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Old 08-22-2011, 03:05 PM   #1
senorqueso
 
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Moving to Japan

Hi All,

I've decided that I want to move to Tokyo to train at Hombu. This was a pipe dream of mine for some time, but after my wife and I separated in March, I've had some time to reconsider. I'm still young (24), and I have very little keeping me tied down to the States. I've seen plenty of people here talking about visiting Hombu, but very few who actually practice there on a continuing basis. I hope to make the jump in January 2013, which gives me a little longer than a year to prepare, financially, mentally and physically. I have a good idea of what I need to do outside of Aikido, but I'm not sure how to handle that aspect of it.

I made it to 5th Kyu, but never received an Aikikai book. I'm not currently practicing, and the closest dojo I want to practice in is 90 minutes away, should I make the effort to get some training in before I go, or should I restart at the beginning once in Tokyo?

Does anyone have any advice for me to prepare for my move?

Thanks,

- Jeremy

" ...you have to look within yourself to save yourself from your other self. Only then will your true self reveal itself." -Zuko(as Iroh)
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:50 PM   #2
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Moving to Japan

Hi Jeremy,

If there's one thing I have noticed about Japanese dojos in general, and Honbu in particular, it is that there is not a lot of explanation. The student is expected to see what the teacher is doing, work it out, and replicate it. Because of this, I feel that it would be advisable to attend as many classes as you can before you leave so that you have some idea of what is going on when you get there. How is your Japanese? Obviously all the classes will be in Japanese, and if you aren't fluent, this will compound the problem.

Another thing to think about is that you may only be able to attend beginners classes until you achieve a certain rank. I don't remember the exact policy on this, and I can't seem to find it on the website right now, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, my advice is to train when you can and not to put it off. If you can only do it once a fortnight, it will still help. At least make sure your ukemi is not too rusty.
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:50 PM   #3
Chris Li
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Hi Jeremy,

If there's one thing I have noticed about Japanese dojos in general, and Honbu in particular, it is that there is not a lot of explanation. The student is expected to see what the teacher is doing, work it out, and replicate it. Because of this, I feel that it would be advisable to attend as many classes as you can before you leave so that you have some idea of what is going on when you get there. How is your Japanese? Obviously all the classes will be in Japanese, and if you aren't fluent, this will compound the problem.

Another thing to think about is that you may only be able to attend beginners classes until you achieve a certain rank. I don't remember the exact policy on this, and I can't seem to find it on the website right now, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, my advice is to train when you can and not to put it off. If you can only do it once a fortnight, it will still help. At least make sure your ukemi is not too rusty.
The first time I moved to Japan in 1982 I was a 5th kyu and spoke no Japanese. I did OK at hombu, and was in the regular classes. There are always English speakers around somewhere, and they're used to clueless foreigners.

OTOH, unless you're attached to a particular instructor there who's watching out for you I don't really recommend it as a place for regular training (and not even then, really, because of the class size). You can get much more hands on contact in much smaller classes in other places. Try it out and then look around for a more permanent place, would be my advice.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-22-2011, 08:57 PM   #4
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Moving to Japan

I second what Chris said about class sizes and hands on instruction. It wouldn't be too inconvenient for me to train at Honbu, but I don't do it because of this, and also because I wouldn't get my money's worth only training a few times per week.

I think the big advantage of Honbu is that you can train several times per day, 7 days a week for a flat monthly fee, and also get exposed to a number of high level shihans. If you are likely to train more than 5 times per week, I would say Honbu might be worth it.
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:09 PM   #5
Chris Li
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
I second what Chris said about class sizes and hands on instruction. It wouldn't be too inconvenient for me to train at Honbu, but I don't do it because of this, and also because I wouldn't get my money's worth only training a few times per week.

I think the big advantage of Honbu is that you can train several times per day, 7 days a week for a flat monthly fee, and also get exposed to a number of high level shihans. If you are likely to train more than 5 times per week, I would say Honbu might be worth it.
That's true, there are very few professional dojo in Japan because of the economics - and you can train a lot at hombu, because classes are always available.

I think that most people who train at hombu, if they are serious, end up also training someplace else for the personal attention.

Then you have to consider whether or not what is being done at hombu is really where you want to be - but that's another discussion .

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-23-2011, 07:21 AM   #6
phitruong
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Then you have to consider whether or not what is being done at hombu is really where you want to be - but that's another discussion .

