So you want to move to Japan

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  • Post category:Philosophy
Uechi ryu, Goju ryu, Karate, Vancouver, BC, Lessons, Martial Arts, Dojo, Japan, Okinawa
Minowa Katsuhiko (L) & Me (R)

When I lived in Japan, I would get e-mails from people from time to time saying how envious they were that I was living and training in Japan. To be perfectly frank, there was nothing to be envious of. Living and working in Japan, despite your love of budo, can be extremely taxing, frustrating, stressful and at times incomprehensible.

Japan, and by extension Okinawa, is very much a closed and at times paradoxical society. Besides the language, there are extremely rigid norms and customs of behavior that you must learn; yet no one will teach you. Ironically, the longer you stay in Japan and become accustomed to the language and customs, the more you are treated as just another student. Being no longer a ‘guest’ you must work harder than everyone else to be noticed and taught.

Like North America, Europe or Asia, Japan is not exempt from frauds, phonies and incompetent teachers. Going to Japan is no guarantee that you will find a good dojo or teacher. A sports model dominates most karate-do in Japan and few of the public schools teach the older ways. Instruction in the older ways usually requires some form of introduction and a bit of luck.

I point this out, not to deter people, but to dispel some commonly held notions that going to Japan will answer all your questions and give you all the training you need in karate-do. This is simply not true any more. There are many qualified, competent, and caring teachers who reside outside of Japan. It would be far better to seek one of them out in your home country than to disrupt your whole life and move across the ocean.

All in all, what karate-do comes down to is the relationship between the student and the teacher. This is the foundation of all budo and if this is not sound, then no information can be imparted no matter how motivated the student is. In the current trend of emphasizing technique and proficiency, these values seem to have been laid to the wayside. This is something which saddens me deeply. I suppose in that sense, Japan does have something to offer.