I got up on Monday under the impression that I had plenty of time to have a shower and a shave after I enjoyed breakfast. Well, I leisurely munched on this delicious cereal which was something like honey muesli after which I slowly sipped away at a coffee. My shower was great! I went up stairs, got half changed and was ready to go downstairs for a shave. So I had my tie hanging around my neck with a white shirt half buttoned up when I was told it was time to go. Woops.
I managed to get properly dressed and shave at the same time. Amazing what time can do when it's not there.
The speech went fine and I was soon met with that awesome feeling of relief as I no longer had to remember anything and I could just turn into a bit of a zombie for the rest of the meeting. So that morning I was worried something wicked, seemingly about talking infront of people but that night I went to karaoke and sang infront of people. No problem!
|Looks like I'm crying but I'm not, it's just sweat or something that's not tears...|
|I was a bit shy to sing at first but you gotta give it a go|
It was great fun! I sang a few English songs and gave the Japanese ones a go. They didn't go so well but that doesn't even matter! I went with my older host sister and her husband who I get along with so well! A really great time!
Tuesday was back to school for another one of those ceremonies! When does it start for real?! Well, confusion aside, it was a good day. We all packed into the hall and watched the school brass band rock out and then we watched the new 1st years march in. They were small and they looked scared. I laughed because I remember what it's like to be the new, small kids in school. I think year 9 at TBHS is a bit rougher than here though.
So of course we had kendo training and it was great! Today we practiced some of the more traditional aspects of the martial art and had wooden katana instead of bamboo swords. (A katana is a samurai sword.) It was all slow paced and graceful and quite cool to watch.
After a small time training we were called upon to help with the distribution of sports uniforms to the new kids. All these kids had their parents with them from the ceremony and we had to say welcome and congratulations for making it to high school and what not. I had a great time just saying "Konnichiwa" to everyone who was there. Sometimes we got to have small conversations with a few people.
I went home and relaxed, it was a good night! And finally, proper school the next day!
I got up early and had marmite on toast, downed a coffee and was ready to go to school. I think I slept a wee bit on the train. School was odd, everyone had tests to do so I didn't get up to much. But it was still good to see all my mates in class!
Kendo was set to finish at 5 and I was looking forward to a night of Hanami! (Flower watching.)
Training started and it was tough. We went through a bunch of drills and I was almost drowning in sweat. I checked the time; 4:58 pm. No signs of stopping. Hmmmmmmmmm.
Well 5:00 came and went and it turns out training finishes at 6. This poses a huge problem as I had to either catch the 5:23 train or the 7:43 train. We were planned to leave for Hanami at 8:00 and it takes about 40 minutes in the train to get home. Stress.
Well, a few phonecalls later and everything was sorted out. My host dad was in the area on his way home from work and I got a ride home. We had a bite to eat and then went out.
|The cooler trees get lit up at night!|
|Truly amazing in person|
|I don't have words|
|A well placed body of water just made this magic|
We all sat under these gazebos and ate Japanese festival food. I had a sip of some Japanese liqueur and definitely ate my fair share of whatever was infront of me. There were tons of people and I got to talk to heaps of em. The night had this carefree atmosphere and it was truly amazing. I had this feeling of happiness that I couldn't explain. I don't know why but I was just on top of the world. That liqueur must of been stronger than I thought.
Thursday had more of those tests. I ended up in the library all day with the American exchange student. We say we studied but we really got up to nothing much.
That night I went to Kendo and training was again, until 6. It turns out that we are stepping it up in terms of training nowadays. More sweat, more smacks in the head and a general a good time. Back home to relax. But it seems I'm starting to get nervous for this tournament that is way closer than I thought it was. Oh dear.
I misread the tournament schedule and it turns out I'm not the biggest and heaviest guy in the division but rather I'm in the heaviest division. And it turns out I'm the smallest and youngest guy in it. The little bit of confidence I had was sapped pretty quick.
Friday was pretty odd. I was really tired from the previous nights kendo and I slept a fair bit in class. But it wasn't until sixth period that something exciting happened. I was sitting at my desk which is right beside the sliding door. One that shakes all the time cos it sits on a shoddy set of wheels. So I'm sleeping away because it's maths period and of course I'm dreaming about the tournament on Sunday.
There I was, throwing punches, throwing kicks and all was good. I remember throwing this particularly snappy kick and next thing I know, I was back in the class room with a ringing in my ears and all eyes on me. I had kicked the door and it made quite the ruckus. Well I was pretty damn embarrassed so I put my head down and went back to "maths."
Kendo was awesome that night. At about 5:30 we all slacked off (Sensei had gone somewhere.) So I taught my mates how to fight Kyokushin style! So we mucked about, fighting hand to hand, sword to sword and even sword verses fist and foot, it was a good laugh! I got home and experienced those nerves that were gradually growing.
