For my CIP, I joined the Kyoto University Varsity Karate Team. It’s been a really fun and challenging semester with them, and I’ve learned a lot, about both Karate and Japanese culture.
Before coming to Japan, I had trained Karate for a little over 10 years in America. American Karate has no central organization at all, and varies a lot place to place. However, Karate as a sport is not very popular in the US, so most people (and, therefore, most dojos) in the US are practicing to get involved with the art and culture, and to learn self-defense. In this particular collegiate karate team, we practice very sport-focused karate, which was a big shift for me.
Traditionally, karate consists of basics, sparring, and Kata (forms). In this club, everyone does only either sparring or Kata. They put me with the sparring people. We essentially practiced fencing with our hands. For example, they place a huge amount of emphasis on stomping your foot to make an impressive sound just as you retract your fist. Of course, this means always striking the opponent while standing on one foot, which is not remotely practical.
I became good friends with the Karate club. Everyone there is friendly and helpful. Particularly, my various Senpai and I became quite close. During club hours, they would teach me. Outside of club hours, we are the same grade level, so we always go out and eat together after practice. I have learned that, while my American Karate club is close, Japanese clubs are part club, part business, and part fraternity. Already graduated Senpai even regularly come to practice. I have a feeling that I will count as part of their group for many years to come.