During the December school holidays, 5 families embarked with us on a 3-day training stint to Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka respectively as part of The Dojo’s kids judo exchange program. So off we went back to the land of the rising sun where judo all began...
We kick-started our trip to Otokuni High School. The kids were extremely energetic and enthusiastic. The warm-up session was led by an 11-year-old boy commanding loudly with clear instructions throughout the exercise regime. All the Japanese kids echoed in unison to respond respectfully while training.
The training atmosphere was pumping with vibrant energy and the unity of camaraderie was exuberating.
It was an eye-opening ordeal in newaza for our kids. The Japanese are well-drilled in their techniques especially in executing their movements. Simple shiftings in their positions proved challenging for our kids to flip them over.
In Tachi-Waza, the Japanese students had a sense of strong determination when they sparred, attacking with fervor consistently and never backing down.
This refreshing training attitude benefited our Dojo kids, as we don't experience this much, locally. Our kids were forced to attack instantaneously because there was no time to take breaks, stepping out of their comfort zones.
Things they learned from this experience:
1. Faster reactions with minimal hesitations
2. Executing combinations correctly
3. Thinking of new attacking maneuvers quickly, they figured things out naturally under pressure
4.Physical strength and technical rigour the Japanese students possess
5. Positive training attitude and culture
Lastly, we had a small treat as we went sightseeing at the Inari shrine and Nishiki market.
On the second day, we made our way to Dojo Asuka in Nara.
It is one of the prefectures in Japan where many well-known world champions and Olympians were groomed. 5 different clubs in Nara joined together to welcome us for our 2nd day of training. They are much more skilled compared to the group from the first day due to the institution’s revered reputation.
The Dojo kids were honoured to be given the red slash, as it is traditionally a privilege for the strongest in the club to stay on for many more bouts during randori. Of course, this came with a price, the Japanese kids were so eager in engaging with our Dojo kids to get more mat time exchanging skills where we saw everyone charging forward to play. Our kids held their forts till the very end despite their weariness. Thereafter, we went to Nara Park, where the kids gladly spent a couple of hours just feeding deers to wind down from that exhausting day.
The third and last day was spent at Osaka Kodokan.
Kodokan is also known as the “a place for the study of the way". Everyone had a free and easy day before heading to Kodokan in the evening.
It was a great surprise that Kodokan Osaka extended the training session for our Dojo kids with back to back 2.5 hours of intense uchikomi, randori and physical training. Our kids fought many bouts and fell over and over countless times experiencing perfect kumikata setups to the sharpness of their opponents’ techniques.
Our teens, Zachary and Umar, also had an extraordinary opportunity to train with a 15-year-old boy who is currently ranked 5th in the All Japan Junior High School level in Kodokan.
It was an enriching experience for all of us and we hope everyone enjoyed this trip and comes back with renewed motivation to train harder!