SF Giants – Japanese Heritage Night

On May 24th 2019 World Oyama karate SF was invited to put on a demonstration for Japanese Heritage night at the pre-party and on the field at Oracle Park before the San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game.

It was only black belts on the field but we lower belts got to participate in the pre-party demonstration and I got to break a bat again. I noticed there was a photographer in front of me who was taking pictures of me breaking the bat and so I looked for that picture and found it on the Japanese Consul General’s website.

Bat Breaking

Japanese Consul General Website link: https://www.sf.us.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/19_0524a.html

Japanese Consul General Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/cgjsf1/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2526583060694433

Japanese Heritage Night: https://www.mlb.com/giants/tickets/specials/japanese-heritage-night

Pre-party demonstration

LA Trip – Red Carpet

It is 6:27 AM and I’m at the gate in Oakland Airport for my flight to Burbank.  These past few weeks have been a daze and I haven’t had time to write.  I’m so busy with the new job that time marches by in a blur and I have to catch myself and take a moment to be mindful and appreciate life and all the small moments that make up our experiences.

Aside from work karate has also been at the forefront so let’s start there.

We had our karate promotion test last Sunday and it had me stressed out for a couple of weeks.  It was the first time my son and I would do the test with Saiko Shihan.  He holds a yearly clinic and afterwards is the advanced belt promotion test.  Shihan had also said that I would fight a knockdown champion, then Shihan himself as well as Senpai Takasan.  I told him I was pretty nervous about that with the reason being I had expected it to be like Fighter’s Cup.  I can do one all out fight against a good opponent but then my energy is completely spent.  I had thought that I would have to go all out for five or six times which I wouldn’t be able to do!

So yes, I was extremely nervous, a bit scared and had tons of anxiety for over the two weeks leading up to last Sunday.

On Sunday I woke early and headed over to the dojo to help transport the mats to Pomeroy Center where the event was being held.  The loading up of the mats was quick and we were at Pomeroy in no time.  I walked into the gym and remembered very clearly how much I hate the smell of gymnasiums.  They remind me of high school and the enormous shock when I experienced the difference between the level of training in high school sports vs grade school.  Grade school training is relatively easy but then without warning it seems like you’re doing suicides for days and just want to die.

I think about all the late practices on the wrestling team where it is cold and dark outside with sweat dripping down the windows.  Everyone else has gone home but you remain with the team becoming completely exhausted doing something that isn’t very fun, and you have to keep it up for five months.

So walking into the gym on Sunday and having those memories flood into my consciousness then coupled with my anxiety about what I was soon going to face was not pleasant.

The clinic started and as usual it was a great one and Saiko Shihan taught us many things that we usually do not hear during regular practice.  I paid attention, tried very hard and before I knew it the clinic was over.  I still had plenty of energy and was glad I’d gotten through the first part but now the test was going to begin and that is what I was scared of.

In short, it turned out to not be too bad at all!  I had to only fight two black belts and it was not all out because there is an understanding.  If you go hard the other will go hard and then there will probably be injuries.  Everyone did try hard but it wasn’t full on fighters cup style except for one brown belt.  Saiko Shihan saw this and his reward was to fight Shihan who beat the tar out of him.  Shihan is such a nice guy but turns into a beast when it is time to fight.

It was over before I knew it and I was in shock that I only had to do two fights!  I was so happy and during the after practice stretches wondered if it were only a break and then suddenly I’d be called to fight a whole gang of people.  I was so nervous for so long that I’m still glowing three days later at the test being done.

The really cool thing about that test was Saiko Shihan himself stepped in while the kids were fighting the black belts and sparred with my son!  That was the only time Saiko Shihan did that and we got it on video.  He threw my son down a couple of times but Kai was a champ and kept going at Saiko Shihan.  I told Kai how much he was going to appreciate being able to say he sparred with Saiko Shihan and that the video we took will be an absolute treasure to him later on.  I also mustered the courage to ask for a photo which will go on the wall of our gym.

So why am I at the airport?   Well, Saiko Shihan made a movie called Take a Chance which we saw along with the entire dojo a year or so ago.

