Ichikawa. Part 1

Fitness |

My introduction to martial arts began auspiciously enough. Sent to Japan as an exchange student, my militaristic high school “encouraged” me to train in one of the traditional Japanese arts offered at the after school clubs. I had several options available, including kyudo (traditional archery) and kendo (sportive fencing), along with the less physically demanding ikebana (flower arranging) and sado (tea ceremony).

Although aspects of the other arts had minor appeal, it was judo that captured my attention. I don’t even think I had actually seen judo before, but somehow I knew it was a martial art, that was enough to make up my mind. Judo would be my vehicle for dominance that every 16-year-old male longs for and wishes to exert.

When I told the Japanese counselor my choice of martial art, she eyed my thin and delicate frame and tried to dissuade me, warning, “Judo training is very severe.”

“Good,” I retorted with the kind of arrogance that could only come from youth. Not knowing I would be humbled several times over the year by the decision I had just made, I made my decision with confidence.

Within a few days, I was a limited member of the judo club. They allowed me to do the warm-up exercises at the beginning of class, and the 50 to 100 pushups to close each workout, but during the middle part, the part where the team practiced throwing, I was left out. Instead, I was instructed in ukemi, a fundamental aspect of judo, where I learned how to roll and protect my body after being thrown.

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