Chris
sheesh Chris, open a can of worm aren't you?

i looked at the online picture of honbu dojo and didn't see a weapon rack. some how, i don't feel comfortable walking into an aikido dojo that doesn't have a weapon rack; it made me feel uncomfortable. come to think of it, i felt right at home visiting kungfu schools that have weapons lined up wall to wall. sometimes i wondered if there isn't a bit of Gengis Khan blood flowing in my vein. once a week, i usually have an urge to go on a plunger and pillage which i jumped in my car with heavy snarling at everything, tires squealing out of my driveway, and my wife yelling after, "don't forget to pickup some milk and eggs too!"

now if i have the mean to go to japan to study aikido, i would want to track down Endo sensei and hang out at his dojo. of course, if i have that sort of mean, i would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there.
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:53 AM   #7
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
now if i have the mean to go to japan to study aikido, i would want to track down Endo sensei and hang out at his dojo. of course, if i have that sort of mean, i would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there.
That's a very good point. If you're coming to Japan and you're a beginner, it's going to take you at least two to three years to settle into a dojo and become proficient enough in Japanese that you understand what the instructor is trying to tell you. And that's just the beginning. It's going to take at least a further three years to get the basics of your "dojo style" down. So you're looking at six years minimum to get the basics of a sensei's style. That's assuming that you find exactly the right place for you from the get go. It takes many people a couple of years of training around before they find dojo that suits them (and vice versa). The well known Shihan like Endo will frequently be away from their home dojo giving seminars, plus, you are just going to be another face in the crowd at the beginning in a large, well attended dojo. Plus, if you are going to be supporting yourself teaching English, you could be working very long, unsociable hours. Throw in travel time in a metropolis like Tokyo and you could find it very hard to support an intensive training regime: you'll be really busy.

If you really want to just do Aikido, there are lots of highly experienced instructors across the States and Europe. I think someone like George Ledyard would love to have a young dedicated student willing to give it some for a few years. I'd bet money that you'd get more personalised training and instruction
in a situation like that in three years than you would in Japan. You wouldn't have the cultural barrier for starters. Plus, you'd be exposed to an evolving style while still staying in a lineage

I'm not trying to rain on the OP's parade. There are lots of reasons to recommend living in Japan, but if one wants to come here just to do Aikido there are lots of other, potentially better options worth considering IMO. This is a testament to the success of Aikido becoming a worldwide art.

I never knew Genghis Kahn used plungers, though.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:08 AM   #8
Aviv
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Re: Moving to Japan

There are three dojo in Iwama that offer uchideshi programs. They are all used to having foreign students and class sizes are much smaller than at Hombu Dojo.

Feel free to contact me directly for more information if you would consider this option.

Peace, Aviv Goldsmith
Aikido in Fredericksburg
www.aikidoinfredericksburg.org
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:32 AM   #9
phitruong
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
I never knew Genghis Kahn used plungers, though.
that's because you have not heard the common expression uttered in fear and dismay when the Chinese saw his horde, on horse and camel, sipping vende latte, talking smacks. the Chinese and other unfortunate souls usually screamed "OH SHIT!!! Hide the cream and sugar!" "and the camels too!" "no, not the women, they are our secret weapons!" "oh, those poor bastards!"
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:01 AM   #10
Ketsan
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
I never knew Genghis Kahn used plungers, though.
That's how he did so well. His opponents were all "Are you serious? You're threatening me with a........."

Yeah, Nasty.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:11 AM   #11
senorqueso
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
How is your Japanese? Obviously all the classes will be in Japanese, and if you aren't fluent, this will compound the problem.

Another thing to think about is that you may only be able to attend beginners classes until you achieve a certain rank. I don't remember the exact policy on this, and I can't seem to find it on the website right now, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, my advice is to train when you can and not to put it off. If you can only do it once a fortnight, it will still help. At least make sure your ukemi is not too rusty.
Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
I think the big advantage of Honbu is that you can train several times per day, 7 days a week for a flat monthly fee, and also get exposed to a number of high level shihans. If you are likely to train more than 5 times per week, I would say Honbu might be worth it.
Robin, I'm currently working about 30-45 minutes a day on learning Japanese. I don't feel its very appropriate to move to a foreign country willingly and not make an effort to learn the language. As far as training goes, I do hope to make it a priority. I'm uprooting to practice, after all, and if I don't go full out then what was the point?

Quote:
Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
Plus, if you are going to be supporting yourself teaching English, you could be working very long, unsociable hours. Throw in travel time in a metropolis like Tokyo and you could find it very hard to support an intensive training regime: you'll be really busy.
There's no way I'd support myself by teaching English. I've seen the programs available and they look atrocious. There are lots of tech companies in Tokyo hiring experienced foreign IT/Programmers/Web designers, and I have a few years experience in each. Not to mention what the English programs pay is basically slave labor, considering the cost of living in Tokyo.

