Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Asageiko II: Inner Island-san

From my second day of asageiko, I was assigned a new running partner. To protect the identity of all innocent and not-so-innocent parties, lets call him “Inner Island-san” from here on out.

I believe my suggestion to run with a new Judoka every day was a clever way to get to know the Japanese students a little better. If the individual Judoka ran with me and saw that I was working just as hard as they were, maybe they would accept me a little sooner. Such are the plans of mice and men, however, for Inner Island-san has been my “assigned” running partner since our second day of asageiko. There has been no great fidelity gained through shared suffering; no triumphant race to any finish-line; I have found no acceptance by proving my willingness to work hard. It’s just me and Inner Island-san… running around that track.

Inner Island-san is not an enthusiastic runner. As we shuffled around the track on our second day of asageiko, I had the slightly disturbing image of a man and his dog out for a morning jog. I’m still not sure if it’s a case of an over-excited puppy dragging his reluctant master, or an energetic man pulling his unwilling dog. That eight-inch piece of chord feels a little too much like a leash, though, and by our third lap Inner Island-san was gasping for breath as I attempted to subtly pull him a little faster.
As we finished our third lap, Inner Island-san suggested we take a break. I must give my running partner credit, though, for despite his obvious dislike of running, we only rested for three minutes before he was ready to shuffle another three laps. Then, after a second break, three more.

The real excitement came after about a month when Inner Island-san and I coincided with the female Judoka who were also running laps. As we began our second time around the track, the familiar voice of Kashiwazaki Sensei greeted me by yelling, “Niko, you’re slow!” In a wordless gesture of helplessness, I picked up the hand that was tethered to Inner Island-san and shrugged the other shoulder. Kashiwazaki Sensei grunted and shouted, “Inner Island-san, why are you running so slowly?”
Inner Island-san mumbled a reply that I could neither hear nor understand, but picked up his speed until we were out of range of Kashiwazaki’s ire. Apparently my partner forgot to pick things up again by the time we had completed our circuit, though, for as we rounded the track and began our third lap Kashiwazaki Sensei was again waiting, “Inner Island-san…. I said Run!”

I was amazed; my reluctant guide began to jog…

In defense of Inner Island-san—who I’m sure would rather be doing anything than running with me around the track—his attitude is reflected in the majority of the Japanese Judoka. I cannot count the number of days when we’ve gathered for asageiko, jogged until we were out of sight of the sensei, and were told by the team captain, “Ok, free day free day,” at which point everyone finds a comfortable place to sit and wait a respectable amount of time before returning. As we have slowly learned, asageiko is not about conditioning. Nor is it a matter of discipline. It’s a sign of solidarity. You show up—despite the fact you don’t want to—and you go through the motions. It seems silly to us foreigners; if you force me to get up at 6:30, then I want to benefit from it. It’s just how culture works in Japan. The group matters and its important to be a part of the group.

1 comment:

  1. Hah..."Inner Island" indeed. I love how lazy Japanese college kids can be.

    Have him take you to the straightaway and just take off jogging next time he tries to puss out and take a break. He's gotta follow you, and if you run into something, just let Kashiwazaki Sensei know your "guide" let go of the rope. Don't let it out he was being lazy, just say he wasn't guiding you well.

    Or suggest that everyone run on the track for asageiko. No more hiding and resting that way.