At my karate club people call me Sensei, and my friends just call me Richard.


Richard Sensei's Corner: Shiramizu Japan Karate Internship コロム:白水の研修生

JKFan karate magazine 2010 #11

This month's 'Richard Sensei's Corner' column in JKFan Karate Magazine explains the Shiramizu Karate Dojo Japan Internship for non-Japanese. This unique program was started by Shiramizu's Arakawa Sensei and myself in 2005. Since my main topic is only printed in Japanese in the magazine, the English version may be read here on my blog -just scroll down!

My bilingual interview this month is with the 8th & current intern, Pete Williams, from England.



To order this month's magazine go to JKFan's order page!

JKFan #11 2010 Shiramizu Non-Japanese Karate Internship

When I first came to Japan to learn karate, I had a hard time finding a dojo, then trying to find work that wasn’t during karate practice times. Now that was before the internet, but still today, how to balance the matrix of karate, work and life can be daunting for a non-Japanese (NJ) new arrival with limited language skills. Eventually I figured it out, but I always thought I should help other NJ when they come to Japan.

Finally in 2004, Takamasa Arakawa Sensei of Shiramizu Karate and I came up with an internship idea for a NJ to take karate classes and teach English for one year.

To get the ball rolling, I started teaching English classes to dojo members of all ages after coaching karate club practices at Seiritsu Gakuen High School. After several months, the first intern finally arrived in August 2005, Mark Taylor from my Kenzen Karate dojo in Canada. Mark took the internship one step further by sourcing part-time English conversation jobs while Arakawa Sensei introduced him to a job at Sugito Kindergarten (
杉戸白百合幼稚園) to play with the students in English in the morning.

As Mark experienced a heavy weekly schedule of karate, English teaching, tournaments and seminars while trying to stay positive and see some of Japan, I worried about finding of the next right person. The internship would only as good as the intern in it.

After a lengthy search, we selected Paul Atkins, also from Canada. He arrived 2 weeks earlier allowing for a 2 week cross-over with Mark so Paul could learn the 'internship ropes'.

Big Paul was also a Shotokan guy, hence he juggled the Shiramizu practices with a shotokan dojo's practices too. And, he fell in love, taking his sweetheart home with him. (Richard is a good name for any boys that may come along, Paul…)

Next up was Lawrence, again from Canada. He stayed in Japan for a second year while the next interns were here, and he placed 2nd in men's kata at the JKF Wadokai World Championships in 2008. That's a pretty good result after training at Shiramizu!

That year we received the couple Carl Jorgeson and Amy Coulson from England. They expanded the internship to 2 interns. Plus the English class students got to experience 'English English' as Carl put it!

By June 2009, we took another two interns, Erika Ip from Canada and Louise Fisk from New Zealand. It's amazing to think that by the time the girls had completed their year, the internship was 5 years old! Then in June this year Pete Williams from England arrived as intern #8!

We still have things to improve. Each intern has been hit or miss with their learning of Japanese. And we will be starting the internship from April from now on to coincide with the Japanese school and competition calendar.

My hope for each intern is that they not only discover Japan and good karate, but that they have a journey of a lifetime, truly filled with self-discovery as they realize they are capable of much more than they ever thought possible. And they make some lifelong friends along the way too!


Inspiring talk with Tokey Hill & US athletes! 奮い立たされるトーキー・ヒル先生と米選手の会話

This week I had a chance to talk with the first American to win a WUKO World Karate Championship, Tokey Hill Sensei, currently on the USA Karate Board of Directors and High-Performance Committee.

Tokey Sensei was also the first person to introduce to me plyometrics training specifically for karate back in the 90's, which helped me improve greatly.

In addition I spoke with his students, US Team members Billy Finegan (10x USA kumite champion & New York State Golden Gloves Boxing champion) and Ashley Hill (-61kg kumite athlete, 3rd place University World Karate Championships 2010). Both will be representing the USA at next month's WKF World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

Currently I'm working on a column for JKFan Karate Magazine about sport karate at the world level and Tokey Sensei mentioned the WKF has tried to get more technical and administrative information to country members, allowing for any country to develop superior athletes.

Billy and Ashley both spoke about the Internet & YouTube especially letting anyone be able to analyize other top athlete's competition performances.

Check out their New York dojo's website!



さらに、僕は米国チームのメンバーであるビリー・フィネガン(米国の組手チャンピオン10回、ニューヨークのゴールデン・グローブス・ボクシング・チャンピオン)と、アシュリー・ヒルと話をしました(2010年の世界大学空手選手権-61kg級組手で3位)。 両者は来月セルビアのベオグラードで開かれるWKF世界大会の米国代表選手です。



Billy's highlights video.

Ashely's highlights video.


Richard's AsaGaku newspaper interview! 毎日小学校新聞インタビュー

Last week I was interviewed by AsaGaku newspaper, also known as the Everyday Elementary Newspaper (Mainichi Shogakkou Shinbun). The article came out on September 15. Here's my rough translation of it below. It is a nation-wide distributed newspaper.

