Preparing for Your Summer Budo Gasshuku in Japan: A Guide for Participants
Many Sensei and instructors have undoubtedly prepared their students for summer budo (Karatedō, judo, kendo, etc.) Gasshuku, but sometimes, written instructions can be invaluable. Some portions of this memo may be familiar to those who have access to the draft copy of Volume 2 of the “Gōjūryū Karatedō Desk Reference.” We’ve long contemplated how best to inform and prepare athletes attending summer training events in Japan. Regardless of the organization or style they belong to, mental preparation is just as crucial as physical readiness. It’s important for attendees to understand that “The Japan training expedition is not a vacation.” While it’s impossible to provide a comprehensive guide to this life-changing experience, we’ll offer a general outline that should benefit both first-timers and repeat participants. This guide is intended for all participants, regardless of their grade, position, or status, because sometimes, those who think it doesn’t pertain to them are the ones who may need it most.
Understanding the Purpose. First and foremost, it’s crucial to grasp the purpose of your journey to Japan for the summer budo Gasshuku. This is not a vacation or leisure trip. You’re embarking on an intensive training experience that demands dedication, discipline, and mental fortitude. Be prepared to push your physical and mental limits, as this expedition is about personal growth, skill development, and cultural immersion.
- Leave Expectations Behind: Approach this experience with an open mind and leave behind any preconceived notions. Every aspect of training in Japan may differ from what you’re used to, so be receptive to new techniques, methods, and cultural customs.
- Embrace Humility: Regardless of your rank or status back home, understand that in Japan, you’re a student. Be respectful, humble, and eager to learn. The instructors and senior practitioners in Japan have a wealth of knowledge to share.
- Cultural Awareness: Familiarize yourself with Japanese customs and etiquette. This includes bowing, removing your shoes before entering certain areas, and respecting personal space. Learning a few basic Japanese phrases can also be helpful.
- Conditioning: Ensure you’re in good physical condition before departing. This includes cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and flexibility. The training in Japan can be intense, so being physically prepared is essential.
- Technique Review: Brush up on your fundamental techniques and kata. You’ll likely receive detailed instruction and corrections during your stay, but having a solid foundation will be beneficial.
- Injury Prevention: Take precautions to prevent injuries. This includes proper warm-ups, cooldowns, stretching, and knowing your physical limits. Don’t hesitate to communicate any injuries or discomfort to your instructors.
- Documentation: Ensure you have all necessary travel documents, including your passport, visa (if required), and any confirmation emails or letters from the event organizers.
- Accommodations: Know the details of your accommodations, including check-in/check-out times and any specific rules or guidelines set by the venue or organizers.
- Packing: Pack light but efficiently. You’ll likely have limited space, so prioritize essential training gear, clothing, and personal items. Don’t forget any prescription medications or special dietary needs.
Attitude and Mindset
- Respect and Courtesy: Show respect to everyone you encounter, from fellow participants to instructors and locals. Courtesy and gratitude go a long way in building positive relationships.
- Adaptability: Be adaptable and flexible in your approach to training and daily life in Japan. Challenges may arise, but maintaining a positive attitude will serve you well.
- Focus and Dedication: Stay focused on your training goals and commit to giving your best effort in every session. Dedication and perseverance will help you make the most of this experience.
- Reflect and Learn: After each training session, take time to reflect on what you’ve learned and experienced. Keep a journal if possible, noting techniques, corrections, and personal insights.
The most uncomfortable lodging ever was at a hotel in Yokohama branded as a western style hotel with American amenities. I paid ¥9500 yen, about $82.00 USD per night at the time, for the facility in 2022. The tiny bathroom featured a toilet whose seat was a mere 25 cm from the opposing wall making “having a seat” impossible and forcing even a Japanese height individual to go in sideways. The “western style” shower was a 1-meter by 1-meter square box with a curtain and shower-head set 180 cm (5′ 10″) from the floor, clearly too low for the use of many westerners.
The difference in hotel amenities can be vast. Choose your dwelling amenities carefully and take advantage of genuine reviews, while watching closely for clever camera angles or unknown names. You often get what you pay for and sometimes you can get much more or much less than you expect.
