A small group of JKS members including 3 Red Tigers went on the annual Japan Trip to complete the cold winter (Kangeiko) training at the JKS Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
This was the trip of a lifetime where we got the chance to experience not only the traditional Japanese lifestyle, but also the opportunity to train with the JKS Hombu Dojo Instructors twice a day for a whole week.
The JKS Headquarters Instructor team and the dojo itself is second to none and the training is the very best you will experience anywhere in the World.
Lori-Ann Moran, Connor Cherry and myself (Rachael Sensei) all booked onto this trip expecting it to be just about the hardest and most challenging experience of our karate careers and we were not wrong! We were with a group of 6 other seniors from JKS England and the idea was to share the journey together, eat together, experience traditional japanese culture, travel together, train and improve our karate together and take part in all the activities as a group. We had an absolutely brilliant time. It was great to meet and share this experience with Instructors from other dojos and it will be lovely to share memories with them from this trip in years to come.
After a very long flight we were immersed straight into the Japanese Culture, discovering we were staying in very basic accommodation and sleeping on traditional futon beds which were essentially mattresses on the floor. We headed out for our first taste of Japanese food (Ramen) and had to quickly learn how to eat with chopsticks. I immediately wanted to use the plastic knife and fork that I’d saved from the plane – but resisted the urge. I’m glad I did because it really isn’t hard to get the hang of chopsticks at all. I also thought it may be difficult to sleep on these beds but little did I know that we would be so busy and exhausted over the next week I could have probably fallen to sleep on concrete.
The first week was spent rising at 5.30am to make sure that we were dressed, out and ready to train at the dojo by 6.45am for the 7am start time. The training began with a short warm up, followed by a 20 minute run through the streets of Tokyo and finished up with karate training back at the Hombu. Our fist session was taught by Yasuhisa Inada Sensei teaching a fast paced class full of fitness and kihon training with a small section of kata.
The days were mostly spent sightseeing, looking for souvenirs and taking photographs. We were delighted to walk through the dojo door at the evening session to be greeted by the the smiling happy face of Shinji Nagaki Sensei. He took us through more kihon training plus about half an hour of kumite.
All of the sessions are fantastic in their own way and after each day it was difficult to pick a favourite session or favourite Instructor. They are all inspirational in their own way and every session is kihon based with repetition being the key to overall improvement. We quickly realise the fact that to complete the sessions you must relax and try and move as fast as you can. There is no room for tension, weakness or any extra unnecessary movement. Any bad habits such as swinging your arms as you kick just fall away, because you literally don’t have the energy to do it! The kihon training is just pure, grind you into the ground hard, but the more you do it, the more your body gets used to it and the more you actually begin to enjoy it.
We’d go out for a meal as a group after training each night. Trying some of the funky food they eat in Japan was as challenging as the training in some respects but again, the more you do it, the more you get used to it (or in my case – the more boiled rice you eat!). Both Lori-Ann and Connor were very open to trying new foods and found a few things that they’d never normally even try at home, quite appetizing. They do like to eat a lot of fish over there so if like me, you don’t like it, you come home much lighter than you were when you set off!
I was delighted to see Kanayama Sensei lead the morning session as I have heard some excellent things about his sessions. He is known as ‘The Iron Man’ and it was easy to see why. Squats, sit ups, press ups, hard kihon, this man never stops and we loved every minute of it. It was awesome to see Kagawa Shihan training alongside everyone each morning. Inspirational individual, still training day in day out and overseeing that everything runs like clockwork in his dojo.
We spent the day sightseeing at the top of the sky circus and went back for evening training to be taught by Matsue Sensei. His karate is about the cleanest you will see and his session was hard (or so I thought at the time – until he taught again the next morning).
Matsue Sensei took the morning session on Day 3 and this was the hardest session we did by far. Non stop fitness drills different variations of press ups, squats, planking mixed in with the usual kihon training in kiba dachi and to be honest the bow out could have not come sooner. I am sweating just thinking about it!
The evening session was taught by Toyama Sensei (who is on the Kenshusei Instructor Program). Toyama Sensei was the only one present in every session, all week long. His karate is outstanding, so strong, so sharp, so clean. He taught a very enjoyable kumite style session and encouraged the Japanese students to work alongside the English students. Lots of good exercises on timing, speed and distance. His session finished with Kata Enpi which is one of my very favourite Katas.
Makita Sensei taught the morning session and did a lot of work on hip rotation. Driving the hip forward fast and pulling it back just as fast. We then did lots of of kihon training, partner kumite and more fitness drills, lunges and sit ups with a partner. By this point I think it’s fair to say that Connor Cherry was very happy that we had practised so many sit ups in classes at Red Tiger. Matt Price Sensei was then asked to spar Toyama Sensei which is a great honour for a foreign visitor. Not sure how much Toyama Sensei enjoyed the experience but there’s nothing more motivating to make improvement than sparring with Matt Sensei.
