Martial Arts Blogs A Journey to Shodan: International Study.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International Study.

I'm currently in South Africa and prior to arriving, my Sensei had contacted a few local Dojo's to request permission for me to participate in some classes.

Last night was my first of these two classes. I went in expecting high calibre Karate, simply from the profile online, and was looking forward to a new experience. Well, for better or worse, I got what I was looking for in this Brown/Black belt class - 13 black belts and 3 brown belts.

I am used to the martial arts community being very welcoming and friendly, however at this location, not one student approached me, looked my way or greeted me in any fashion. In preparation for the class I began to stretch and roll up my sleeves, but after a quick glance around the room, I noticed nobody had rolled up their sleeves... so I casually rolled mine down; as they say - When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Their bow-in procedure is one I am not familiar with. Everyone lines up on one side of the room, shoulder to shoulder, and not knowing the various students and their Dan ranks I'm not entirely sure I was in rank order, but again nobody said anything to me, so I guess I'll never know.

Once class started, I immediately knew I was in for  a good one. This Sensei accepted nothing less than 100% from his students, was very firm in his instruction and his expectations. When in ready positon, one is NOT to move, and eyes are to face front at all times.
All students loudly yelled 'Oss Sensei' throughout the class in response to his every instruction.
After warm up, we began with the repetition of one combination for about 15 minutes and when we finished the Sensei admitted that what we were doing would have no practical application in the 'real world' but the exercise was all about muscle memory - repetition of these things will come in handy should we ever encounter a situation where we are required to defend ourselves.

Next came the sparring. Now, in our class at home we very rarely spar - maybe only once every few months or so. Here it seems very common and everyone was well prepared and ready to rumble. I had not packed my sparring gear for my trip to the other side of the planet, so I was less prepared - add to the fact that I still have a swollen and injured knuckle from my grading, which I was made to tuck behind me into my belt and spar with one hand - things weren't shaping up to go very well for me.
The first person I sparred was a female and she was very serious - ready to clean take my head off. None of this "I see you're new, lets feel it out and gauge your level" it was more like "You're a black belt? It's ON!" Thank goodness kicks are my strong suit in sparring because I feel I fared pretty well in that department and managed to stand my own. The next few partners were a little less aggressive, but again, not there to make friends.

Finally we moved on to Kata and focused on Jion. Again, to compare: in our dojo, we are taught that during group Kata, one should pause if you see another student too close to you, just let them move through until they are out of range, and then continue with your Kata. Apparently that isn't an international courtesy. People were stepping on my feet, hitting name it, it was every Karateka for him/herself and 'get out of my way' all around.
I was corrected a few times on some of my movements, so there were slight differences in form between the way I have been taught, and the way this Sensei teaches the same Kata, which is to be expected.

It is clear some Dojo's are much more serious than others. Don't get me wrong, ours is serious and I am personally very serious about my training and progression, but I also enjoy every minute of it, otherwise for me there is no point. This Dojo seemed like any non-serious Karateka had been weeded out long ago and only the strong have survived.

Once the class was over, I was glad I had taken the opportunity to have this experience, but it has certainly made me appreciate my fellow Karateka in how they greet and welcome new students, and also my Sensei even more for his serious yet kind approach to teaching.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you coped well with some rather difficult uncompromising class mates - sign of a worthy new shodan.