As part of our series of 'CFTS: Off The Mat', Sensei Matt Eagles talks about his recent trip to Japan...
Sensei Matt Eagles returned recently from his trip to Japan where he trained under Kanshu Nobuaki Kanazawa, son of Soke Hirakazu Kanazawa.
A class at the Honbu Dojo
During a recent training session at Newton Longville, the students were giving the opportunity to ask Sensei Eagles some questions about his trip. Here are his replies:
WHAT WAS THE FORMAT OF A NORMAL DAY ON YOUR TRIP?
For the first week I was living quite a distance from the Dojo, in an area called Electric City, so it meant a ninety minute train journey each way every day. Training sessions were in the afternoon and early evening with a time to rest in-between. So after a great days training, a peaceful ride home, there was time to grab some food and get some sleep before it all started again the next day!
The Cherry Blossom festival was on at the same time and there was activity in the streets at all times, including drummers all hours of the day and night. In the second week I got to move closer to the Dojo so this gave me more spare time.
HOW WAS THE TRAINING COMPARED TO OURS?
They were pleased to have visiting students in their Dojo. There were some from Australia and Europe.
The format for a lesson would be the same each time - get changed, grab a cloth and clean the floor, before and after training on it.
At the Honbu Dojo the training regime is very hard but very technical - all aspects of Shotokan karate are broken down into their basic structure and rebuilt so as to be as effective as possible (similar to the Shotokai way), which meant whole lessons could be taken up just on single techniques such as gyakazuki, age-uke or mawashigeri and great focus is put on getting it right from the start. So technical, in fact, they use a whiteboard at times to draw foot positions and stances to make the explanations easier to understand.
They likened some techniques to being like nunchuks (rice flails) - one side is fixed and solid so the other end can move with speed and power, snapping in and out. If you think of this with regard to mae-geri, mawashigeri or uraken, it made good sense.
DID YOU VISIT ANYWHERE ELSE?
I got the chance to visit Fuakoshi O'Sensei's shrine which was very moving. I would have like to take the trip to Mount Fuji but the weather was bad at times and it was always surrounded by cloud. In fact the weather was so strange, I got sunburnt on one day and watched the snow falling on another!
HOW DO THE JAPANESE VIEW TATTOOS?
The Japanese frown upon tattoos as they are usually associated with the Yakuza and gang life, however they understand the Western fascination with them. They were quite interested in my tattoo of my name down my spine.
DID YOU NEED TO SPEAK JAPANESE?
There were many westerners training there so conversation was not a problem; however I learned a few words during training.
WHAT WAS THE ETIQUETTE LIKE IN THE DOJO?
Everyone was treated equally, regardless of grade. If a higher grade came to speak to me, he would wait patiently for me to acknowledge him instead of expecting me to stop whatever I was doing and pay attention to him. All grades bowed to all grades; there was no pecking order for etiquette.
Travelling to Japan and training in the Honbu dojo was an amazing experience, a once in a lifetime experience, although I do hope to be able to go there again!