Well, I got a notice from the dojo that there was going to be an exclusive screening and red carpet event in LA for the film and everyone was invited.  I thought the idea of being on the red carpet would be a once in a lifetime event and as it happened my boss asked that I spend some time riding along with my colleagues to learn from them.  I could kill two birds with one stone by heading down to LA to ride along with my colleague during the day and then go to the red carpet event at night.  So here I am, and the boarding is about to begin.


Jean Jacket, Karate and the ’80s

As I mentioned previously I love the Cobra Kai series on YouTube.  It makes me remember the ’80s very fondly and how I really don’t like the times these days.  Part of it is that I’m older and just remembering my youth.  The other part is that the ’80s seemed more exciting and ‘pure.’  In the ’80s MTV had made its debut, the bands played actual music instead of being corporate and thus profit driven ventures, guys drove around in T-Birds and Grand AMs blasting Def Leppard looking cool!  It was a time when being awesome was in instead of this PC, metro-sexual, safe space, participation trophy of today.

The way Johnny Lawrence talks and acts in Cobra Kai is the definition of ’80s cool.  He isn’t concerned with anything else but being a bad-ass:  no feelings, no safe spaces, no weakness and No Mercy!  It is all just so refreshing even though I consider myself a Liberal.

So about the jean jacket.  Johnny wears one and it made me fondly remember when I had my own jean jacket I wore everywhere in the ’80s.  I think I was in the 2nd grade and it was cool to fill the back up with buttons one could get at “Dairy Farmer’s” convenience store now known as 7-11.  It made me think about bringing the jean back to my own wardrobe and perhaps starting a trend if it wasn’t already in style.

For the past couple of years I’ve only worn a blue windbreaker with shorts or jeans.  I thought it might be nice to mix my own wardrobe up a little and so I bought my jean jacket.

When I got it my wife laughed a little.  I’m so predictable that if I do something different or out of the ordinary it always causes her to laugh and wonder what I’m up to.  We’ll she’ll have to get use the the jean jacket because I really like it, it makes me feel a little stylish (which I haven’t felt since my 20s’ and appealing to my cheap sensibilities (I only buy my clothes at CostCo if I can) is extremely durable and should last forever.

As for karate I’ve started reading our Grandmasters autobiography and love it. It teaches me so much and I can relate to a lot of things in it.  For one, the Kyokushin headquarters is in Ikebukuro.  Well I lived in Mejiro for two years which is right next to Ikebukuro.  Ikebukuro is the main city in Tokyo that I know best and must have passed by the ‘honbu’ so many times without realizing it – it is right next to the station!  Of course it looked quite different when the Grandmaster (Saiko-Shihan) was there being just after the war.  Now it is an incredible metropolis with humongous buildings everywhere.  The other thing I relate to is when he his brother Soshu, also a founder of World Oyama karate bought him noodles and spoke with him about training after practice one day.  He told him that he would have to train very hard to beat his rival Haruyama and Saiko-Shihan’s ‘ki’ got so pumped up for training.  However, when it came to the actual fighting his ‘ki’ shriveled because it was absolutely brutal.

This is also how I feel when I watch Cobra Kai or think about karate.  I get pumped up and cannot wait for the next class.  But when it is time to fight I get winded very quickly and my ‘ki’ also quickly disappears.  As I continue reading Saiko-Shihan gets stronger and when he gets his brown belt actually looks forward to the fighting part of the class.

As for me, I always hated the fighting part in the beginning.  Now when I think about it I’m pumped until I actually have to do it because it is hard and does hurt.  But I’m no longer scared, I’m getting stronger, and now not worried about the fighting until I’m actually doing it and my stamina depletes.

Journal Entry – Karate and the Japanese Community

It is 4:37 AM on Sunday October 1st, 2017.  Today was the ‘special clinic’ put on by Saiko Shihan Yasuhiko Oyama.  He is the grandmaster of World Oyama Karate and comes in once or maybe twice a year (I’m not sure) from the HQ in Alabama.  All green belts and up can only test when he is present and so of course everyone is pretty nervous.

