This past weekend, my dojo joined Taido students form several other prefectures in Tottori for some training and play.
Tottori is a small costal city. It’s known for fishing, hot springs, and the sakyu (about which, more later). The local Taido scene is a small, loose-knit group held together by a guy named Uchiyama. Uchiyama is a neurologist and moved to Tottori about five years ago. Before that, he studied and taught Taido at Chiba University. He’s a senpai to a few of my friends.
This year’s attendees included six of us from Osaka, a few from Tokyo (including one student who is originally from Denmark), Hiroshima, Ryuku University on Okinawa, and the group in Tottori. All together, there were almost thirty participants.
When our bus dropped us off at Tottori Station, I must have seen something that reminded me of My Neighbor, Tottoro, because I began singing “Tottori, Tottori” to the tune of the Tottoro music over and over. I couldn’t get the tune out of my head, and it eventually became a kind of soundtrack for most of the weekend, thought I was generous enough not to share my torture with too many other people.
After a few minutes wandering around on the North side of the station, we found Uchiyama and a few others waiting for us on the South side. The Osaka group was the last to arrive, so everyone else was already waiting at the dojo.
After a short ride, we were there too, and practice began about ten minutes later. The first session was in three parts.
After the warmup, Uchiyama led the training for the first segment. The focus was posture, distance, and jump timing. We did some stepping line work, forwards and backwards, then again with partners. After a while, we added stepping kicks and progressed to jumps. Finally, we worked on stepping up into jumping kicks. In the last exercise, we worked on timing the initiation of the kick at the apex of the jump.
The next segment was a short one, led by Izumi, one of Uchiyama’s kohai from Chiba. The basic premise was that most people don’t strike with any power in jissen. I couldn’t agree more. We paired off and were told to hit each other with various strikes to various targets. While a good practice in theory, there was no discussion on gradually increasing the power to learning how to effectively absorb the impact. In the end, nobody wanted to hit anyone “too hard,” so the exercise didn’t accomplish very much.
My friend, Takeo Suzuki led the last bit. The idea here was in trying to use the force of gravity for punches. We practiced dropping into punches from various positions, then we did it again with partners. There was also some practice on tobikomi ejizuki, working on retranslating the force from dropping to a lower level into a horizontal slide. A lot of people ended up scraping the skin off their knees and feet on this one.
Sakyu = Big Fucking Sand Dune
After about two hours in the dojo, we all jumped in the cars and rode to Tottori’s famous giant sand dune for a little more workout.
Most of us didn’t really know what to expect. I think some people thought we were going to a desert, and in fact, somebody had imported camels and was leading tours. Our group went in on foot.
The sakyu is really fucking big. I’m terrible at approximating measures of such things, but I think you can get a sense of it from the photos. Of course, being the sane and mature people we are, the first thought most of us had upon seeing a ginormous mound of sand was to run up it as fast as we could. We soon discovered that “fast” was not an accurate description.
From the top of the dune, we cold see the ocean reach out to the horizon. You can’t just look at a beach without wanting to go out and play on it, so we did. Coming down the dune was a lot easier than climbing up, and the sand was very soft. It was almost like skiing (and people do sandboard there).
Once at the beach, we decided to do 1000 punches – you know, just for the hell of it. It was the first time for most people, but as is usually the case, keeping count turned out to be the most difficult part. After a little more than ten minutes, we were done.
No Taido event is complete without a party. This was a good one. The food was not bad at all, and there was plenty of drink to go around. After dinner, we all convened to the room most of us were sleeping in and continued until the last of us had either passed out or fallen asleep in mid-conversation.
It was a good time all around. I got to spend a while talking with Mori, who is involved in the arrangements for the World Championship and related events next year. They’re already getting things organized – it’s a really big job, and they’re a small association. After getting to know Mori, Kitamura, and the other members of their group, I’m even more excited to visit Hiroshima next August.
Despite severe hangover and extremely sore, sakyu-tortured legs, we began our morning workout at about ten o’clock, only about an hour and a half behind schedule.
This session consisted of two parts. First, Kitamura led a few drills for jissen. The first drill structure was a variation of my Broken-Record Drill, but with fewer iterations. We also practiced some alternate responses to high-percentage techniques like manjigeri. Of course, everyone knows how to use hienzuki, be we also practiced using a sort of sentai-fukuteki and a few other tactics. The final exercise was a stimulus/response exercise, similar to some of the ones I presented here.
In the second half, Okigawa from Tokyo showed up some exercises to build attributes that will improve unshin. He learned these drills from a friend who in turn learned them at this year’s Asia Pacific Games in Australia. The Aussies learned them from an Olympic Gymnast.
The drills themselves are all good. We did handstands, stiff-leg hops, rebounding donkey-kicks across the court, and log rolls without touching the legs or arms on the floor. All of these drills can be excellent when integrated into specific plan for jump and gymnastic training. On their own, they really just make you sore.
After all that, we finished off the training with some stretches and went to lunch.
We’re supposed to do what?
For lunch, we ate “mochi-shabu” which is supposed to be a version of shabu-shabu (thinly sliced, boiled meat) with various flavors of sliced mochi (pounded rice) instead of meat. In practice, it was more like a regular nabe (pot-dish) with some strips of mochi thrown in. It wasn’t bad, but most of us would have been really happy to have a little more protein.
The printed schedule listed the afternoon’s main activity as mountain climbing. Nobody’s legs were in any condition to climb a mountain. Luckily, it began raining while we were eating, and we were forced to decide on a Plan B. Plan B was going to a big fancy onsen – much nicer on the sore muscles.
After an hour of so relaxing in the various soaking tubs, it was almost time to start shipping out. I managed to find an open cafe and scarfed some curry and rice before we had to catch the bus. Everyone said good bye, but most of us will meet again next week at the Shakaijin Taikai in Tokyo.
As of Tuesday evening, Takeo’s legs were still sore enough that he was avoiding stairs. My legs were fine, but I ended up with some kind of mystery eye infection that made me look like I’d been crying for a month; it’s all cleared up now. This week, I’m taking it easy so I can be in good shape for the all-Japan Workers’ Tournament on Sunday.
I had a really good time in Tottori, even if I do get that stupid song stuck in my head every time I think about it. I got to meet some new folks and see a few old friends. That’s always cool. I also got a chance to practice and discuss Taido and try out some different ways to practice. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.