I realized today that I keep forgetting to tell you guys about what I’ll be doing in Japan, and about my martial art, in general. Yes, the two items are totally connected!
I practice an old style of Japanese martial art (kampfkunst, in German) called Kobudo. Most of us call it ‘budo’, for short. It is taught worldwide through different organizations which were founded by different students, all of whom at some point or another can be traced back to specific teachers or locations in Japan.
The art varies between schools, and obviously as other things passed down through the centuries, the translations and techniques tend to vary as well. It’s the style or ‘flavor’ that varies, due to the understanding of the person teaching the students. This is the case with any older martial art. How I teach English is obviously different from how other teachers teach the language, even though the language we’re teaching is the same. If that makes sense.
We train 7 different schools in our org; this also varies by organization. We train many different weapons along with unarmed techniques, and our art is old. This is not something current, it is not like MMA. It is not ‘fitness’, really. It never feels like cardio, although we are often sore afterwards. This is an ART. It is preserving an old way of fighting. Kobudo is, effectively, an old war art that was utilized and proven on battlefields across Japan over about 700 – 800 years. The oldest school dates back to about 1000 AD, the newest is from the 20th century: the one that our leader created on his own to fill in some holes that he felt had been missed in other scrolls.
That’s not to say that what we’re learning can’t be applied to modern life, because it can (and I have applied/DO apply it as needed). It means more that I don’t get to carry a sword, or use it to settle fights. It’s a way of thinking, a lot of body memory, and the goal is to stay alive. That’s it. We don’t have competitions because just about everything we learn ends in maiming or fatality. So we play nice with each other and learn our pain thresholds.
The organization is small and spread around the world. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances in other countries, and I’m extremely thankful for this. There are somewhere under 1,000 people in our organization, if I had to guess. And I think that 1,000 is A LOT. I’d say the number might be closer to 600 people in our organization. There are two other organizations that are a lot like ours, and one of the founders of these two trained with OUR organization’s founder (Sensei) under the same teacher, who founded the other organization.
When I started training, back in 2001, Sensei had moved to my city to help the spread of the art in the US. Before then, it was primarily based in Japan; Sensei is, in fact, Japanese. And now he lives back in Japan.
Before 2010, there were two ‘international’ seminars held outside of Japan each year: one in Europe, and one in America. Everyone met (or tried to meet) at these two seminars and trained together. This is actually how I met my boyfriend, and the reason I live in Germany now. He does the same art. The seminars stopped in 2010, because Sensei is at a point where he feels comfortable with the spread of the organization and doesn’t want to travel 2x a year to teach at seminars. He wants to travel to travel, and no one can blame him for that. The man is in his 60’s, he can have a break! So now if you want to train with Sensei, you have to go to Japan. I think that’s a win.
While there are 600+ people in our org, maybe only 5% of them are female. Of that 5%, there are about 7 of us that are at or above the rank of Shodan (black belt, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term). There are special techniques, alternate moves and ways of thought that get taught specifically to women and not to men. It’s hard to train with each other and learn these things when we’re spread across the globe (4 are in the US, the other 3 are in Europe). So once a year we come together in Japan to receive this special training from Sensei.
That’s why I’m going to Japan. To train with the other women (all of whom I have a special place in my heart for, they are a great group to be associated with) and spend some quality time with the boss man.
We will, of course, do other things while we’re there. We’ll travel to Tokyo and do some tourism (we’ll be about an hour or so away by train), eat lots of amazing food (mostly sushi) and ride bikes everywhere.
Our training will be for about two hours each day. We’ll cover a lot, and then after training we’ll get to hang out with each other. Most often this includes going food shopping (since the fridges in Japan aren’t so big and most things are sold fresh), which requires riding bikes to and from the stores, walking around the town we’ll be staying in, maybe shopping, maybe swapping notes and cooking.
We’ll hit as many shrines as possible, since they are beautiful and peaceful places and help us to center. We’ll also do some shopping and general sightseeing, although the town we stay and train in isn’t so big. If we have time, we will go to Tokyo and hang out until it’s time to head back. More shrines, sushi and shopping will ensue. And lots of photos will be taken.
While I’m in Japan, I’ll be writing regular updates in which you can read what I’m doing. You don’t get to learn what I’m learning obviously, but we have a lot of fun and the amount of ‘fitness’ that happens on a daily basis is pretty insane once you factor in the bikes, walking and the running program I’ll be following. I’ll post photos and share cool stories.
Domo Arigato gozaimasu! Gambate:)