Monday, June 13, 2011

Back to the Kodokan

My first time back to the Kodokan in over six months and, after twenty minutes, you can already see my dogi has been soaked through with sweat. A forensic scientist could probably trace, with some detail, the progress of my first two rounds of randori from the prints my ass has made on the tatami. I train anywhere from four to six times a week and still, I sweat like a rotisserie chicken.

I took the opportunity on Saturday to make the holy pilgrimage, once again, to the
In Tokyo. It was a four hour train ride comprised of three transfers and two onigiri (rice balls). As I walked into the dojo, however, the journey was made worthwhile, “Hello, Mr. Nicholas!” Even after six months, I was still greeted by name.

AS I have discussed before, the Kodokan is especially interesting for me because of the amazing people it brings together from around the world. Upon stepping onto the tatami, I was immediately approached by a man from the Netherlands who was just excited to tell me it was his first time training at the Kodokan in the 40 years he’s practiced Judo. Shortly thereafter, I found myself doing uchikomi with a man from Dubai.

There are some important things to keep in mind when visiting the Kodokan for the first time. Training at the Kodokan is held from 6:00-8:00PM Monday through Saturday. If it is your first time visiting the Kodokan, however, it is asked that you arrive before 5:30 to fill out registration paperwork at the international office found next door. Sensei Koria and Shimoyama staff the international office and both have very high levels of English as well as being willing partners for randori or uchikomi. A one-day training fee for the Kodokan is 800 yen (approximately $9).

The ground floor of the Kodokan contains a store selling Judo-related books and materials such as posters, towels and clothing. On the second floor is housed the Judo museum and library. Several rooms are dedicated to photos and memorabilia honoring important figures in the development of Judo. One room is dedicated to the founder of Judo—Jigoro Kano—and includes one of the founder’s uniforms and calligraphy drawn by Kano Sensei himself. Of particular interest on the second floor is the library, where can be found historical texts on the development and practice of Judo.
The third floor of the Kodokan contains dormitories where visiting students may stay. There are both private and dormitory-style rooms and a common-area for relaxing. The fourth floor holds the check-in desk and locker rooms for changing.

Floors five through seven contain three large tatami rooms. Children train at the fifth floor dojo, women at the sixth floor dojo and men train on the seventh floor. The eighth floor is an open observation deck where one can look down upon the seventh floor dojo.

From 6:00 to 8:00PM, open training is held. Though sometimes small lessons are held on one side of the dojo, this is primarily a time to train independently. Usually, after stretching, people find a partner for uchikomi (entering drills). From 6:20, or thereabouts, people are ready for randori.

One very important strategy for training at the Kodokan is to ask the various Sensei to demonstrate their “tokay-waza” or judo specialty. Each Sensei has a particular technique that he has spent years mastering. The Kodokan provides something of a buffet for judo learning and the quickest way to improve is to take every opportunity provided.

1 comment:

  1. Hey man, I was looking for information about training at the Kodokan in Japan and stumbled onto your blog. Your writing is excellent and I couldn't help but read almost all of your posts. I don't know how your blog doesn't get more views or something. Please keep writing and I wish you luck on your getting your shodan.

    -Antony B. (BJJ Blue Belt, Judo White Belt)