I have other reasons to move to Japan (a lot of that is simply "I want to move to Japan"), and whether I end up at Hombu full time or another dojo is still yet to be decided.

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Then you have to consider whether or not what is being done at hombu is really where you want to be - but that's another discussion .
I genuinely don't understand this statement at all. I'm chalking it up to naïveté.

- Jeremy

" ...you have to look within yourself to save yourself from your other self. Only then will your true self reveal itself." -Zuko(as Iroh)
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:11 AM   #12
Chris Li
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
sheesh Chris, open a can of worm aren't you?

i looked at the online picture of honbu dojo and didn't see a weapon rack. some how, i don't feel comfortable walking into an aikido dojo that doesn't have a weapon rack; it made me feel uncomfortable. come to think of it, i felt right at home visiting kungfu schools that have weapons lined up wall to wall. sometimes i wondered if there isn't a bit of Gengis Khan blood flowing in my vein. once a week, i usually have an urge to go on a plunger and pillage which i jumped in my car with heavy snarling at everything, tires squealing out of my driveway, and my wife yelling after, "don't forget to pickup some milk and eggs too!"

now if i have the mean to go to japan to study aikido, i would want to track down Endo sensei and hang out at his dojo. of course, if i have that sort of mean, i would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there.
I tend to be more of the Garbage Kahn type myself .

There really is no weapons practice at hombu, none at all. I always liked Endo, although I haven't really seen him in years - and nobody's going to go wrong with George's place. Of course, the weather's so good in Hawaii that nobody even cares whether or not the training's any good.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-23-2011, 10:28 AM   #13
Chris Li
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Jeremy Madden wrote: View Post
I genuinely don't understand this statement at all. I'm chalking it up to na�vet�.
Well, at some point you have to decide what kind of practice you want to pursue, and that practice can vary greatly depending upon where you are training.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-23-2011, 11:17 AM   #14
phitruong
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Of course, the weather's so good in Hawaii that nobody even cares whether or not the training's any good.

Chris
come on Chris! everybody knows that your dojo is a front for vacation agency where folks go there for fishing, diving, and partying. that's the main reason you got Dan and Howie out there. those guys are party animals.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:59 AM   #15
Chris Li
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
come on Chris! everybody knows that your dojo is a front for vacation agency where folks go there for fishing, diving, and partying. that's the main reason you got Dan and Howie out there. those guys are party animals.
Shhh.... be vewy, vewy quiet - we're hunting aiki-bunnies.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-23-2011, 02:16 PM   #16
Diana Frese
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Re: Moving to Japan

I really love Phi's irreverent comments, at least most of them. I had to scroll back to find the original reference to Genghis Khan, because one of my cousins from Europe said another cousin said Genghis Khan had been running through our family tree. Small world, Cousin Phi! But I'm sure it was plunder, as in my husband and I racing each other thru the local Stop and Shop each piling our favorite foods into the cart and then deciding who has to give up something due to budget (sorry I can't buy all the Aikido books and videos I read about but we gotta eat...)

About weapons training at Hombu, George and the ASU actually have the shihan that taught weapons to the American students at Hombu in the mid 1970's, but I'm sure training at Hombu is great even without the weapons, which you may be able to supplement elsewhere. I took some classes with Endo Sensei over there, and his style is smooth and very beautiful while at the same time effective, I'm sure. Saito Sensei was great and so are those of his students whom I saw .... I'm enjoying reading this thread and good luck to you whatever you decide both here and in Japan. I did teach English somewhat, but not a full schedule teaching English or training, didn't have the stamina for more than one or two classes per day, but I did take Watanabe Sensei's class on Sunday for the additional fee for the seventh day added to the regular monthly charge for training there....

Don't get me started on reminiscing, I have to go do some exercises to get back into practice! (Too many trips to the supermarket, hubby and I are having to practice in the driveway to get in shape)
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:28 PM   #17
Diana Frese
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Re: Moving to Japan

Oh, here's an ad for a Bill Witt Seminar -- he is really great, a student of Saito Sensei for many many years, he taught at one of the USAF summer camps in the late 1970's I think it was. Too bad we haven't been able to travel in recent years...

Anyway, back to the topic of money, I was able to borrow from my brother and some friends, I think I paid most everything back to them, I will have to double check before my memory fails .... I guess you will have to find out most things yourself but it's great to have so many people sharing advice and experience for you to learn from. I'm sure I could have learned a lot more if I had known more Japanese language, but one can still learn a lot by observing and training....