It was our first time doing the special clinic since we started just over a year ago. It is hard to believe that we’ve done a year of karate already; it feels like we just started a few months ago.  There were students from not only the San Francisco dojo but also San Mateo and San Jose.  Looking at the other grown ups I imagined who I might have to fight at Fighter’s Cup and it made me a bit anxious.  I am not an intense person and have never really been mentally tough when it comes to training, wrestling, and yes karate.  Although I am a little afraid of getting hit, I’m more afraid of fatigue and having to keep going.  In the last Fighter’s Cup I came away with some massive bruises but the adrenaline was running so high I didn’t even really feel any pain during the match.  What I did feel very acutely however was the fatigue.  I hate fatigue.

As for the special clinic and meeting Saiko Shihan my impression was that he is strict but also seems like a very nice guy.  He made plenty of jokes while also letting us know what was not up-to-par.  For example, when we had to find a partner we didn’t do it fast enough and he let us know it.  He gave a demonstration on how we should go very fast and came in front of me, grabbed me and said “Oh, not you!” then grabbed someone else (it was a joke).  His main pet-peeve is when the kids start fiddling or swaying when they should be in heiko-dachi.  To be in the presence of such a great karate master, who also strikes the right tone between being strict yet friendly was a great experience.

For those that don’t know anything about karate let me explain why he is famous.  I’m not an expert and I see that there are a few guys attributed to be ‘founders of karate’ but in my limited knowledge perhaps the two most famous are Gichin Funakoshi and Mas Oyama.  Gichin Funakoshi is from Okinawa and credited with being one of the founders.  Mas Oyama studied a bit under Gichin but then broke off and formed Kyokushin.  He became famous by creating a very powerful style of karate and even fought a bull.  In Japan he was called ‘Karate no baka ichiban’ or Number one crazy karate guy.  He had many famous students and two of them were brothers:  Soshu Oyama and Yasuhiko Oyama (Our Saiko Shihan).  These brothers formed World Oyama Karate which no longer has to report to Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin in Japan.  Apparently Mas Oyama never named a successor and so there was disagreement and two branches formed.  Reading from Soshu he states that the Japan Kyokushin group(s) would expel you for any silly reason and so he formed his own dojo.

And so, one of the reasons that Yasuhiko Oyama is so famous is because he became a master under Mas Oyama and thus there is a direct link back to one of the most famous karatekas of all time.  Our Shihan studied under Soshu.

Anyway, the clinic was both insightful, intense and we learned a lot.  We didn’t stay for the test because we were not testing and my youngest would have caused disturbances.  We just received our green belts before the summer then were in Japan for a long time so we missed a lot of class and weren’t ready to move up another belt just yet.  I’m sure the guys that did test are now tired, sore and glad that it is over.  We now have six months until the next test so have a lot of studying and training to do.

As for the ‘Japanese Community’ we saw a lot of people that we didn’t know were in Oyama karate because they participate in the San Mateo and San Jose dojos.  But what I really want to talk about is my thought that it is pretty amazing an Ohio boy ended up here in San Francisco and is part of this community.  All of our friends, karate and Saturday school are part of the Japanese community and it is such a different and unique experience for me than what my life would have been in the midwest.  I was just talking with a second generation Japanese the other day and he grew up in the Bay Area and has never experienced the midwest:  tailgating at an OSU game, going to the pool outside on a regular basis, and speaking/knowing only English are things he has never experienced in his life.  I then thought how interesting it is that here I am, among so many Japanese people and how all my activities are pretty much in their community yet, it doesn’t seem foreign or strange to me at all.  In fact, I rarely give it a moments thought, it has become my life but it is a life I would never have imagined as a teenager in high school.  I knew nothing of Japan, San Francisco, the history of the Japanese here in the Bay Area and now it is all just ‘normal’ for me.

Well, switching gears, I’m back into my workout and karate routine but my mind has been all over the place.  I really haven’t been at peace in a long while due to a mindset that never rests and is always anxious.  I need to start meditating again and reset my thoughts and mind.  In order to do this I need to get work back under control – things have been very busy – do my workouts in the morning and remember to control my thoughts, to make myself be at peace.  I feel most peaceful after a workout but it doesn’t last long as the stresses from work come back soon enough.