I was told I could sleep in because all of my appointments were from the afternoon. So I had to make sure what time I was getting up, I was hoping for 11 and if not 10 but I was told that 8 or 9 should be good. "Sleep in." Can't argue though, especially when the usual is 6.
So I had no real idea of what the day was going to bring except for the fact that I was going to stay at my previous host families house for the night because it would be easier to go to the tournament from there. We were also set to have some meeting in a nearby town called Takayama.
It turns out I was being used. We got to Takayama and were all ready for the lunch meeting when I thought I should ask about why I was here. Quote (It was even said in English.) "The Takayama club isn't sure if they want to host students yet so we will show them you and persuade them."
Cool. I wasn't even bothered, I was getting a free feed! We talked with these unsure host families to be over a western meal and it went well! I talked a bit and smiled a lot and enjoyed the food. It was a bit inappropriate to take a photo so I can't show you what we ate. Sorry, will have to get some more food photos later.
After our espionage, we went to this French cafe!
So then we walked around this art gallery looking at old French things. My previous host Mum, Rieko had been beaten up by her Labrador in the morning and it was around about now that her knee started to play up. So I ended up pushing her about in a wheel chair through the gallery!
So we went home and I got to walk the dogs again, I have missed this!
We went out for dinner that night and I couldn't eat too much, I was pretty nervous. The big day was tomorrow. I had decided to not worry so much but rather look forward to it! In my head I was excited but my body was nervous.
|It was a really nice complex|
|With a choice view!|
No photos in the gallery though
|Miss these two|
|The old trail is even more beaut than it was before!|
I went to bed at 10 for a 4:40 am wake up.
The tournament was in Nakatsugawa and it was the Gifu-Ken championship. There were 1235 competitors and they were going to be fighting on 11 mats at a time. That it is quite the contrast to what I'm used to. I'm used to one or two mats. 11 mats and 1235 competitors is insane.
I had a small feed and it was all go. My mate, Fuyuki and I drove to the arena and had a good time singing in the car. He's that guy that smashed me in the guts the other week. He would be fighting in a division below me. We arrived and got all ready for the weigh in and doctor's check. I weighed in at 76.8 kg and 174.3 cm tall. The smallest in my group.
I managed to spot my first opponent and holy shit he was a giant. He was so much bigger than me that Fuyuki simply said. "Bad luck."
That's pretty grim.
So my division started at 11:35 so there was a good few hours to kill before anything happened. Time passed slowly but eventually Fuyuki and I started warming up. We ran laps around the outside of the arena until we were sweating and then we had some light rounds of sparring. I was shaking and I felt sick. I was about to get monstered by the giant.
He kept giving me these evil eyes and all I could think was that he wasn't just gonna fight me but he was gonna beat me up maliciously. This gave me a little bit of vigour and I worked myself into this mood. I wasn't gonna let this guy push me around. I was gonna smash him.
The adrenaline was starting to flow and it felt good. My fight came ever closer and the members from my dojo found me and cheered me on. They were all around the mat and they helped me find my way.
We all bowed to the mats and got ready to be called on for the battle. My heart was going 100mph and this giant on the other side of the mat was looking as chill as. My name was called and it was time.
I bowed to the mat and took my position. As my bare feet met the familiar feel of the padded floor all of my nerves left and I was in limbo. I wasn't thinking words or pictures or anything. I was just there.
We bowed and I stared him straight in the eyes. He was big. The judge said go and that was it.
I launched in with a front kick but it slipped to the side and his kick went straight up and caught me in the nuts. No time to think about pain, I was gone, all guns blazing and it was the best fun. I could feel the hits land on him and I could also feel the weight of his punches hit me. It is really the best feeling.
I landed a kick on his chin and we went back to the starting positions. A point was called and we were ready to go again. I jumped straight in with another high kick and landed. Once again we went back to the starting positions and got ready to go again for the last few seconds.
He came straight in with this heavy knee and I knew that if that landed I would be on the ground so I got quite the scare. But soon enough the fight was over and the flags went in my favour.
We shook hands and became instant friends! We talked a bit after the fight and had a good laugh. Karate is the best, you can literally smash each other on second and then laugh about it after.
I was bouncing and ready for another fight, I had one more fight before the finals. I went through the same procedure, bowed to the mat and walked on, ready as ever. I stared my opponent in the eyes again, he was about the same height as me but a lot heavier. He was also a 3rd dan!
We smashed into each other and the battle began, I pushed him back and lined up a high kick. My brain was still programmed to the taller guy in the previous fight and my kick went literally right over his head, brushing his head gear. I spun around and got back to hitting. I launched another high kick which was again a bit high and it cause my standing leg to give out. I slipped over in an embarrassing fall but I was right back up and itching to go.
