Aikido course

Work hard, rest hard
Some monkeys taking it easy

Well there we go! My application for entry into Japan in October this year has now been sent off. Now I just have to wait. … …

… … Wow this waiting thing is really hard.

Guess I’ll blog a bit. Yeah, that should pass some time.

This weekend my aikido club hosted its biannual aikido course with our club’s technical director – my teacher’s teacher. His visits help our club to improve and connects us to the international world of aikido. It’s made a big difference to me, since it’s meant that I’ve been able to have my grade recognised with the international Aikikai organisation, which means I’ll be listed on the dojo records for when I show up in a few months in Tokyo.

The letter

It was my teacher’s idea to ask him if he would write me a letter of introduction for when I make it to Japan, since that’s the traditional etiquette in Japanese culture. Admittedly it’s better than Plan B, which is to show up and be like, “Hi… You don’t know me but I travelled half-way around the world to meet you. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

But my teacher’s teacher suggested that it would mean a lot more coming from his teacher. Now we’re getting really high up. I was invited to a course in Belgium this October to meet him, and I’m really hoping I’ll be able to make it. However, it conflicts with the start of term at the language school I’ve applied to. I’m super lucky to have so many people supporting me and giving me these kind of opportunities, so I want to do my best to make the most of them. It might be possible that I could miss the first few days of term…. Maybe. That sounds like a good idea… right?

The course

The course itself was a lot of hard work but very enjoyable. Sensei called me up to receive his demonstrations of technique several times – very much a privilege. It’s pretty crazy how good he is. It’s basically like being thrown by a ghost. Only real. It makes me think: That’s how good I could be one day. So train hard!

A friend of mine was taking her grading at the end of the first day. The atmosphere was tense. All of a sudden there was a noise. “Cock-a-doodle-do!” We were all used to this noise by now. Every time sensei did a technique, a cockerel went, “cocka-doodle-do!” Okay maybe not every time, but at least several times. It was never fully explained why there were animals outside the training hall.

The course meal was a huge success – everyone came together in a spirit of camaraderie. I ordered ‘jalapeƱo poppers’, which the menu said had a bit of a kick to them. This turned out to be the understatement of the century as one of them kicked so hard it hurled itself off my plate and down someone’s back before the waitress had finished delivering them to me. I was given a replacement though and they did taste pretty darn nice.

Misjudging the atmosphere as usual, I ordered two more pints for myself, immediately after which everyone decided it was time to go home. I drank them anyway because I wasn’t sure if they had cider in Japan – I reasoned it’s probably best I drink as much as possible before I leave. That sounds like a good idea. That’s me – always thinking ahead.


All in all I came away from the course without a scratch. Scratches are rare in aikido. Bruises not so much – I had a big well-defined one just below my knee. It was a bold single colour – you know, it had character. I showed it to my girlfriend but she didn’t seem very impressed. To add insult to injury I told her I didn’t let my injury get me down – I took it on the shin. She groaned.

We watched some Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood while I imagined what it’d be like to have a foot spa to soothe my achey feet. In Japan I’ll just visit an onsen (Japanese hotspring). Those monkeys have the right idea. Kicking back all day, living the life. After all, recovery is just as important as hard work – that’s how I justify my second pint at the pub.

Train hard, rest hard – sounds good to me. Alright, better grab a beer.

Matt Bowen

Matt is a blogger, budoka and software developer. He sold his things, quit his job and moved to Japan to study Japanese and martial arts. Sometimes he writes about it.

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