先週、僕は毎日小学校新聞のインタビューを受け、記事は9月15日版に載りました。 下記が僕の簡単な翻訳です。

To develop the spirit of the Karate means to have control over oneself,

Seiritsu Gakuen Junior & Senior High School's Junior High All Sport's Club is a system that can allow junior high school 1st year students to choose sports that they want to join by trying two or more sports in their first year. I have been teaching Karate to all junior high school boys for three months. One's manner in Karate is very important, as there is a saying "It starts from the bow, and end it ends with a bow". The budo spirit of courtesy, modesty, respect, and martial arts are begun to be taught.

My motto is 'Focus, Fitness and Fun'. The 3F's. "Focus = martial art's spirit"(as well as properly learning one's martial art), "Fitness = a healthy mind & body", and "Fun = the want to do train" (enjoyable, but also even things that are difficult can be enjoyed).

While Karate has the image of being severe, we play Karate games and learn English conversation which leads to creating an environment where we can enjoy Karate with others. Even the beginner can do easy Karate kata after three months. We also finish each class shaking hands. It's my desire that the students come to appreciate the importance of respecting others.

Although Karate can be difficult and severe, there is saying that "If one can do Karate, one can do anything', and 'If one can achieve a first degree in Karate, anything can be achieved". Internationally, top Karate athletes also tend to be strong in academics. And the junior athletes on Japan's junior national team members are also strong in school. I think there is the same desire to be better at both Karate and studying. Through the passing of time facing off against opponents one improves their abilities through the strengthening of their will power.

When the junior high school students study or practice, I think they should be intently using their time to become better at both things.

At the high school level that I also coach at, the students become aware that even though Karate is an amateur sport, the university Karate league is the best in Japan. It is necessary to take a university examination to enter university if one wants to continue improving at competitive Karate. Therefore, all high school students in the Karate club study hard. In the future students may also want to go abroad to places like Europe to see what Karate is like there.

If one tries hard at both studying and sports then their results that follow will be very satisfying.

While the school will support each student in both their studies and sports, the students can enjoy working hard at Karate together, through which I hope they develop the strength to do things on their own.


JKF Wadokai World Cup Program 2010 和道会ワールドカップのプログラム

JKF Wadokai World Cup 2010 Program

Here was the official program. Thanks to Wadokai Tokai for uploading it on their website to share with everyone.

大会の公式プログラムです。和道会東海本部 のホームページにありました、ありがとう。


JKF Wadokai Nationals video 和道会 全国大会ビデオ

Here's my only video from this year's Wadokai Nationals which I also received from Arakawa Sensei, the Men's Team Kumite 3rd place round between the Shiramizu Karate Dojo and the Meikugijuku Karate Dojo. Shiramizu won 3-0. Since these are the two dojo in Japan I am closest to, I'm glad I wasn't actually there at the time or I would have had a hard time cheering for both.



JKF Wadokai World Cup kumite video 和道会ワールドカップビデオ

My only video of this year's JKF Wadokai World Cup in Nagoya is of the final round in women's 55kg kumite where Rie Hirai from Shiramizu won the gold medal, courtesy of Arakawa Sensei. Enjoy!



I know him too! 僕も彼を知ってるよ!

TV interview with Rich Heselton, plus kumite highlights.

Over summer night I had a wonderful talk with a chairman of a Tokyo Karate Federation, F Sensei, and long-term Tokyo resident and Takushokudai university OB, Rich Heselton, who also runs the ISKC Taishijuku dojo in Meguro Tokyo.


ISKC 大志塾

One part of the conversation I thought was fun to listen to as an observer was how F Sensei and Rich know so many of the same people in the huge JKA Shotokan Karate association just in Tokyo. It went something like;


'Do you know so and so?'
'Yes, he is my senpai's kohai.'
'Oh really, well he's my university classmate'.
'You don't say. Then you must also know so and so'.
'Sure, he's younger than me, but my senpai in rank, and he always trains with so and so'.
'Now that's interesting because he comes to my dojo every Monday with what's his name'.
'Now he's a talented guy, he fought that other so and so at the last tournament...'


... and so on and so on as it went on for 30 minutes. I really should have videotaped it!



Richard Sensei's Corner: Japanese High School Karate

JKFan Karate Magazine 2010 #10.

JKFan Karate Magazine 2010 #9.

This month's 'Richard Sensei's Corner' column in JKFan Karate Magazine is part two of my experiences as a non-Japanese coach in the Japanese high school karate system. Since my main topic is only printed in Japanese in the magazine, the English version may be read here on my blog -just scroll down!

My bilingual interview last month was with European Champion Kalvis Kalnins, and this month's interview is with the first female WKF referee, Norma Foster.




To order this month's magazine go to JKFan's order page!

Here is the whole original, expanded article.

Seeing High School Karate in Japan from a Non-Japanese Coaches Eyes

Huge colorful cloth banners drape from the spectator seating balcony that wraps around the arena, each banner blazingly declaring every club’s motto like ‘Never Give Up!’ or ‘Eat the bark off a tree to survive!’ Hundreds of karate uniformed high school student’s march in military lines, swinging their arms high, as local high school girls in their skirted uniforms lead each team while holding a placard announcing the club name. The teams file by the VIP stage at the front where the many karate association’s presidents stand at attention. For a non-Japanese, it is all an impressive display of the color and pageantry at the opening ceremony of the All-Japan Karate High School National Championships!

