I recently had the pleasure to experience a Karate lesson in the historic Nihonbashi area in Tokyo. It’s a wonderful way to experience some traditional Japanese culture and get a really good workout too! Nihonbashi is located in shitamachi (downtown) and seems a perfect setting since there is so much history and cultural focus in that area.
My liaison for the appointment, Yuko from Lifull TraveRing, met me in front of the building and was very helpful in setting up the appointment and making sure everything went smoothly. All I had to do was simply show up and that was easy to do since Yuko provided me with great directions and instructions.
I arrived at the 4th floor dojo a bit early for the lesson, but I was allowed to sit in the waiting area and observe the class that was just finishing. What struck me immediately was the good energy I felt in the room. The clean, bright décor of the room combined with cheerful laughs during the instruction created a relaxed, yet energetic atmosphere. The class I observed really seemed to having fun!
|With instructor Ayuko Kaji of Manabiya HYOTEN|
Karate practice consists of the parts, kihon (basics), kumite (partner sparring), and kata (movement sequences). Participants will experience all 3 during the lesson. For the basics, we focused on the correct stance and technique for punching (tsuki) and kicks (keri). I was surprised to learn how much the stomach and torso muscles are involved in creating power in punching and kicking. Ayuko san really made this concept clear and it really made a difference!
After basics, we then moved on to partner sparring. Using the techniques we had just learned, both partners take turns throwing full-power kicks and punches while the other holds the sparing pads. I really liked this part. It’s important, however, to know how to hold the pads correctly to avoid injury and we were shown how to do this.
|Kumite (Partner sparring)|
The last part of the lesson is the kata, or putting all the moves together into a flowing sequence. Not being a very good dancer, I was a bit concerned about having to memorize all the punches and kicks in sequence. Ayuko san made it easy for me by first demonstrating herself, and then all together at the same time, just in case I forgot. For me, it felt like just the right balance of helping, but also letting me do on my own.
The session closed with our host performing the kata herself (enbu) and it was really beautiful and inspiring to watch. You can sense the amount of training and effort that is required to get to an advanced level such as hers. I was really great to watch.
I can fully recommend this experience to both those totally new to karate and just want to have a fun and interesting Japanese experience, as well as those already experienced and wanting to learn some of Karate’s finer points. Ayuko san’s instruction style can benefit both and you can make the class as fun or serious as you like, it’s entirely up to you!