Bye for now, Daian P. S. Can you tell us how you got the name Senor Queso? Do you love cheese, or something? My husband is crazy about sharp cheddar, that's one main reason to head to the supermarket.
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:17 PM   #18
Eric in Denver
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Re: Moving to Japan

A friend of mine started at aikikai hombu, but didn't like Tokyo. They had a list of all the affiliated dojos in Japan with contact numbers so he was able to relocate pretty easily. But that was in the mid-90s, so I don't know if they would do that again.

If you have your heart set on Tokyo, you could always check out the Yoshinkan folks as well, they have a few intensive training options.

If you don't have your heart set on aikido, then there is also Akuzawa who runs his stuff out of the southwest side of Tokyo, and I think about an hour north of Tokyo you could also find Kuroda Tetsuzan. Lots of cool stuff going on if you poke around a bit.
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:41 PM   #19
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Jeremy Madden wrote: View Post
Robin, I'm currently working about 30-45 minutes a day on learning Japanese. I don't feel its very appropriate to move to a foreign country willingly and not make an effort to learn the language. As far as training goes, I do hope to make it a priority. I'm uprooting to practice, after all, and if I don't go full out then what was the point?

There's no way I'd support myself by teaching English. I've seen the programs available and they look atrocious. There are lots of tech companies in Tokyo hiring experienced foreign IT/Programmers/Web designers, and I have a few years experience in each. Not to mention what the English programs pay is basically slave labor, considering the cost of living in Tokyo.

I have other reasons to move to Japan (a lot of that is simply "I want to move to Japan"), and whether I end up at Hombu full time or another dojo is still yet to be decided.

I genuinely don't understand this statement at all. I'm chalking it up to naïveté.
Good to hear you are making an effort with Japanese. That will be especially useful if you want to get a job in IT. They usually require level 2 on the JLPT, so if you can get that before you come here, that will be a big help. You never know, you might even end up working for my company.

Teaching English varies a lot, depending on who you work for. The bottom has fallen out of the market lately, so it's not as good as it used to be, but I actually earned more teaching English than I am earning now as a translator.

The thing that Phi and Chris have been alluding to about Honbu is that while it has all the prestigious shihans and a offers a lot of classes, it is not renowned for its quality of teaching. The teaching there seems stuck in the old style of showing a technique and having the students repeat it with little explanation or assistance. The students are also encouraged not to speak, so you wouldn't get much assistance from your senpai either. A lot of the Shihans there are actually really good teachers, but they are a bit constrained when they teach at Honbu. Also, as Phi said, there is no weapons training at Honbu (or at least there didn't used to be. Is that still the case?).

Iwama is actually something that might be worth looking into. It's out in the country, so you wouldn't have the living expenses or the ridiculous commute times that you have in Tokyo, and you would get more personal attention and weapons training. It all depends on what is important to you.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:26 PM   #20
raul rodrigo
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Re: Moving to Japan

There is a weapons rack in Hombu Dojo—bokken, jo, shoto. The thing is they don't practice weapons in class. Now and then a Yasuno or a Kuribayashi will pick up a weapon to stress a point.
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Old 08-24-2011, 07:51 AM   #21
senorqueso
 
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Good to hear you are making an effort with Japanese. That will be especially useful if you want to get a job in IT. They usually require level 2 on the JLPT, so if you can get that before you come here, that will be a big help. You never know, you might even end up working for my company.

Teaching English varies a lot, depending on who you work for. The bottom has fallen out of the market lately, so it's not as good as it used to be, but I actually earned more teaching English than I am earning now as a translator.

The thing that Phi and Chris have been alluding to about Honbu is that while it has all the prestigious shihans and a offers a lot of classes, it is not renowned for its quality of teaching. The teaching there seems stuck in the old style of showing a technique and having the students repeat it with little explanation or assistance. The students are also encouraged not to speak, so you wouldn't get much assistance from your senpai either. A lot of the Shihans there are actually really good teachers, but they are a bit constrained when they teach at Honbu. Also, as Phi said, there is no weapons training at Honbu (or at least there didn't used to be. Is that still the case?).

Iwama is actually something that might be worth looking into. It's out in the country, so you wouldn't have the living expenses or the ridiculous commute times that you have in Tokyo, and you would get more personal attention and weapons training. It all depends on what is important to you.
Robin, thanks, this actually gives me a lot to think about. I don't know anything about Iwama or their style, but it looks interesting Also, the JLPT looks very difficult, it will be a good goal to work towards.