I launched at him again and clipped him with a better aimed head kick but the ref didn't see it or something. Back to it then! I once again could feel the punches land and it was great. I put a foot past his nose and the ref put us back to the starting positions. I am a tad confused at the reffing here but that's no problem.
I psyched my opponent with twinkle fingers. I wiggled my fingers as I slowly walked in to distract him and then gave him a solid kick to the leg. He probably didn't even notice the jazz hands but I felt pretty clever.
I pushed him into the corner and started loading up the big hits. The ref called time and we stopped fighting. The flags once again went in my favour and I was on top of the world. Yet again we shook hands and became mates! We talked after the fight and then I was prepped for the final....
In three hours time.
I had a small bite to eat and frowned as the adrenaline left my body and the aches and pains came. My right hand was swelling up and so was my right foot. My left shin felt smashed and I was actually buggered. This isn't too good.
Finally we started warming up again but the nerves had come back. Everyone had said "watch out, he's strong" about my opponent and it definitely got to me. We started running laps again and did some more light sparring. I was ready but my hand was hurting horribly and my foot was a bit of a problem.
It hurt to make my hand a fist and that fist just so happened to be my primary weapon. Shit.
Back to the mats. Fuyuki had made it to the final as well. His fight was first and then it was mine. He literally kicked the head gear off of his opponents head; it was the coolest thing I saw all day.
He won and I stood up and moved to the edge of the mat. I bowed and walked on. I had my position and so did the other fella. Nothing in my head except that fighting state of mind. We faced off and I winked at him. Just to see if I could get a reaction.
Well I got a good kick to the hip and that hurts me still as I write this.
We battered against each other and all I could feel were these big impacts to my sides. He had some very powerful kicks. But his stance was wide so I kicked his inner thigh and got the desired result. He was thrown off balance and I layed into him some more. He threw some kicks as he moved backwards and must of tripped because he fell down and I nipped the top of his head on the way down with a kick.
The ref stopped the fight and said something to me. I had not a clue what he said but I did hear "kick" and "watch out" so I just nodded.
Back to it and I kept receiving these kicks. I tried my best to drill him and get some kicks in but his defence denied my attempts to catch him in the ribs with my legs. We moved into the centre and I tried to throw up and axe kick (it goes up in an arc and then straight down.)
He pushed it back and it couldn't have set me up better for a back kick. I the force from his block to start my spin around and I threw my leg up with the heel aimed at his head. My aim was true and it clopped him right in the jaw.
I got this feeling of elation, "I've got him!!" It pushed his head over and I was well pleased. I heard my supporters cheer and I really thought I had it. But the ref didn't call anything.
Back to it! I was exhausted and I could feel my limbs turning to lead and it was not a good feeling. His kicks persisted and I knew deep down that he had it. The fight ended and we walked back to our spots.
I accidentally bumped into him hard enough to make it seem as though it was on purpose. He turned around and looked me in the eyes and I gave him a cheesy grin. He gave one back and I knew that it wasn't really too bad that I was gonna lose.
It was the best fun. The flags went in his favour and I could see elation in his face. We shook hands and chatted for quite a while after the match. He was a real good guy and we were instant friends. I was pleased but ever so slightly disappointed.
My hand was literally throbbing, my foot was making me limp and it felt as though my hip and lower side had been repeatedly whacked with a cricket bat. It was a good day!
We were ready to receive our rewards and they even had a podium!!
Fuyuki went up first, he got a gold trophy!
Next I got to go on the podium! I felt like a little kid, all excited and stuff.
So Fuyuki and I got back in the car and got ice creams at the convenience store. Then we sang songs in the car all the way home! We were both buggered and bruised and ready for a good rest.
Fuyuki went up first, he got a gold trophy!
|We did quite well!|
|This guy's 14 but he manages to kick me in the head and I can't even see it coming!|
He's from my dojo and he actually inspires me, such spirit!
|With Sensei, the end of the day|
I got home and showed my family the videos. I had dinner and collapsed onto the couch. Aw shit I'm exhausted. I was limping, my hand was purple and my body started to hurt.
It wouldn't hit me till the next day though.
Today I limped around school with just about every muscle aching. My foot had swollen so much that it didn't fit in my school slipper and my hand was actually a little better. The muscles on my fore arms burned whenever I moved my hands and my abdomen was smashed. I'm sitting here in bed now, at 1 am on Tuesday morning, still in pain.
But man it was fun. I am officially the 2nd in all of Gifu province! A foreigner! We reckon that the judge didn't call my head kick because I'm white and they can't have a foreigner win their tournament.