Tuesday, May 31, 2011

朝稽古 「[asageiko] or Morning Training

From our first days at the International Budo University, the importance of 朝稽古 [asageiko] or early morning practice was stressed almost above even our regular training. “If you really want to find acceptance with the Japanese students,” we were told, “you must go to asageiko every day.”

Asageiko is a relatively infamous word within Japanese sports culture. From middle school onward, the members of many sports clubs will gather early in the morning to train. The specific type of training might vary from sport to sport; running, in the case of baseball or Judo, or perhaps kata drills in the case of Kendo. The idea is that morning training shows the real dedication of an athlete.

So, at 6:30 AM on Monday of our first week at the budo daigaku, the five of us international judo players gathered downstairs in our dorm and worked up the ambition to join morning practice. We walked across the parking lot toward the dojo, dodging the Japanese judoka as they sped up on their mopeds, and stood in the back of the large group of judo players assembled in the entry of the dojo. AT 6:45, we filed out and stood in neat rows and as the clock read 6:50AM, we bowed and were then rushed through a series of stretches that lasted about one minute and presumably covered the entire body including all major muscle groups.

The judoka then broke down into groups according to weight class. Each group spoke with a different sensei and received instructions on what they would be doing for their morning training. I immediately approached Koshino Sensei and explained, “It is too dangerous for me to run in the street; if it is OK, I’d like to go with another Judoka to the track and run laps.”
--I had experimented the previous day with a couple of the international students by using a looped rope—similar to how Lyn and I ran—with about eight inches of play. We quickly discovered that the sidewalks are nonexistent in Katsuura and the streets are far too narrow for two people to run abreast. On top of this, there are any number of holes and curbs which just can’t be avoided. (I discovered this by running, falling off a curb and landing in the road)--
I felt like this might be my best chance to get to know the Japanese judoka. I suggested that every morning I could run with a different judo player and thereby get to know them one by one. Who knew, maybe they would have all started to feel comfortable with me and accepted me in the dojo.

Koshino Sensei agreed and assigned me one of the heavy weights to run with. (Which is odd… since I only weigh 75kilos [165lbs]…. But oh well.) We walked to the track, only to discover that it was being used by another club. So we decided to return to the dojo and do laps around the building. The building is large and once around is probably about half a lap on a typical track, so it’s not a bad alternative.

I pulled out my knotted chord and handed one end to my new running partner. It took us a lap to get the hang of running with each other, but by the third lap we had things under control.
“You don’t look like you’ve even started running,” my partner told me after the fourth lap. Well…. Of course not. I trained in the States by running four or five miles every other day. After the fifth lap, my companion slowed down and said, “OK, that’s enough for the day.”

Really? That’s all? I went inside the dojo and sat down on the steps to weight for the other judoka to return. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to weight long. It was 7:25 and asageiko was finished….

Stay tuned tomorrow for part II of Asageiko: Inner Island-san.

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