Friday 26 March 2010

Three years in Japan

Three years ago today we arrived back in Japan. As my wife Mizuho is Japanese, returning to Japan is coming home for her. But in so many ways, Japan has been home for me too, even since my teens. So much of my life, prior to the last three years, was spent coming to Japan, to study karatedo at the source. The most memorable times were certainly with the Matsuno J.K.A. (Japan Karate Association).

Memories of my personal teacher Asai Tetsuhiko (Chief instructor), Yahara Mikio (Assistant Chief instructor), Yamaguchi Toru (Senior advisor), Abe Keigo (Technical director) and others firmly come to mind. Phenomenal training, onsen, karaoke, and lots of kampai ring bells (very loud bells) in my head. Asai Sensei singing "Just walking in the rain" and "Don't worry be happy" is unforgettable... I'm smiling as I write this. Yahara Sensei punching a fish dead was another memory... Not to mention his explosive energy which filled every corner of the dojo! And another about Abe Sensei, which out of respect, I can not say publicly. All history, and all taught me about the Shotokan karate world, its excellence, and in some cases, its negativity's.

What really counts is that I was taught amazing karate from these masters in this great nation, especially from Asai Sensei, who kindly took me on as his deshi. This privilege alone literally changed my entire life. More than this, it really balanced my perspective of karate, as a professional, and allowed me to put it in the right place (in my life). Belief, values and family first, profession and maintaining values in it, second... Then everything else follows naturally.

The last three years in Japan has allowed me to physically translate my last 20+ years of karate training and technically refine many subtle skills. When people ask me "How can you follow karate like this? That is my dream life!" I tell them, "We must maximize our lives as human beings, suffer, and take multiple risks to do so. If we are fortunate, we either create chances, or cower. If we are unfortunate, we have no choices. If one has a chance, a dream, and 'decides not to chase it', the only certainty is regrets.

Today marks three years in Japan, following my karate dream, and now is a time for celebration. My best wishes to you all from Nakatsu-shi, Oita-ken, Japan.


© André Bertel, Japan 2010.

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