Kangeiku is ten consecutive days of morning training at 5:30 am. It tests the body, the mind, and the spirit at the coldest point in the day. I heard rumors that the senseis opened the windows to allow the breeze in to truly test yourself, and the inner Bahamian in me was not about it. We already knew that the seventh floor was chilly from being there in November, and I was sure that I will probably be leaving with some missing toes due to frost bite. Thankfully, that sensei decided against it, or was locked in a room by a previous Caribbean judoka that couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t have to endure the rest of my life missing three out of five of my toes- mind you, it was still super cold and my feet were two stages away from death, but I got used to it after the sixth day.
We stayed at the Kodokan’s hostel, which was similar to dorm style living. The schedule went like this:
5:30 -6:30 warm up, newaza technical regiment
6:30 1st roll call
6:30-7:00 uchi komi
7:30 2nd roll call, bow out
I kept a note pad to write down the pointers I received from the senseis, sempais, Dj, and what I observed on my own so that I could remind myself what I needed to continue doing, and what I needed to adjust.
Kangeiku is an excellent training camp to focus on your basics, and I will definitely be encouraging my teammates to go next year. I think the idea of Judo for life would be a fit motto for the camp. You can get as much, or as little of a work out as you want. An aray of ages, from seven to definitely older than seventy (I’m not sure exactly,) were all there. Of course we split into different sections- children, men, women, & older folks- so that you could choose which level of intensity you wanted. It was really beautiful; no pressure; just pure love of sport. But of course I was there for a bit extra. My main goal was to improve my ashiwaza. I had to work on my foot placement (sweeping at the ankle), and my timing, which towards the end I improved greatly on both areas. The level there was lower than I expected, but like I said, it was beneficial because I was able to work on the basics.
Then we were off to Budo International University immediately following the closing ceremony of Kangeiku. We took a train to Kasuura, and to see the transition from city to country side was similar, but more natural scenery vs architectural. I feel Japanese culture is more secluded. The houses, although close and on top of each other are spacious, when you are sitting at a coffee shop directly across from another person they never look up, remaining in their bubble; it’s strange, because in Nassau if you see a foreigner you would usually stop, look, have a conversation, interact with them in some way, but here there is none of that going on. The days are long, the months are long, but the year is short. This time last year January I made the big jump of moving to California to train in San Jose, then in May I made another jump officially becoming a professional athlete, and now I’m Japan and will be traveling all over the world competing to go to the Olympics in Brazil. There’s no turning back now- but I wouldn’t want to any ways. It’s quite strange to think of what I’m doing, but I’ve definitely fallen in love with judo, and I know I’m very blessed to be doing it. Arriving at Budo International University I could already tell that there isn’t much else going on in the town besides school, your club sport, and fishing/ surfing if you’re a tourist. Which is great to truly focus on judo, and accompanied with the beautiful scenery of mountains it encourages you to really focus on what you’re doing in that moment, but I had to dig deep for my inner introvert. We arrived on Friday evening, and watched the males training. It was like a normal international camp: basic warm up, uchi komis, tachiwaza randori, then newaza randori, all within a 3 hour practice- cool. I got the basic lay out. I know what to expect, no biggie.
Yes. I was lied to. The females on the other hand, have no such luck to an easy work out. We had basic warm up, uchikomi, nagekomi, tachiwaza randori, uchikomi with running drills, nagekomi again, newaza randori, running ukemi drills, then 100 dip pushups. And we wonder why the Japanese team is so good. I can tell you, that Budo International University is on the level of most countries national teams, or not far from it, not to mention I think all of their high schoolers have to participate in at least an introductory judo class, and they are the literal inventors of the sport. So they have a larger pool to pick from, they have the longest histroy of practicing it, and the average Joe Shmo is starting at the level your club has trained to be at after 10 years, and guess what? I’m gonna beat all of them. All day, and all night.
Personally, the first time I do anything I kinda suck. I wish I was lying, but that’s just how things have always been for me. Most of the time when I’m unfamiliar with whatever I’m doing, the initial couple times I’m trying to figure out the mechanics of the drill, but when I get something, I don’t forget it, and I make it my personal life goal to improve on whatever I’m doing. This happened with me in reading, in art, and especially in judo. More specifically in Saturday’s practice. I was really bad, I’m not even gonna lie, and I felt a tad bit beaten, but 80% of getting to where you wanna go is showing up. And some days you just have to tell the inner weakling inside of you to politely move to the side, and do what you came there for. After three hours of mild torture, Saturday judo practice was finished, but of course it didn’t end there for me; ’cause how can you expect to beat someone if you’re doing the same things as them. I had an agility work out afterwards. Yay leg day, but not really. You’d be happy to know that I did suffer Saturday evening, all of Sunday, and some superdy-duperty suffering was going on that following Monday.
Monday was an hour morning run. And I came there expecting the most we’re gonna do is run through town, & up and down a bunch of mountains. I’m gonna be sore, but I could push through, then enjoy myself the most well deserved nap in life. Note to self: Times your expectations by the temperature in hell and add two. No, I don’t mean it was hot. That would’ve been a blessing. I arrived there all bundled up because it’s probably around 35°F, and we start the run and I’m noticing it’s not too bad. We’re heading down hill, and the view is beautiful- don’t miss and trip mind you, because rest assured you will be falling to your imminent death by mountain side, but it’s still nice. Then we go a bit further and I start feeling it in my legs from the work out on Saturday and I’m convincing my self each other step that no Japanese can beat a Bahamian running. I’m sorry I let my country down; that day the Japanese team won. But like I said before, first time I suck, just expect it. When I finally caught up to the team it wasn’t at the finish, but Murphy’s law came into play. Midway through the run we stopped at a temple, and your thinking okay, cool, we have to do some agility drills? I got this. I will not be defeated. And what is it? Stairs. I’m not talking about two or three steps, or better yet, one flight of stairs. Nope. I’m talking about three flights of stairs worth of agility drills. (Let’s all close our eyes in prayer for my legs… Amen.) I did push through the work out, and the whole team ended at the top where the temple was. And I did praise God that there are no such temples in Nassau, and as steam emitted from every part of my body, I patted myself on the back for making it through. But little did I know that that was the least of my worries. Ohh foolish me. When everyone went back down the stairs, they all lined up again. And one by one, I kid you not, began backwards bear crawling up the stairs. I was like tap out, no no no sir man, nope, I don’t know if I could do that. I honestly didn’t know if I had gone crazy and my mind was mixing Saw III with the work out, but each one of them did backwards bear crawls up those three flights, even the heavy weights, and I’d be damned if I didn’t make it too. I took a deep breath in and took it one step at a time. I’m sure some of you think I’m over reacting, but I’d invite you next time you go to the Queen’s 66 steps try it. That’s when the mid-run-temple work out ended. Thank you almighty baby Jesus in heaven. But remember how I said to” add two” to the intensity of the work out, yeah. Temple torture wasn’t the end. Afterwards we had to run the rest of the mountain, piggy backing someone at one point, then do 100 pushups at the end. You want to hear my most favorite word that day? Finished. Amen, Amen I say to you. I have never deserved a nap like the one I took that day. Never.
And this is every Monday-Thursday morning work out.
I’ve moved to four workouts a day. Morning “runs,” agility or strength, deliberate practice, and judo practice. Total of 6 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, excluding Friday and Saturday work outs. The biggest lie I ever believed was that my idols made it look easy.