As you know, I was in Japan for 9 days. I just got back. It was a shorter trip than last time, and we had a lot to do this time, so there wasn’t as much time to write as last year. However, some new stuff was done, so I wanted to write a bit about that for our readers:)
As I said in my last post, I was severely out of shape when I arrived in Japan and just (mostly) recovered from doing something terrible to my back (or my back just deciding to tell me to eff off for a week). By the time I left Japan, my back was fine and I was in much better shape: two days ago, I walked 7.5 kilometers around the city I was in, and went up and down 4 flights of stairs NO LESS than 20 times in one day! Awesome change. These are things that I was able to do BECAUSE of what I was doing in Japan, and in my next post I’ll talk about what I’m doing now.
I mentioned in my last post that I was training 2 hours per day, then riding the bike and walking almost every day, and this stayed true for the entire trip. Even though the training we did was difficult in that it was a new weapon that I’d just about never used before that was somewhat difficult to handle and learn and UNLIKE the other weapons I know well, it wasn’t often a difficult workout for me unless I MADE it harder.
How is that possible, when you’re standing around swinging a really heavy weapon for 2 hours a day? Well, if you’re trying to learn something well and are brand new at it, you tend to go slower rather than faster, and make every move more deliberately. You save the footwork for last. Timing after that. So while I could have been going at breakneck speed through my cuts and strikes, I chose to move at a slower pace, in order to learn the right way to move and also to preserve myself in the warmer weather and last longer.
So while I was training very hard indeed, by normal standards, what we did every day didn’t really feel like a rigorous workout. Two hours of sustained movement certainly did, but I’d say it was more low-impact than high. We DID have normal training one day with the rest of Sensei’s students, and this was really work for me and ended in me sitting the last 20 minutes out. Overall, the training was great and I learned a TON, but I definitely felt the need to do more.
What I decided to do during the trainings to make them more intense was to just ‘be a good Uke’, as we say in our martial art. You shouldn’t really stand tall very often, and so instead of standing normally whenever my opponents would attack me, I’d drop my hips and stand a bit lower, as we should do. I’d also make sure to shift my weight from front to back to front again, to keep everything active. Keep your back straight, hips tucked, shoulders down, hips low. That’s a workout, even if all you’re doing is standing before someone as they strike at you. And when you move from it, also a lot more work!
Along with this, I also made it a point to ride the bike every day. This isn’t hard to do when you’re in a small town that is about an hour outside of the major city. If we wanted to get anywhere and NOT blow our entire budget, we had to ride the bikes rather than take cabs, which get pretty expensive, even when you compare the Yen to the Euro (which is what I converted from for most of the trip). I managed to get my Cyclemeter app working and clocked the ride to the store we buy our food from at about 2 kilometers each way. This was closer than the train station, which we also rode to daily.
Adding to the riding was all of the walking we did. Although we didn’t do as much as last year, we didn’t exactly take it easy and relax. We walked all over the city, museums and parks, and saw as much as we could. We hit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, the Burial Mounds in Narita, and even took an hour-long walk through our tiny town of Noda (which is lovely). All of this and the training amounted to ‘just what I needed’… and a lot of soreness.
In the first two days of a stay in Japan (not in a Western hotel), most people’s backs tend to start to hurt from sleeping on the mats instead of beds, if they’re not used to it. This will usually go away once your back straightens out, but in the event of muscle soreness or even bone soreness thanks to things like walking or training (or sleeping on your side), nothing seems to solve the problem better than a soak in a Japanese tub. I’m not usually one for baths, since I hate having to lay mostly flat in order to keep my entire body underwater, and that effectively means I get bored quickly. However, Japanese baths are taller (and usually sunken into the floor a bit) so you can be fully submerged, albeit sitting up with your knees bent.
This was the first time in three years of visiting I’d used the bath at the Honbu. It was excellent, and I used it often. I think I used it at least every other day, and the nice thing about these baths is that since you have to shower FIRST before using them, you can hang out in the tub for a bit, then put the cover on and save the water for someone else. This was done a few times between the other women and I at the Honbu, and it was really helpful to have the bath ready for you when you came in, rather than having to wait for the very large tub to fill up. I have to say, the soaks in the tub (normally no longer than 15 minutes) were PERFECT for my back and joints and made the week a lot easier to get through. I never realized how great heat was for easing soreness! Who knew?
It wasn’t so much that I worked myself to death, it was more that I got myself back into a pattern of working, and for that I am extremely grateful. It made the week that followed a lot easier, to say the least, but that is another post for another day:) Training this year was much different than last year’s training, but great nonetheless and a serious learning experience in more ways than one.