It has been awhile since my last overseas trip with my family. With the recent visit from Mr Kenichi Nonaka and his team of Taekwon-Do members from Japan to Singapore, (click here to read about his recent visit). I decided to pay a visit to his club in Matsumoto, Japan.
Mr Kenichi Nonaka has been a frequent guest to Island Taekwon-Do Centre, making annual trips to Singapore and attending at least one training session each time, as well as bringing his students for exchange programs with ITC since 2012. I have always been looking forward to meeting and training with him and his students whenever he comes to Singapore.
When Mr Nonaka heard of my plan to travel to Japan months ago, we started conversing via Facebook about the details of my trip. In addition, he also arranged with Ms Hayashi and Ms Sakanoue (they were with the Japan team when they came to Singapore in March) to contact me in regards to visiting Tokyo with my family. I felt that my time in Taekwon-Do has allowed me to make friends in Singapore and other parts of the the world. With that, I packed my bags and left for the land of the rising sun.
Arriving at Haneda airport on the 22nd of May, I was met by Ms Sakanoue who picked us (my family and me) from the airport. We proceeded to take the airport coach to the hotel. A short gathering with Ms Hayashi and Ms Sakanoue was scheduled for dinner the next day as we met up to share stories between countries as well as talk about their trip to Singapore in March.
My family and I travelled to Matsumoto on the 25th of May via the limit express train, the duration was about two and a half hours. Matsumoto is a cosy town in the Nagano Prefecture and it gives a very country-like feeling. Mr Nonaka picked me up from my hotel in the evening and we travelled to the dojang which was a 5-minute drive away from the hotel. The dojang was housed in a 3-floor building with the first floor for Taekwon-Do and the subsequent floors for Judo and Kendo.
Training at Matsumoto was a different feeling. The air was cool and there was no need for an air conditioner in the dojang. Before the class started, I had an opportunity to practice patterns with Mr Enami. He did say that he hadn’t been practicing for about a year, however, he didn’t seem to forget any of the patterns.
As the members arrived at the dojang, the evening training commenced shortly with Mr Nonaka taking the class. Training started with warm up exercises from head to toe. Next, everyone was asked to head to the sides of the dojang. Using the wall as a support, drills on Turning Kicks, Side Piercing Kicks and Side Rising Kicks were executed. Many of the students were very flexible and performed high-stretched kicks which were difficult to achieve.
Next up was partner stretching. I partnered with Mr Nasu who cautiously applied pressure onto my inflexible body. When I was done stretching, every other pair had completed their exercises. There was a well-needed water break was after that.
The next part of the class was on fundamental movements. Mr Nonaka explained each movement with great detail and the proper execution of each fundamental hand technique. Mr Nonaka also explained some of the common mistakes made in the fundamental movements and also emphasised on the hip twisting and sine waves when executing the moves. Even with the limited Japanese language I had, I was able to understand and improve on the technical knowledge. Mr Nonaka’s dedication to Taekwon-Do can be seen through the way he explained each move in great detail, and it is really an honour to be taught by him in his club.
The highlight of the class came next as we partnered up for bag kicking. The training was conducted into 2 parts, the first part consisted of lining up and did kicks from the back to the front of the dojang while taking turns to hold on to the kicking pads. The second part was done by doing the kicks in pairs and timed with a stopwatch. Kicks practiced were Turning kicks, Reverse Turning Kicks and Back Piercing Kicks to name a few. The kicks that I had received were full of power and of great speed even from colour belts as well.
The next part of the class was patterns with a catch, for every pattern mistake made, 10 push up penalty followed. I could see after every pattern, the students without hesitation, when down to do their push up if they had made a mistake showing their integrity and character.
The class ends off with sparring. Due to time constraints, we did not wear our guards, gloves or boots. 3 rounds of sparring, and I had the opportunity to meet and exchange techniques with Mr Enami, Mr Nasu and Mr Surya who threw many fast reverse turning kicks at me with control. I felt that I will have a concussion if actual contact was executed.
With that, the class ended, I shook hands and took photos with the students who attended the day’s class. I distributed to them some souvenirs and Red Bull from Singapore that Mr Nonaka always liked. We next went for dinner at a Yakitori (Japanese Satay) joint in Matsumoto where we ate and chatted. During the dinner, everyone was in high spirits and the atmosphere was very light and friendly.
While we were happily chatting, time just flew by and soon it was close to 11pm, and we finally said goodbye as many of the students had work or school the next day. We took pictures in front of the restaurant and I bid farewell to everyone, hoping to return to Matsumoto again for training.
I would like to sincerely thank Mr Nonaka, for his hospitality during my trip, as well as all the arrangements that he has made for me to attend his training session. Matsumoto is a nice place and I will definitely drop by again if I visit Japan in future.
I would also like to thank Ms Sakanoue and Ms Hayashi for taking time off their busy schedule to meet up with my family for meals and identifying some local places of interest in Tokyo for my family to visit.
I would also like to thank Master Sng for inspiring me to do up this piece of article to share my experiences and training overseas.
Last but not least, to thank my family (Dad, Mum and Brother) for accompanying me in this trip to pursue my interests, as well as the financially as well. =)
Written by Mr. Joel Mok, 2nd Degree Black Belt, ITF Singapore
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2015