Canada! カナダ!Reverse culture shock 逆カルチャーショック!

Well, we made it to Victoria, BC, Canada!

Jet-lag is now just subsiding and a regular routine is hopefully just around the corner. The first few days were like being in The Matrix; you knew something was off-balance, but you didn't know what, yet whatever it is just happens to be all around you.

Reverse culture shock moments have included the following:

1. The receipt means nothing at Starbucks!
Buying a brewed Starbucks coffee early this morning, I was thinking it was like a 'drip coffee, short size' I normally got in Tokyo, where I always waited to get the receipt.
So I waited.
The male clerk today looked at me, I back at him, then he kind of smiled and said, "um, how is your day going?' to which I said "Great!" to which he replied "I never hear great to this early in the morning."
I didn't move.
But, then I remembered... the receipt in Canada does not allow you to buy another drip coffee for only a $1 anytime later today at any SB location like Japan. Agh...
2. Business meetings about big topics don't need to be longer than necessary.
I had an important meeting, of which the results would be significant. My Canadian mind knew it would take place over 20 minutes, casually standing, walking & talking.

But my Japanese mind kept waiting for the meeting to take place in an office or business meeting room with low sofas, where weak coffee would be drunk while talking for a full 60 minutes about business vision and operational procedures, followed by a business tour and then after that discussions on where dinner might be tonight or this week to mark the start of a new venture.

Leaving on time in Canada was important. Leaving when the proper emotional start to the venture in Japan would have been important, but sometimes I thought that reason was just another excuse to be able to be out on the town, away from home.

The result? When I showed up at dinner time on this new work day, a little at the table asked "why aren't you still at work?" A good culture shock for them too...

3. The sun stays up so much later and the beaches are 5 minutes away. Now that's nice.



Cambodia カンボジア!

I'm back from a very successful research trip to Cambodia for my PhD thesis where I interviewed  karate leaders and learned an incredible amount about the post-conflict situation in relation to sport.

There were some heart breaking karate stories. For example, out of around 118 karate shodans in 1975, all the senior instructors and about 108 shodans were killed by Pol Pot's regime by between 1975-1979, leaving just ten black belts.

Between 1980-90, karate instructors were at times arrested since the government did not want groups of any kind organizing for fear of a pro-democracy movement starting.

One instructor escaped as a boat refugee to Indonesia where he ended up in a refugee camp so he convinced the guards to let him teach karate to the other refugees as a way to help the Indonesian guards try to get the refugee men to drink and gamble less.

As I try to focus on the benefits of karate practice in conflict and post-conflict societies, I'm always amazed at the resilience people have to continue doing something that is ultimately so important to them that even though they risk punishment just for doing it they won't give it up.

I spoke with the Japanese embassy about Japan's overseas development assistance (ODA) fund which had just helped pay for a beautiful brand new dojo for the national team outside of Phnom Penh in the middle of nowhere. At first it seemed so rural and dangerous you need to know karate just to protect yourself to get there almost, but it actually ended up being a very nice training center run by a friendly senior instructor.

The core values of karate are very important in Phnom Penh, of which three stood out. Self-defense first because of threat of street and domestic violence. Physical health because many children don't exercise or eat well. And mentally health because of the pressures to improve one's life under difficult social conditions require individuals to have positive stress release outlets.

While I saw the genocide memorials for the Pol Pot extermination centers and killing fields, and I was guided through some slums where naked children played in dirty water, for sure seeing child prostitutes was the hardest part of the trip. The city it seemed is in conflict with itself at times, as it struggles with this problem to corruption to just simply garbage collection.

But Phnom Penh is also such a vibrant city, and the people who helped me and who spoke with me during my stay were just amazing. Everyone I interacted with, from the karate instructors, local university staff, tuk-tuk drivers (especially 'Jimmy') and just whomever I met were always generous with their time and assistance.

Of everything I read before and during the trip, the text Phnom Penh: A Cultural History by Milton Osborne was a really astute explanation the key actors and historical markers that after finishing it I felt very prepared during the interviews to better understand the complexity of the struggles each person had overcome or was still overcoming.

For sure this is the first trip of many as there is so much to the country that is attractive and inspiring to draw me back soon I hope.



Video: Richard explains being a Tokyo karate coach ビデオ:リチャードの東京空手コーチの説明

Wow, my last week coaching at Seiritsu. Time has flown by so fast.

Well, two things:

1. I've changed the name of my 'KenzenJapan' YouTube account to 'Kenzen Sports Karate". This way I can keep all the Japan videos I've shot plus Kraig and I can add new videos related to the new dojo.

In addition, I'll add karate videos from other channels to my playlists, especially those uploaded by Japanese language YouTube channels that wouldn't show up in English searches (high school tournaments, JKF nationals, etc).

2. On our Kenzen channel, today I've uploaded a new video where I explain how I become the head coach of the oldest high school karate club in Tokyo for 9+ years, plus briefly describe what the tournament karate leagues are in Japan.

My purpose here was to get the video shot during my last week working in Tokyo as the coach at the dojo.



Sonny Leads karate manage cover art! 漫画カバーの絵!

Wow, just wow! Kamobayashi Sensei has really outdone himself on this cover!

For more information, head over to the www.sonnyleads.com website.



Moving to Victoria, Canada to start new full-time dojo! カナダに帰ると新しい道場を開きます!

New 'Kenzen Sports Karate' club logo!

Big news! The family & I are moving from Japan to Victoria, BC Canada on April 8th!

The reasons for the move are mainly for the kids to go to school in Canada annnndddd Canada National Team Coach Kraig Devlin and I will be opening a new full time karate club from September called, 'Kenzen Sports Karate'! 

It's been a wonderful 10 years in Japan, and now we're looking forward to the our next chapter back in Canada!

Lots more information to follow soon, including the new dojo website.

And a big thanks out to Pete Williams for the fantastic logo design work!










Kindergarten karate lesson seems to have made their day...

Yesterday, I taught 32 super cute 5-6 year olds karate at my kid's Japanese kindergarten in Saitama for the first time. 

How'd it go, you ask?

Well, afterwards when I had lunch with them, they had a 'discussion' over my presence making their day 50x, 100x, or a 1000x better than a normal day.

1000x better seemed too much they all thought, but most could agree on 100x better...


JKF Wadokai Karate 5th dan test... passed! 全空連の和道会空手道昇段審査の結果: 五段を合格した!

Well, after 9 years of waiting and practicing, I finally challenged & passed the JKF Wadokai karate 5th dan test in Tokyo last Saturday!

The Technical Committee judging the test takers from 3rd to 6th dan included Arakawa Sensei, Takagi Sensei and Yanagida Sensei so it was an important group to be evaluated by!

However, lots of comments were expressed on what us 'locals' need to continue to work on, which sounds like everything.

No problem. My goal for being in Japan on this 2nd long trip (10years plus now in the field compared to my much earlier trip 21 years ago...) was to pass the landmark Godan test.

Next goals, here I come.

Btw, 'young' Takamasa Arakawa Sensei (no relation to Toru Arakawa) performed on Sunday and he looked amazing!

Below is a picture with Kevin from Holland, who passed his 3rd dan. Two other pictures of the Toshimaku Community Center in Ikebukuro where the technical seminars and tests were held in the 8th floor kendo / judo dojo.

This picture from the JKFan Karate magazine Facebook page.