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The kenshusei course starts April 1, which is this coming Monday. So, I guess that's T-3 days.
In early March, we received this e-mail from the Mugenjuku Gmail account:
The orientation meeting for the upcoming Kenshusei Course will be held on:
Wednesday 27th March at 11am
Please arrive a little early to be ready to start at 11. Business attire is required.
The meeting and the following informal lunch should be finished by 1pm.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Good luck with your physical and mental preparations.
Business attire requisite. Meeting about the course followed by informal lunch.
I had a lot of unanswered questions about the course, so I honestly thought this would be a "meeting" about logistics. I mean, business attire. It is Yoshinkan, so I had a small kernel of doubt that it would be so benign, but really I thought it would be a western-style meeting. I jokingly asked Nick if there would be any surprises at the meeting. "No. Not that I would tell you anyway."
And of course it was a relaxed informal meeting... conducted entirely in seiza. During the event, the realization of what was going on occurred in stages, but in hindsight I can see that it was a very appropriate and "Yoshinkan" way of doing things--excruciating torture disguised as greetings and friendly advice. If I remember, in Angry White Pyjamas, Twigger says there is even a word in Japanese that expresses this concept, althou
I think maybe aikido is better known outside Japan than inside. I know this sounds strange, but every time I mention aikido to someone in Kyoto, they say, "ahhhh, aikido!" and then take a karate-like posture with their upper body and make a punch or chop, and utter what sounds like a bad imitation of Bruce Lee.
This is literally how it goes every time: "ahhhh, aikido!" etc, etc. I have had this interaction 10-15 times now in Kyoto. At first, I tried to correct people and explain what aikido is. Then I started saying "sort of." Now I just nod and say, "yes." Once I tried "like judo, but a little different..." but that just got a quizzical look.
It's possible that punching and saying "yaw, yaw, yaw" is a Japanese way of expressing universal martial arts recognition. Like I say, "I am in Kyoto to study kenjutsu" and they say "ahhhh, kenjutsu!" punch, punch "yaw, yaw". But I doubt it.
I think it is more likely that most Japanese, for whatever reason, have no idea that aikido exists. Odd given that everyone knows what martial arts are from studying kendo or judo in primary school.
My flight from Seoul arrived at 22:45, 15 minutes early, and the last train for Kyoto from Kansai airport left at 23:09. Despite being the first off the plane and running from the shuttle to the train station, I missed the last train and was looking at spending the night in Osaka.
However, when I arrived in Osaka, there was an Osaka-Kyoto train that was running 55 minutes behind. So not only did I make it, I had to wait for half-an-hour to boot.
In one place in Osaka station, there was a TV monitor hanging from the ceiling and cycling through the departing train information in both Japanese and English. Under the listing for my Kyoto Special Rapid Service, it said "Status: Delayed" and "Reason: Human Accident Damage".
Human Accident Damage has to be the most gruesome Engrish I've seen. How did the authorities decide on this terminology? I'm guessing this sort of phrase ensures that nobody complains about the delay. Can you imagine being responsible for getting the train running again?
Another train on its way to Tokyo had also been delayed, and people waiting for these two were the only ones left in the station. In general, the Japanese are hyper-disciplined. There are marks for queue locations painted on the station platforms, and most times the Japanese would queue up on these marks even there were only a few people waiting for the train.
But on this Friday night, waiting to go home at the end of a long work-day, discipline slowly eroded. Ever
I made it back to Kyoto in one piece. A kind soul at Peach airlines seated me in the plane's first row, so I was first off the plane and into the line at immigration.
On my first trip through immigration, back in January, I was literally the last in line. I got a lot of questions that I thought were explained under the umbrella phrase "I am a tourist." Then the customs officials gave me trouble, too. In addition to the normal paperwork declaring that I didn't have contraband, the customs agents showed me a picturebook with photos of drugs, weapons, etc, and made me sign a special document swearing that I didn't have any of that. Then they went through my bag looking for the things I had just sworn I didn't have, and I had to remove my coat and shoes for inspection. One girl pulled out of my backpack some tea that I had been given as a gift in China. Ah ha! "What this?" she asked. Luckily, it was the ball tea that opens into a flower shape, and one of the other inspectors recognized it, so I didn't actually have to prove that my tea was... tea.
Anyhow, I thought maybe since I wasn't last in line this time, I would get better treatment. Plus, I was wearing better clothes. Not so. I must have "undesirable" imprinted in my features. Last time, customs wanted to know what kind of tourist travels without a guide book (something I did all over Asia). This time, it was where my dogi is if I'm studying aikido.
But I did make it, with another 90-day permission s
Well, I am having a bit of trouble with the visa situation. For a variety of reasons, getting a Tourist Visa in Seoul is impossible for me.
So I have to try to return to Japan tonight and rely on the kindness of the strangers at Japan immigration at Kansai International airport to grant me another 90 day visa waiver.
According to this thread at the GaijinPot forums, there is an unpublished rule of allowing foreigners 180 days of visa waiver time in Japan. So far, I have used 71 days, so I think I should be okay to enter the country again, but you never know.
More distressing, it appears that while in Japan on visa waiver, you cannot convert to another residency status in Japan. In other words, I would have to leave the country to apply for a Work Visa or Cultural Visa. Worse, officially, I am supposed to apply for any visa at the consulate that has jurisdiction for my place of residence. In other words, I am supposed to apply for visas at the Japanese consulate for New York State, back in the USA.
However, the good news is that once you are in Japan, your visa status is negated and your stay is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice rather than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So perhaps there is a way for me still to find a work sponsor and then change status. It's hard to know because the Japanese government seems to be keep its rules clasped close to its chest.
