He is helped out by Numata Sensei, a much older guy about whom I know relatively little, despite the fact we speak quite a lot as his English is good. I was due to have dinner with his family as he wanted me to meet his daughter, who went to university in Australia and therefore speaks excellent English, but sadly she had to rush back to Tokyo for work so that won’t happen until next time she’s down in Nagoya. It’s fair to say that Numata Sensei is more of a traditionalist – whilst he recognises the skills required for compeition, both for kata and kumite, he is also aware of their limits, and how they can hamper the development of a more effective (in terms of combat and technique-efficiency) style. In the meeting that I mentioned some months ago we didn’t so much discuss my training as karate in general, and how he feels (and I would be inclined to agree) that in competitions the styles are becoming much more generic – it’s hard to tell a Wado fighter from a Shito or Goju fighter, for example.
Since starting training here I’ve mainly been focussing on basic kihon and kata, as I know my kumite is reasonable (if slow, compared to the Japanese) and my kime (spirit) abundant but my basics lacking. Numata Sensei always helps me out, telling me to drop my weight, get lower, twist my hips more, and generally refinines things. It’s incredibly useful having an instructor that speaks English, and he also seems concerned about my welfare generally, telling me not to eat too much rice (makes you fat and slow!) and checking that everything is ok with work.
Matsuzaki Sensei tends to just correct me if things need correcting, but otherwise just gets on with teaching the class and training some of the high-level fighters, of which there are a few. He strikes me as a bit of a hard-arse, which is a good thing in a kumite instructor, I think! Having two such different instructors is great, and I feel like I’m covering all my bases.
Judi-san (she’s a bit older than this now and looks more like an adult than a child)
Although the kids class is supposed to end when the adults starts, there is a big overlap. I normally arrive half an hour after the kids class has started and practise on one side of the hall, sometimes with the older brown and black belts that I mentioned above. Normally when the rest of the adults arrive, the lower-graded children go home and the brown and black belts stay on to train with the adults. In England you rarely see classes mixed like this, but I really enjoy it – it’s brings a different dimension to training, and ensures that things remain light-hearted. I think it’s very good for the kids to spend time with adults and have more of a sense of discipline in their practise, and indeed some of them show levels of focus and determination that even many adults lack. There are two or three of them that have such good control over their bodies and are only about nine or so. It’s amazing to see something so small move with such precision!
Finally, there are also about five or six of us older white belts. Abe-san, who goes to the same train station as me and also speaks some English so we chat a lot, must be in his late 50’s. There are a couple of other guys that I would say are between 30 and 40 who are all late-starters too, which means that we spend a lot of time working together. In Shiramizu, or in fact any of the karate dojo I’ve trained at here, there were no white belts, so I was really pleased to find so many here. Since I’ve started there seem to be even more new faces, which is promising. It can be intimidating to walk to to see hundreds of black belts, especially if you’re having a day when your sense of humour isn’t operating at peak level!
With the introductions out of the way, look out for some more karate posts coming your way soon!