Wednesday, April 27, 2011

He's Not just a God, He's a Man!

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…. At least, if you know anything about Judo and the International Budo Daigaku then it’s the moment you’ve known would come. On Tuesday, the five of us foreign Judoka had our first private class with the living legend of judo: Katsuhiro Kashiwazaki.

Kashiwazaki sensei is a man who embodies the budo spirit not only for his achievements, but also for his attitude. His many accomplishments include winning the silver medal at the world championships in Vienna in 1975 and the gold at Maastricht in 1981. He also dedicated time to studying other forms of wrestling and in 1975 he one the world Sampo championships. Unfortunately, politics prevented Kashiwazaki Sensei from competing in the 1980 Olympics as Japan was boycotting the event held in Russia.

In fine form, the five of us Judoka went to the wrong building and sat attentively with other Japanese students as Koshino Sensei explained the ground-fighting class he would be instructing. We silently wondered, “Where is he…. Where is the Man?”
After 15 minutes, the secretary of the international centre politely interrupted Koshino Sensei’s lecture to say, “The bekkasei students aren’t supposed to be here!” AS we ran quickly from the room, excusing ourselves as we went, “Shitsurei shimasu!” The secretary said, “Kashiwazaki Sensei called; he asked, “Where are my students!””

Now embarrassed—as well as excited—we ran to the next building where we bowed our entrance and rushed to sit attentively at the feet of Kashiwazaki Sensei. In his soft, cultured voice he asked us to make our introductions in Japanese. AS I finished my jikoshoukai, Sensei turned to the other judoka and said, “Listen to Niko, speak like he does.”

Kashiwazaki Sensei explained that he would be giving us a Kata class. That is to say, a class that demonstrates various techniques and fundamental aspects of the art of Judo. This would be our chance to ask any questions we might have about our favorite techniques. It’s like having Jimmy Hendrix invite you over to his house for an hour and a half twice a week and offering to teach you guitar.
Kashiwazaki Sensei went on to speak of the importance of cultivating our minds as well as our bodies. We must learn Japanese, he said, for he would not speak to us in English. He will speak slowly and help us to understand, but he will only speak Japanese. Kashiwazaki Sensei further commanded us to find Japanese girlfriends and told us the two most important words in any language are “Beer” and “Wine”.

AS he dismissed us, Kashiwazaki Sensei asked, “Do any of you have anything you want to talk to me about?” When we stood silently he looked at me and asked, “Niko, are you having any problems?”
I bowed and explained to Sensei that I still had not been accepted by the Japanese students at the Dojo. “At most, I am only doing to or three rounds of randori.”

With simple elegance, Kashiwazaki Sensei replied, “Well… go practice with the women’s team. They will accept you and they train hard. You will learn from them.”

To see a video of Kashiwazaki Sensei performing some of his signature throws, click:

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