James Ross: Kyoto University Weight Training

For my Community Involvement Project, I joined the Kyoto University Weightlifting team. It has been a fantastic experience, and one of the highlights of my semester abroad in Japan. When I first planned on joining a weightlifting team, I thought it would be some kind of group where I would go and work out for an hour or so a week whilst awkwardly trying to communicate with my Japanese contemporaries. Upon attending my first practice, I quickly realized these preconceptions to be quite untrue.

First of all, it was not a place to just “work out for an hour or so a week”. Practice generally lasted 2 ½ to 3 hours, and I usually went twice per week. Before coming to Japan, I had little experience with Olympic Style Weightlifting, in fact, I had no experience at all, save for a small overlap in exercises with some of my previous weight lifting endeavors. At the beginning, the coach, Arima-sensei, seemed like a very helpful and knowledgeable coach. Now at the end, (even with a vast array of athletic experience and many good coaches) he seems like one of the best athletic teachers I have ever had. He is more knowledgeable about his field than any other coach I have ever worked with, and was very adept at explaining various difficult concepts and techniques necessary to become a successful weightlifter. Also, this being a small group, I was able to receive much more one-on-one guidance than I ever would have in a training session for an organized sports team. Since entering college, I have found it very difficult to maintain a consistent workout schedule, and found myself losing a vast majority of the athletic ability I had built up over many years of athletics throughout my childhood and high school. Under Arima-sensei’s tutelage, and support from my team members, I was able to come close to (and even surpass) some of my accomplishments from high school four years ago.

As for “awkwardly communicating in Japanese”, I can’t say that communication was always effortless and harmonious, but the other team members were very patient with my less than 上手 Japanese ability. With the exception of another study abroad student from Germany, none of my teammates spoke (or were confident enough to speak) English with me. This provided me an excellent opportunity to use the language, without the option of using English as a crutch. A lot of the new vocabulary I learned was very specialized and perhaps not all that useful (names of exercises and the like), but often the team would go to dinner after practice or spend time chatting about nonsense between sets. This was a great opportunity to talk in Japanese with students who grew up in a culture vastly different from mine, but share the same interests.

I think I accomplished many of my goals with my CIP. Before coming to Japan, I had intended to play rugby, and when that didn’t workout (no pun intended), I was a little disappointed, but I was determined to find another sports activity. I was excited when I discovered weight lifting, but I was a little nervous. As far as I know, no other KCJS student had joined their club, so I didn’t know how receptive they would be to a study abroad student from Doshisha. But, I was able to contact them myself and started practicing without any problems. Even before arriving in Japan, I was nervous about contacting my CIP, but I think the whole initial contact process went quite well. I was also glad to have joined a community outside of my English speaking friends and my comfort zone at Doshisha.

5 thoughts on “James Ross: Kyoto University Weight Training

  1. That pun was definitely intended.

    Sounds like it was a good fit for you as a CIP. Is it going to be different going back to America and doing some kind of weight-training or sports there? Like, you say this was “Olympic Style Weightlifting.” Is that really different from what previous teachers have taught you?

    • Yes, the pun may or may not have been intended…

      I hope to continue weight training in the US, but I don’t know if my school has a club :/. Also, I might prefer to eat pizza and watch Netflix instead of going to practice…

      It is a bit different than other training I have done for sports and whatnot. You are more focused on just being able to get 1 rep of a pretty complicated exercise, rather than building overall athleticism. But it was a fun sport, and I hope I can continue in the future.



  2. Though I found out about this club a little late in the year, I really wish I had joined you for some of your meets; it sounds really fantastic. Frankly, I don’t understand how you guys do 3-hour power lifting sessions considering I’ve trained with some intense weightlifters too and they rarely spend more than 90 minutes on any given day. I’m assuming you guys have decently long rest time between sets?
    I suppose my question for you is do you feel like you’ll continue to use the olympic training methods you learned this semester when you go home, or would you have chosen a different workout at the clubs meets if you could have?

    • I guess my question is very similar to alexa’s, but are you happy with the way in which you’ve been working out? Personally, I’m a bigger fan of shorter, more frequent workouts over long ones every few days.

    • Thanks for the comment! I really hope I can continue Olympic Style when I go back to Boston, but I am not sure if my school has a club :/. I don’t know how popular Olympic Style is in the US of ‘Murica. If BU has a club I will join for sure, because I really found it to be fun. It is a sport in and of itself, instead of just working out for training. If you ever get a chance to try some Olympic Style you should give it a try for sure!