But to get to Nationals, I had to adjust to the Japanese high school karate club culture first. When I started as a karate coach at Seiritsu Gakuen, I remember one of the first times I went to clean the dojo, a first year student grabbed the mop out of my hand, bowed, then mopped the floor. Hmm. Then I tried to clean the mirrors, when another student grabbed the cloth, bowed and then wiped the mirrors. This is how I learned that the first years do all the chores. Interesting, maybe they’ll wash my car too…

On the biggest differences for me coaching in Japan compared to Canada was how my training menu had to adjust to the needs to the club. I’m used to 2 to 3 hours of daily competitive, strategic training (footwork, tactical theory depending on point score, adjusting attack plans when facing stronger, even or weaker opponents) and maybe only 2 times a week of training. the basics. But here the students really wanted an hour or more of just basics everyday to feel they’re ready before competitive training. Yet that’s ok as it has become possible to balance both training menus since the students come to the dojo 6 days a week, compared to 3 to 4 times overseas. It’s similar to a professional modern ballet company that still has classical lessons in the morning for the dancers to keep developing their skills prior to their practice of avante garde productions in the afternoon.

One thing a karate club in Japan is really good at is building intensity. The stereotypical view that Japanese are ‘quiet and reserved’ gets throughout the window when a non-Japanese sees a high school karate club practice! At anytime during standing basics, moving basics or kumite practice, everyone kiai, people in lines waiting kiai to get the energy up, everyone is constantly yelling encouragement and advice, so it gets pretty noisy. This is great and makes me feel 20 years younger right away too!

Even more intensive than that is summer camp. These two words seem to have a heavy weight that when spoken aloud which make Japanese people become quiet and reflective. It is the hardest, toughest time of the year, compared to some overseas camps which can be a mixture of karate training and vacation play time. Here, everyone eats together, trains together, sleeps together and baths together. There’s before breakfast practice, morning practice and afternoon practice, plus night time lectures and note taking. For 4 days or more. The first time I went my thoughts of playing beach volleyball every afternoon disappeared really fast!

Whereas overseas we normally do pushups if the students make a glaring mistake in practice, I was surprised to see at summer camp a common training punishment is 100 squats, meaning over 1000 squats can be done a day, with students actually crawling out of the dojo with leg cramps at the end of a session. Rough. But this is great at the same time because such an exercise builds the spirit as well as the body.

What I find charming at summer camp is when after new captain is elected, the third years who have just retired each give a speech to their kohai (juniors) asking them to keep up their practices, to fight the ‘good fight’ (don’t give up at anything they do, means the good fight), build the reputation of the school and honor them with strong competitive results. Wonderful. It’s hard for me not to shed a few tears then too.

Part 2 next month

Fall arrives with tournaments to qualify for Nationals. I warmly remember the first time as a coach our club qualified for Nationals and a few days later on the side of the school’s main building, there was a huge, tall banner 4 stories high hung on one wall announcing the karate club qualified for Nationals. How cool is that! I felt a real sense of pride that our accomplishments, and hundreds of squats, paid off!

Winter before Nationals of course brings the cold Siberian winds over Japan. In Canada in winter we need to turn on the heat as it can get a low as -35 degrees in some cities. But even though it doesn’t go below zero in Tokyo, I was surprised to see how so many dojo don’t use heaters in the winter at all, as students wear their club track suits under their doji to stay warm for the first part of the training. This reminds me of the saying in the West we heat the house, but in Japan we heat the body.

The atmosphere at Nationals is very serious. Everyone from athletes to coaches to officials to volunteers to spectators all clutch programs and seem like they each have an important job to do which is integral to the championship. Like overseas, an athlete and a club’s reputation can be cemented at Nationals. I was surprised to see such a high level of ability from the students. So when I’m standing with my athletes in the middle of the arena beside the mat as they compete, I always think there is no other place I want to be, but right here. Actually being in the dojo everyday is the most enjoyable thing for me, but when it leads to the Nationals, like in any country, it is something truly to look forward to.

The one suggestion I would have for any high school karate club is try to take their club to an international event every 3 years so that all the students can experience karate with non-Japanese once while they are a high school student. An ideal event to attend would perhaps be the International Hawaiian Open Championships in November because many nationalities gather there and the competitors tend to be of high caliber, so new ideas, strategies and tactics can be learned first hand. Plus there may be a way to arrange a training camp after the tournament with other interested teams.

The question I sometimes get from non-Japanese international students is if high school karate clubs will accept them. The answer is yes. International students training with in their school’s karate club is a great way for NJ to learn Japanese, make friends, and have a far deeper experience in Japan. In addition, it is beneficial for the Japanese students as well by making international friends through whom they can build an international view point. Truly through karate the world can become closer.

With our school having started a junior high karate club from this year, I’m looking forward to further mixing the best of all karate worlds into the club’s culture so that the students can have a positive and healthy karate experience, and we can together represent the school at many more national events!