I try and make it over to Japan annually to visit and train in my martial art as I believe it to be very important to get a “feel’ for what’s being practiced in the Hombu dojo by Soke and the resident Shihan. Not only does one get excellent instruction (available stateside as well), one is able to train from 2 to 6 hours a day if one chooses (a little harder to obtain).
This year’s theme, Kukishinden Ryu, was in full effect in the dojos, and feeling how different instructors play with the principles of this ryuha was a great lesson . Each teacher was by different means precise, brutal, graceful, and, most of all, playful. There was a freedom this year that I didn’t catch last year (not saying it wasn’t there, but only that I didn’t catch it). For example, last year I came away with a notebook full of step-by-step techniques, and this year, while I definitely still have some of those, I have many more…beginnings. Entries that read something like: “Uke does a right punch, tori evades with a uke nagashi, uke does a left punch, tori evade with an uke nagashi and begins a mushadori, then do something natural other than the mushadori.”
It was a really incredible time. On my last day there, I saw a friend from Sweden with whom I trained last year, so that was good fortune, and in Someya sensei’s class, I got to try on a full yoroi (Japanese armor). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, but hopefully one fellow practitioner who took a picture will email me a copy.
Besides training, I took a couple of days off to see some friends in Tokyo, and we climbed Mount Takao, ate at Mishima in Kichijoji, a kick-ass izakaya in Shimokitazawa, went to an antique fair near Omiya, and once, I got lost in Noda, late at night on my bike, I almost got bit by some animal resembling something between a raccoon and a ferret.
I left happy, a little tired, and already looking forward to going back.