Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can Niko Come Out to Play?

The day after I spoke with Kashiwazaki Sensei about my difficulties in finding sparring partners, I once again took my chances at the men’s dojo. As the seventh round of randori finished and I was considering taking up kendo for the pure pleasure of thwacking Japanese people with a wooden stick, one of the first year students finally approached me. Two or three of the first and second year students will regularly spar with me… but that is usually the extent of my training.

The six-minute round ended and thus concluded the first half of practice. The colored belts—which I have referred to as sashes for ease of communication—were then passed to a new group of Judo players. A person wearing one of the sashes is referred to as a motodachi [もとだち]. This person spars every round for a set period; in the case of our dojo it is eight rounds. The first set of motodachi consist in the third and forth year sempai and, during a brief pause after the eighth round finishes, they will pass their belts on to a group of kouhai.
As the second set of eight randori began, I was delighted to find one of my other first year friends wanted to spar. Two rounds of randori in a row? Today must be my lucky day.

I finished sparring and, as I returned to stand with the other foreigners, my roommate excitedly exclaimed, “Nick, one of the guys just asked if you can play every round! I told him “Of course!”” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a Japanese Judoka was tugging at my sleeve and saying “Onegaishimasu [please]”

Suddenly, I was being passed from person to person without a break. I held my own throw-for-throw during the first four rounds, but as the opponents became tougher and I started to get tired, it became more of a stand-up fall-down game. I smiled through every minute, jumping to my feet and exclaiming “Onegaishimasu!” as each new person asked, “Dekimasuka [can you?]” There was no way I would ask for a break. After a month of extended breaks, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to spar.

In total, I fought nine rounds of randori that first day. The following day I fought six rounds and the third day only five. Then came Golden Week—a week of holidays in Japan—and a University from Kyoto came to practice with our dojo. The foreign judoka were once again forgotten and I began to worry that things would go back to the way they had been. But now the semester has begun and I have been happy to find that, at least for the second round of motodachi, I have a steady stream of partners.

I do not know if the change was brought about by something Kashiwazaki Sensei might have said to the sensei leading practice… or if the students have just started to come around of their own volition. It’s also possible that the “helpers” I was assigned the first week of April have finally started “helping”. Whatever the case may be, I’m happy to finally have some chance to do what I came here to do…. Judo.

No comments:

Post a Comment