Since I had already practiced some karate back in Spain, I thought that coming to Japan was my perfect chance to continue. Therefore, I joined the Kyoto University Karate Club and go to practice most days, although it is a little difficult to coordinate with classes. And, even though especially at the beginning it took quite a lot of effort to figure out what I had to do at any given moment (since the Japanese terms for karate were a mystery for me when I arrived) and had to put all my effort into somewhat following everyone else, I would say karate has usually been the highlight of my day ever since I came here.
Through karate I have not only been able to make most of my Japanese friends (since I spend so much time with them), but I have also learnt a great deal about the Japanese culture. After all, karate is embedded with different traditions and norms which originate in Japanese culture and philosophy. By bowing with my teammates before and after class, following seniority rules and reflecting upon the purpose of learning karate (as well as by talking every day with my new friends), I have come to feel more integrated in Japanese culture, and have come to understand parts of it which would have been obscure to me otherwise.
Hi Ana! Wow, karate circle sounds quite intense. I have heard that the meetings are quite long every day. How many days a week, on average, did you participate in karate? Additionally, what exactly was the kouhai/senpai relationship dynamic in the karate circle, and were you an active participant in that? Karate sounds really physically taxing, I’m very impressed that you chose something that challenged you to this extent, and it seems like you made many good friends along the way 🙂
So I practiced every day I could (usually 5 or 4 days a week) and practices were two hours long plus muscle training or running afterwards (that took about one hour on average every day but depended completely on what the senpai who led that day wanted to do). The senpai/kouhai relationship is very interesting – it’s formal in that everyone keeps the traditions (the senpais lead the group, if a kouhai arrives late they have to kneel at the door until a senpai calls them, etc.) but at the same time the senpais are all good friends with the kouhais. Of course, I had to follow these traditions too, as the youngest member of the group both in age and participation time!
It’s really great that joining the karate circle has given you the opportunity to meet lots of Japanese friends!
I also did a martial art for a number of years, so I am very curious to hear how the training is different in Japan compared to in Spain.
It sounds really difficult to learn all of the new terms for all of the different moves. About how long do you think that process took? Did you find that the techniques were any different?
Actually, my karate coach in Spain came from Okinawa, so rather than explaining the difference with Spain I can only explain that – even though both the Kyodai karate club and my coach in Spain are from the same karate school their karate is completely different. I guess the main differences are that there was much more technique-only training in Spain, rather than fight-oriented; and the technique I learnt in Spain is more “flowy” and flexible than that in here. About learning the terms… I’m still on it! Because new terms appear every day and because it’s difficult to hear the senpais in such a big hall, learning the Japanese for karate is being a long, difficult process. Ganbarimasu! 🙂