We spent the day looking at a market (where I got interviewed by Japanese Television about Taxi’s and I hadn’t even been in one!), we also visited a temple and went to a fun fair where Connor and Lori-Ann had a race on Pandas (Lori-Ann won – she did it for the GIRLS!) and we went on a (very old) rollercoaster.
We went back to our hotel and got ready for evening training. When we arrived, we realised we had Kagawa Sensei 8th Dan – The Boss! I don’t think I’ve ever got changed faster for a karate session in my life. And another great session it was. Kagawa Sensei did some challenging Kihon drills, up and down in Zenkutsodachi, up and down and spinning round in Kokusodachi and finished off the session with Junro Shodan, Junro Nidan and Junro Sandan.
Morning training was taught by Nagaki Sensei and it is amazing how much he managed to cram into the session after we had finished the run. We did kihon drills, partner work, kumite and repeatedly practised Kata Jion. Nagaki Sensei was his usual jolly self and did some lightning fast demonstrations with Toyama Sensei. It is easy to see why he is WKF World Champion. What a talent.
We went to a traditional bathhouse near the Tokyo Dome and Lori-Ann and Connor had a hilarious time laughing at me being thoroughly terrified on the rollercoaster. There will be punishment for this at the next available opportunity!
We were lucky enough to be invited out for dinner with Richard Amos Sensei and Richard Heselton Sensei – two famous Senior karate practitioners in Japan so there was no evening training for us.
Morning training was taken by Kanayama Sensei who once again delivered a very challenging class. The dojo was very full with it being weekend and there were lots of Japanese students to work with. Kanayama Sensei did lots of kihon training followed by partner work and sit ups, back raises, sit ups, press ups and more sit ups. Connor Charry particularly enjoyed these!
We headed off for breakfast where we met up with my best little buddy and former Red Tiger Instructor Joni Longden who now teaches English in Moriyama, Japan. Joe Ratcliffe was also over visiting Joni for the week and we spent a very enjoyable couple of days together catching up and having a laugh. Joni and Joe joined the JKS England group at evening training which was taken by Nagaki Sensei.
We covered some kihon drills and stance training but much of the class was taken up by Nagaki Sensei giving us an absolute masterclass in Katas Kankusho and Nijushiho. What an honour to be taught by this amazing Instructor.
Our final day of Kangeiko training. There was a longer run to a temple and they’d saved a good day for it, it was absolutely freezing! Makita Sensei took the training and we worked mostly on combinations, kihon ippon kumite and Kata Bassai Dai. We were presented with our certificates and all of JKS England passed the Kangeiko training. A party followed in the dojo with Lori-Ann and Connor being asked to present all of the gifts we had brought over from England. This was a great honour for them.
We were all absolutely buzzing after the party and went out for the day to see a Japanese style rock group play in the park. We headed back to our hotel to play a few games of cards (where Joni was most cheating tut. tut.) and went out to do Karaoke with Connor and Lori-Ann being a couple of superstar D.J’s. It was nice to celebrate the end of the Kangeiko and not to have to get up at 5.30am the next day!
The next few days we travelled over to Hakone which is a very beautiful village in the Mountains. We spent the days relaxing and sightseeing. Some of the group took pictures in their Karate Uniforms with Mount Fuji in the background. We went on a pirate ship and visited a few museums including the ‘Way of the Samurai’ museum which was very interesting. The food here was traditional and a lot of rice was eaten once again!
We headed back over to Tokyo for one last training session before we left for England and we were very happy to see that Yamaguchi Sensei who was the first Hombu Dojo Instructor Red Tiger ever hosted, was teaching the last session. Yamaguchi Sensei covered kihon training and then went onto give us another masterclass in Kata. He taught us Katas Wankan and Chinte. It was brilliant to be back at the Hombu and we felt very sad to be leaving it. Until next time!
We went out for one last meal which was actually very nice – Wagu Beef cooked at the table. The meat was the best I’ve ever tasted and I was full to the top of my head when we’d finished it. It was such a wonderful end to an absolutely unforgettable trip.
Huge thanks to Alan Campbell Sensei and Matt Price Sensei who made it all possible and looked after us on the trip. It was a shame Wendy Sensei did not make it to Japan this time around and we would like to send our love, best wishes and a speedy recovery.
Thanks to Lori-Ann and Connor (my two children arrrrggghhhh!) for being so brilliant on the trip. They did Red Tiger proud in the dojo and behaved wonderfully outside of it. You are both a pleasure and I’d be happy to take you anywhere! Thanks for the laughs.