Not taking advantage

As I may have mentioned, up until last week all of the martial arts training I have received in Japan has been for free. That includes two months of thrice-weekly Shinji Kempo in Tokyo, training with some of the legends of Japanese (and Canadian) Wado (Takagi Sensei, Toru Arakawa Sensei, Norma Foster Sensei), as well as the two months at the dojo here in Nagoya.

At the latter, I had assumed that the instructors would reach a point and just ask me to pay – I had offered when I arrived but they had dismissed me with a firm “no”. I’ve been chatting to Richard about various karate-related things quite a bit recently, and asked him how he thought I should set about getting more training,until I’m granted access to the higher level classes at my dojo.

What he pointed out was really so obvious that I feel stupid and angry at myself for not thinking of it sooner – paying them. So that night I got the requisite cash together and put it in an envelope with a little note to Sensei to explain what it was. I handed it over with a “kon getsu mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu”, loosely translated as “please teach me this month”. He looked surprised and asked me what it was. Not knowing quite what to say, I mumbled “ageru” (“I’m giving it to you”) which was a bit silly as that’s the casual form of the verb, and what the kids say to me when they give me something strange like a mushy peach or a giant insect.

Anyhow, it seemed to have done the trick as Sensei spent extra time with me that class, and I got to don my mits for the first time. Still very far to go on my journey towards becoming even as remotely as skilled as some of the other people in the dojo, but I’m pretty happy and feel more comfortable now that I’m paying my way like everyone else.

Accidentally taking advantage of the Japanese kindness, and of their (and our) mis-reading and mis-judging of expectations is pretty common-place amongst us bumbling gaijin. It happened at school on Friday too…

In between leaving my station and arriving at my work station that morning, I’d managed to bend my train pass and it wouldn’t go through the gates to let me out of the station. This particular station was unmanned and I had to press an intercom to speak to a man at a larger station several stops up. A very bizarre attempt at an explanation follwed, and whether he understood or not, he opened the gates and let me out.

This left one problem, though – that my ticket hadn’t been through the gates and therefore that journey was not technically finished. Knowing that this would happen, I figured the best thing to do would be to write an explanation, give the ticket man at my station the piece of paper, and let him sort it out, thus avoiding nervousness-induced mumbling and forgetting of important words. On Friday afternoon the Principal of the school was sitting at his desk staring into space (he wins the prize for being the only person to do this more than me!). Since he speaks some English, I thought I’d ask him to check the Japanese I’d written and explain my intentions. This I did, and he did indeed check my Japanese and pronounced it “jyozu”. You can see it below, although I’m still unconvinced the last sentence is correct!

Anyhow, after reading it he leapt up from his desk, said something to a colleague in Japanese that involved the words “chotto” (a bit) and “kuruma” (car) and we were off! Off, in fact, to the local station where the Principal of the local school explained that his silly Eigo Sensei had bent her ticket by leaving it in her back pocket, and could he issue a replacement, which was duly done, leaving me feeling grateful but, again, a bit stupid.

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