I copped a hiding. If you did something wrong they would show you how to do it properly by demonstrating the technique on you. Not as funny as it sounds. The classes were about 10 people at a time. Pretty impressive when you are training with a 10th dan, two seventh dans, a couple of fifth dans and a few fourth dans. Nothing can really prepare you for the intensity of the classes... even pre-Bundeena training wasn't this hard or intense. To be honest I loved it... you would wake up every day pumped for the day of training ahead. Sensei Tsubamoto even gave us extra training sessions, which we couldn't refuse... even if we had to get a bus that morning at 10am to go sightseeing.

One Sunday Sensei Ishii taught me Seisan... which I have on video in the mirror while Shihan was learning Superinpai from Sensei Tsubamoto! That day Ishii san demonstrated the Seisan jump punch on my guts... I was unable to go to the bathroom properly for a couple of days after that. I now know why they call it the killer punch! From that Sunday onward I had a few lessons on Seisan and we had to demonstrate our kata on the last day of training. To me this was like a Grading as not only were we demonstrating our kata but everything else we had learnt throughout the two weeks.

I'm not too sure whether I have a mentioned it before in class to a few students... but Sensei Lincoln once taught me an important lesson (one of many... always practice your kata before your grading in the dojo you will be demonstrating it in. Well sometimes this is not possible! On the last Sunday we trained... Sensei Tsubamoto made us train in a new dojo where the floor was concrete and wasn't even swept as it was still being renovated. This day Sensei Tsubamoto got his senior students to run the class and sat up the back and observed Sensei, Vicki and myself. ****, (expletive removed by Shihan) I have been through grading days in Bundeena but the pressure on this day was unlike none other. Two weeks of what you have learnt and been corrected on, rolled into one 3 hour session! I admit I got corrected once during that session... my middle punch was 2millimetres too high! Yes this is true and we think Shihan is picky.. haha! Ok so the pressure was on and we had to demonstrate our kata in front of the entire class in a new dojo standing in front of a 10th Dan. The good news is we all got through it but nothing could prepare you for this day!

The sites

Tokyo is an awesome city. I have been to a few cities in my travels and it is definitely up there in my top 3. Technically they are so advanced... some restaurants even had kiosks where you could order your food from your table. The railway system was unbelievable... there are trains every 1 minute and at peak time men with white gloves shove you in like sardines. The people are very friendly and some of them sing songs when you walk into their shop.

We visited many sites while in Tokyo. This was very much a tourist trip as much as it was a training trip. Sensei Ono really was a fantastic tour guide. He took us to some awesome places and really went out of his way to make us feel welcome.

Yuki Tsubamoto was a fantastic guide too, he spent so much time with us even though it was exam time for his students... he took us to many places and even took us to visit Sensei Ichikawa’s grave which I was lucky enough to wash. On the last Saturday of our trip we were lucky enough to go and help Yuki teach three of his English classes... this was a great experience and I think I learnt as much English as his students did that day :)

Sightseeing included: Shopping Asuaska, visting Shibuya, visiting Omotesandoand Akihabara (Electrical city), Tokyo Tour, visited the Heinken bar, visited Kamakura, training in the park where Ichikawa Sensei trained and plenty more!

The parties

Pretty much every night was a party for us! We trained hard and partied even harder. I found it hard to keep up with Shihan at times. I think I was getting older and he was getting younger... heha!

A few of the party highlights:

Partying with Sensei Ono at the stand up bar. He was a celebrity there! Everybody knew him.

Getting a train with Vicki and Shihan to the Aussie pub at Roppongi to watch Essendon lose to Richmond.

BBQ with all the senior Shigakukan students. This was all you could eat and I ate all I could.

The night out with Ono and his mate where Ono Sensei showed us how to move paper and a coin with your mind.

A quiet scotch on the rocks with Shihan in the Whisky bar next door to our hotel.

Overall this trip was fantastic! I think all up it cost me around $3,000 but it was well worth it. I learnt so much and have a new appreciation for the Japanese culture and way of life. It amazing how people could suffer such tragedy but still make you feel welcome. There are plenty more stories I could share but this will turn into a Lord of the Rings Triology, so that is it for now. If you would like to know more just ask. If any of you are invited to visit Japan with Shihan I think it should be a no brainer... do what you have to get there! Thank you to Shihan and Vicki for making this trip so memorable and a special thank you to Shihan for organising it! Till next time, Suraj