Navigating Supermarkets in Japan for Affordable Dining: In the Akita area we are fortunate to have the “Granmart” supermarket. A grocery store chain popular in the region.
Caring for Your Feet During Training in Japan – “To tape is your escape!” Taking care of your feet is crucial during martial arts training in Japan, where the training floors can be sticky due to humidity. Here are some tips to ensure your feet stay comfortable and healthy:
- Taping Your Feet: Consider bringing physical therapy tape with you. Taping your feet can provide extra support and prevent skin tears caused by sticky training floors. It’s a good idea to have tape on hand for preventative maintenance.
- Prevent Skin Tears: Training floors in dojos and Budokans are known for their stickiness due to humidity. If your skin is not accustomed to this, it can lead to painful tears on your toes and the soles of your feet. Taking precautions and caring for your skin is essential.
- Choosing the Right Footwear: Bring comfortable sandals, sneakers, and lightweight dress shoes with you. Prioritize comfort and support over fashion. Your feet will thank you, especially after long training sessions and walks through train stations.
- Ergonomic Shoe Inserts and Comfortable Shoes for Travel: Consider using ergonomic shoe inserts if necessary. These can provide additional support and comfort, reducing the strain on your legs and feet during training and travel. Traveling in Japan often involves a lot of walking. Having comfortable footwear is essential to prevent fatigue and discomfort.
- Foot Hygiene and Prioritizing Foot Health: Maintain good foot hygiene during your stay. Bring or purchase anti-fungal foot cream or spray. Training with others means exposure to different bacteria and foot fungus. It’s essential to take preventive measures to keep your feet healthy. Remember that caring for your feet is not only about comfort but also about your overall well-being. Healthy feet are crucial for mobility and enjoyment during your martial arts journey.
By following these tips and prioritizing foot health, you can ensure that your feet remain comfortable and pain-free during your martial arts training in Japan. Enjoy your training sessions and explore the beautiful country with ease and comfort.
There are plenty of informative YouTube videos available discussing etiquette in Japan. This leads us to speaking about… The Gasshuku
The soreness, pain and swelling – Dealing with Physical Challenges During Training. When participating in a Gasshuku or intensive training camp, it’s crucial to be prepared for the physical demands and potential discomfort that can arise from rigorous training. Here are some tips for managing soreness, pain, and swelling:
Set Realistic Expectations forThe Competition you’re not going to win: Be prepared for success in gaining a lifetime experience. Don’t be prepared for ultimate competitive glory!
Reflecting on the Journey Home
As you embark on your journey back home from your karate experience in Japan, it’s essential to reflect on the entire adventure in a positive light. Here are some suggestions to help you maintain a constructive perspective:
- Focus on Positives: Instead of dwelling on any negatives, make an effort to identify the blessings and valuable lessons you’ve gained from this unique experience. Take some time to write down your thoughts and reflections.
- Personal Growth: Consider the personal growth you’ve achieved during your time in Japan. Reflect on how this experience has helped you develop as a martial artist and an individual.
- Identify Improvements: Think about areas where you can make improvements, both in your karate practice and in your daily life. Use this as an opportunity for self-improvement.
- Helpful Moments: Take note of the moments that were particularly helpful to you during your journey. These can be valuable insights to share with others in your karate community back home.
By maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on the lessons learned, you can ensure that your return from Japan is filled with gratitude and a sense of accomplishment. This journey is not just about the destination; it’s about the transformation and growth you experience along the way.
Conclusion – Misery loves company so ‘Gaman 我慢’ (suck it up): It is true – Misery loves company and now having 30 or so martial arts training trips to Japan, some 20 of those for Seiwakai combined with the JKF Gōjūkai, I’ll be back for more. Again, this isn’t targeted to any individual and is broadly speaking to every participant regardless of their grade, position, or status. Your journey to Japan for a summer budo Gasshuku is an incredible opportunity for growth and learning. By mentally and physically preparing yourself, embracing humility, and maintaining a respectful attitude, you’ll make the most of this transformative experience. Remember that you’re not just training in Japan; you’re immersing yourself in a rich martial arts tradition and culture. Embrace the challenges, cherish the moments of growth, and return home with a deeper understanding of your art and yourself. Good luck with your training and please enjoy your “not a vacation” expedition to Japan.