Anyhow, I've had a nice little trip to Seoul, eating in Gwangjang market and re
I spent the night in Kansai International last night and re-read Twigger's Angry White Pyjamas. In the early morning, I caught the flight to Incheon and then the train, which I guess is the Seoul train (sorry).
I don't know what's going on, but the Japanese embassy was blockaded by tractor-trailer trucks with police standing about.
The consular services are actually in another building, though, so I was able to see the visa office. I was told that the embassy "cannot" give me a visa because, as an American, I am eligible for the Japanese "visa waiver" program, which is basically a visa on arrival. An important difference is that a Tourist Visa can be converted into a Work Visa from within Japan, while a waived visa status cannot be, requiring that you leave and stay out of the country while the Work Visa is processed.
(Americans are not eligible for Working Holidays in Japan.)
This is bascially the same thing they told me in Hong Kong when I first came to Japan, except in Hong Kong they told me they "would not" process my visa since I was eligible for visa waiver.
So I am a little stuck. I will go back tomorrow to see if I get a different clerk who can answer my questions differently.
So tonight I am off to Gwangjang market for dinner. It is a giant covered street with all manner of food vendors selling their wares. Last time I was in Seoul, I had a platter of raw squid and then parts of pig head. Quite good with rice wine. You can see the snouts of
I'm off to Korea. No, I've not quit the Course just now. My Tourist Visa expires April 6, but the Course starts April 1 and there is a pre-Course meeting March 27, so I really have to re-new my visa now.
I've got a flight on Peach airlines (Japan's first low-cost carrier) early tomorrow out of Kansai International. The plan is to go directly to the Japanese Embassy, give over my passport and paperwork, then retire to a jimjilban and stay there until my visa is ready.
Jimjilbans are Korea's answer to the Japanese public bath, except you can sleep in them as well. It's actually rather strange. When you go in, they hand you a pyjama uniform. Then you go to the pools and saunas, get into your pyjamas, and go hang out in a huge single-gender common area with various meal options, massage opportunities, etc. You can sleep there, but there are no private rooms, just one huge common area, so it looks kind of orgy-like. Compare this photo of a jimjilban
Last night, Nick and I went through a fairly short (maybe 3/4 class) round of kihon dosa, but this is the most I've done in one shot.
The problem I was having in the beginning was only with seiza and suwari-waza, but now the tachi-waza and especially kihon dosa are really doing a job on knees. But unlike seiza, which still hurts in the back of the knee, kihon dosa hurts in the front, right under the patella (knee cap). It feels as though the patella is going to explode as soon as it starts to take any load. Although we were holding some positions for 30-60 seconds at a pop, I think the thing that really bothered the knees was the last 5 minutes when we did the kihon waza at a higher speed. Then the knees were getting loaded and twisted without so much control.
Today, in morning ippan class, I wasn't able to perform uke properly for katate mochi sokumen iriminage. Proper uke for that waza is adopting a position similar to shotokan karate's back stance. In that position, the knee of my back leg simply has no stability any more.
Hopefully, I can get through the Course's first week or two by hook or by crook and then just start slowly recovering. If my body can't catch up after the first couple weeks, I don't see how I can do the techniques properly, let alone the spirit training.
That news story was, I suspect, prompted by a reporter seeing this photo, which comes up if you do a Google image search on "Andy Carter aikido":
You can read about the story of this shiner in the article, but unfortunately the reporter failed to capture the experience of hearing Carter-sensei tell it live, complete with descriptions of trainees slipping and sliding in their own blood and knocking into each other.
As I didn't read much of Aiki Web until a couple weeks ago, I had never heard of Carter-sensei before coming to Kyoto. However, his reputation still preceded him. The first couple times I made visits to classes here, Carter-sensei was absent, so I was just told about him by last year's kenshusei class.
"You'll meet Andy-sensei soon. He teaches our fitness classes, but he does all the work right along with us."
"He did the course at hombu two years in a row."
"He's a little crazy."
So that makes two Tokyo senshusei courses and one Kyoto kenshusei course, and if I understand correctly, he intends to do the kenshusei course right along with us again this year. I wouldn't describe him as crazy, though.
To be honest, I don't really know how the dojo hierarchy wor
Yoshinkan isn't all fun and games... Sometimes it's a pizza party!
On Saturday night, we went to the apartment of one the dojo members for pizza and kung fu movies.
This is not really what Yoshinkan aikido is about, but sometimes it is fun just to relax. The kenshusei course hasn't started yet, so there is a little time for these sorts of distractions.
The films were of course in Chinese with Japanese subtitles, so it was a twofer of incomprehension for me. The first film was set in Shanghai during WWII. I was a little uncomfortable watching a movie with Japanese people depicting evil sadistic Japanese soldiers, but they seemed very nonchalant. There were a few homage to Bruce Lee, including a hero who wore a Green Hornet Kato costume (yes, it's true) and a remake of that famous scene from Fist of Fury where Bruce Lee takes out a Japanese dojo, complete with remake of shirtlessness and nunchuks.
By the end of the movie, I was in pain, both literally and figuratively. I needed to move around to stretch out my knees; plus, I was dead tired after 2 hours of sleep the previous night and several beers and focusing on a movie I didn't understand. So I was so thankful when the credits rolled, but then another movie came on... "Ohhhhh, a double feature" I said to myself. I said it under my breath, and I didn't think anyone else would know what double feature was anyhow. But everyone turned and looked and nodded, "hai, daburah feechu... daijobu desu ka?"