It is hard to believe were now in October and today marks the beginning of the holiday season.  I’ve gotten the majority of my Christmas shopping already done as many items my kids want/would really like will be sold out as we get closer to Christmas so having it done already is great.  Also, we’ve gotten the roof fixed and the house is half done being painted so my mind will also be at peace when the rains come.

I think the final thing I need to do to bring my mind peace is to wake up very early and start writing in this journal again.  The early morning is when I can really concentrate and get a good journal entry written.  I feel that my thoughts are all over the place when I write late in the day – as I’m doing now – and perhaps I don’t even make any sense.

Having said that, it is time to wrap up this Sunday, this week-end and get ready for another week.  A week which will certainly fly by just as every week does these days.

But before I do one more word about Cub Scouts.  I’ve decided this is something we will not do for a couple of reasons.  The first is that my son is much too busy already with Japanese school, homework, karate and swim lessons.  Cub Scouts takes a lot of time to get the achievements and we just don’t have the time for it.  The other reason is I feel the organization is a bit outdated.  I really cannot give the oath to “God and Country.”  I don’t believe in religion and have come to think it is just old tradition which does not offer answers, just indoctrination on ancient beliefs which still persist even in this day of science and technology.  As for country we’re going through some hard times which could end up in nuclear war.  I’ve also learned too much from living abroad and am well aware of all the bad things the USA has done and all the lives wasted in vying for more power, for more investment opportunities and so on.  I’ve watched too many documentaries and clearly see the dark underbelly that many of my countrymen cannot.  I long for the day when we no longer need to identify ourselves simply by the land we live in and swear an oath to it even when it is doing some very bad things.  This is a lonely place to be because those that can truly understand are those that have traveled, lived abroad and learned other languages.  Many who have not are the ones who will support anything the USA does even when it is not right.  Given current political actions it seems to me that we’re on a very bad path and there is no end in sight.

Many countrymen disagree with protesting during the national anthem, they want to deny healthcare to those who cannot afford it, they want to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and even build a wall and they want everyone to wear the flag around their shoulders and question nothing.  In the late ’90s the mood was about opening up, engaging with the rest of the world in a positive way.  The USSR had fallen, companies were putting operations abroad and science, and learning were good things.  Now, the mood is close off, be nationalistic and do whatever the President says we should do.  There are going to be more tough times again and the USA might not be recognizable anymore after the damage being caused by President Trump.

And so, I cannot in good faith sit there and wear an oaths to ‘God and Country’ when I think I am certainly not on the same page as the other members.  I’m following a constant theme in my life which is to always go my own way and walk down a very lonely path where my only outlet is writing in this very blog.  I didn’t walk in lockstep with the fraternity in college, I didn’t change my opinion at the request of a Waseda professor for my final paper and I didn’t follow the same paths as those from my home state of Ohio.  I’ve always gone my own way and will continue to do so.

But on a side note, I’m becoming less of a liberal thanks to Nexdoor.  I still believe in healthcare for all, for less war, for science and all of those things but damn, I now understand what the right means when they call Liberals “Snowflakes.”  Here in Pacifica the liberals will absolutely melt at just about anything!  For example, someone vandalized a “Jesus sign” changing it from “Give your life to Jesus” to “Give your pants to Jesus” and half of my neighbors on Nextdoor had a fit with one of them even calling it a hate crime.  Come on, I went to Catholic school, we were all Catholics and as a senior prank one of my buddies put an empty beer can in the hand of the statue of the Virgin Mary.  I’m sure many neighbors here would have had a fit about that as well!  They have a fit about everything!  And so, the Liberal group also seems like a group I no longer want to belong to.  I also hate to see that Hillary Clinton simply cannot take any blame for helping put the USA in this mess.  She always has an excuse for losing and none of them are because she simply wasn’t a very likable candidate.  It was her turn and she just didn’t get her turn and is not happy!

Anyway, I also need to turn off the news to have any sort of peace.  The news is all propaganda these days and with the flood of information it is near impossible to get the straight story.  Read one story on CNN you’ll get the exact opposite reaction on Fox News.  And so I continue with the BBC but have also turned to Reddit where it seems there are a lot of smart users, I can actually learn something and it seems we’re all on the same page in terms of opinions about major politics/religion.

Ok, I’ve written enough.