Quote:
Diana Frese wrote: View Post
P. S. Can you tell us how you got the name Senor Queso? Do you love cheese, or something? My husband is crazy about sharp cheddar, that's one main reason to head to the supermarket.
I honestly don't remember how I got that name. Something happened in high school, I think, but I don't remember the origin. It feels like it always has been my online alias.

- Jeremy

" ...you have to look within yourself to save yourself from your other self. Only then will your true self reveal itself." -Zuko(as Iroh)
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:58 PM   #22
barron
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Re: Moving to Japan

Japan the Gold Standard of Aikido ?

" I would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there." Phi Truong

Perhaps this might be a separate thread?

I agree with Phil about the coffee in the NW U.S. , as well the strange, in a nice way, people. It should be recognized however that there are many "great" teachers in countries other than Japan. I would never discourage anyone from going to Japan as I have been there twice, love the country and people,but never for Aikido but will finally be going next April for one month to study at my Shihan's dojo.

The cultural experience from living in another country is invaluable. During my youth and early adulthood I spent between 4 to 5 months a year in Europe and would do it all again. Learning German in a bar at night with a krug of beer and friends was invaluable.

But this still begs the question in my mind ( or blasphemy ) are there not "Great" teachers elsewhere and is Japan still the best/only place to train? If one wants to study authentic/traditional aikido realistically we would have to go back in time to Japan in the 1930 - 60's era.

Please don't take offence with this especially if your "style" is traditional for I'm only saying that no matter how true one tries to maintain their technique to the style creator the individual biomechanics and personality of the each teacher has an effect on the product .... especially over five decades.

If one were to intensely study Aikido I believe that they should seek out a teacher who espouses and conducts themselves in manner, ethics and philosophy of the art. This teacher might well be in Japan, altough the language barrier and nusances if one was not a native speaker of Japanese would be lost.

Finally I say .... Jeremy go to Japan for the experience and the aikido you'll learn ... you'll love the experience and grow from it.

Last edited by barron : 08-24-2011 at 03:01 PM. Reason: spelling/typos

Andrew Barron
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Old 08-25-2011, 01:23 AM   #23
Chicko Xerri
Dojo: Aikido Kenkyukai International Fudoshin dojo Australia.
Location: Noosa Heads, Australia
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 65
Australia
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Re: Moving to Japan

It will change you for ever. You may or may not find yourself, you may even find something else. As for Aikido you only need to look in your own area. O'sensei the great teacher has moved on, the rest of us are all students of this life and Aiki. regardless of where you go to look. Then again if you have to go, all the best to you.
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Old 08-25-2011, 01:47 AM   #24
robin_jet_alt
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 622
Australia
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Jeremy Madden wrote: View Post
Also, the JLPT looks very difficult, it will be a good goal to work towards.
It is incredibly difficult until you pass it, and then it's not anymore. A lot like gradings in Aikido really. Start with the lower levels and work your way up.
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Old 08-25-2011, 09:12 AM   #25
Richard Stevens
Location: Indianapolis
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 165
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Re: Moving to Japan

Quote:
Jeremy Madden wrote: View Post
Robin, I'm currently working about 30-45 minutes a day on learning Japanese. I don't feel its very appropriate to move to a foreign country willingly and not make an effort to learn the language. As far as training goes, I do hope to make it a priority. I'm uprooting to practice, after all, and if I don't go full out then what was the point?

There's no way I'd support myself by teaching English. I've seen the programs available and they look atrocious. There are lots of tech companies in Tokyo hiring experienced foreign IT/Programmers/Web designers, and I have a few years experience in each. Not to mention what the English programs pay is basically slave labor, considering the cost of living in Tokyo.
As was mentioned before in this thread, you will need at least JLPT Level 2 to get a position in IT in most cases. They can be hard to come by for someone not comfortable with the language. Unless the foreigner has a hard to find skill-set why hire someone who had difficulty communicating when a native speaker may have the same skills?

35-40 minutes of study on your own a day is probably not going to be sufficient to get you to the point where you can pass the Level 2 exam. I would suggest looking for a Japanese club (with actual Japanese members) to improve your conversational skills.

Another option is to look for an eikawa position at a company like Aeon or Peppy Kids Club just to get into the country. I lived in Japan for a long time and was never an English teacher myself, but they can pay enough to get you by for a year or two. If you can find a position in a small city/town your expenses will be low and you may have access to a local Aikikai affiliated school. If you manage to avoid the foreigner bubble and make Japanese friends, your Japanese will improve very, very quickly.

With your Japanese up to speed and a feel for life in Japan you'll find it much easier to land a position in IT as a foreigner with Japanese skills already in the country is a much easier hire.
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