My experience training in a Japanese martial art and why you shouldn’t be afraid to learn something new.
This year was my second time visiting Tokyo and my goals were simple, I wanted to train in a martial art and climb Mount Fuji. It was in my search to find a karate dojo that I discovered Shorinji Kempo, which is a relatively new martial art in Japan.
As a child I studied Karate, and while working in Japan this year I thought I would continue to train at the World Karate headquarters in Tokyo. However, after visiting the, dojo I discovered it was too far away from work and the training fees were too expensive. Seemingly out of luck I decided to search the Internet for places to train, but found that most clubs advertised on Japanese websites which I couldn’t read.
Finally, on my way home from work one day I noticed a gym door open across the street from the University I was teaching at. Outside I saw several people standing around chatting dressed in Karate gi’s. Interested to find out what was going on I peaked inside and saw that one of my students was actually a member. As soon as she recognized me I was invited into the dojo for a conversation. In broken English, I asked if it would be possible to train with them, and that’s how I discovered Shorinji Kempo.
When I began training with the University club I was disappointed to discover that I would not be able to continue learning with them. This was because they were preparing for the national university championships and had to focus on their own training.
Luckily Tsubasa, an alumnus who was helping the students prepare for their upcoming tournament, gave me his contact information and we spend the next week searching for a Shorinji dojo in our neighbourhood.
No less than a week later we had discovered a few places (none of which I would have found without a Japanese speakers help) and started checking them out. After training at a few we eventually found the downtown Tokyo dojo were I would spend the next three months training, and best of all it was in an elementary school only a few blocks from the university.
During my time training with the people at the Tokyo Chiyoda Shorinji Kempo club I not only had the opportunity to learn Shorinji Kempo, but also made some great new friends who helped me with my Japanese as well as training.
The training was fantastic and I had the opportunity to work one on one with individual members as well as with the group as a whole (most of whom were black belts). This gave me a chance to get to know everyone on a personal level during my training, as well as learn the techniques in a focused way.
Finally, after three months of training and my 6th Kyu exam it was my last week in Japan. Instead of saying goodbye at the dojo the club took me out to an izakaya and we spent a few hours eating and drinking together in a traditional Japanese fashion.
For me training in Shorinji Kempo was an experience that taught me the importance of trying new things, not to be afraid of language barriers, and that no matter where you are in the world there are amazing people who are eager to share their knowledge and culture.
I will never tire of traveling and working overseas because there is so much to learn. Getting involved in something outside of work and travel is a great way to learn about a culture, meet new people, and become a well-rounded person.
Before I went to Japan I had no idea what Shorinji Kempo was. Now I’m a member of an international organization, I have great new friends, and I learned the value of not being afraid to try something new.
So whether you’re living in a foreign country or at home, I would challenge you to think about something new you want to learn and find a way to try it. No matter what it is or where you are go out and get involved, because being a traveler is more than just going to a new country its about challenging yourself and trying something new!
Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering I passed my 6TH Kyu exam and am now a green belt
For more information about Shorinji Kempo