What the kick! (A Karate class experience in Tokyo)

By on May 30, 2009

From a small Island in Canada, I am brought to Japan as an intern to pursue my dream of writing and take the vacation of a lifetime.

When coming to Japan, I was a tad nervous of the inevitable culture shock. One tall, white Canadian vs. millions of short Japanese. There’s minimum English, food with tentacles and steering wheels on the opposite side of the car. I adjusted well but there were two missions I had in mind: get to know the culture and keep in shape, which would be hard not knowing how to speak the language.

Thankfully, a fellow Canadian lives close to me whom I knew before arriving.  We met up right away and he mentioned World Oyama Karate which he joined and loved.  In the past, I took Judo (another style of Japanese martial arts) and liked it, and since there was little hope to find any other English-speaking place to keep in shape, I followed him along for a session.

The Sensei (master of the class), Masa Takahashi, who is a black belt and has been in Karate for 15 years, allowed me a practice trial to see if I will like it or not. I stepped on the mat alongside my friend and about eight other Japanese men, women and teens, all wearing different coloured belts, each symbolizing a different level of achievement. Everyone smiled, and greeted me as a friend. I didn’t realize then how much I would learn, sweat and have fun.

K1One month in Karate taught me many things. One being that the sport itself is much different than what I, and probably much of the Canadian population, thought. It is not only all about fighting, but  a lot of positive reinforcement – respect, authority, patience, concentration, understanding and discipline.

It is a workout for the mind and body. Beads of sweat drip off every forehead and drench the dry GIs (fighting uniform). It takes a lot of work to get something just right, but when you accomplish a goal, it is very rewarding.

Although I was told this many times, even before Karate, I didn’t realize it would be as fulfilling until I did my first round house kick the proper way. You must be able to have the concentration to have the right stance, twist one leg a certain way, kick the other leg high in the air, keep your eye on the target plus keep your centre of balance. It is very hard but when you are even close to having it perfected, it is also extremely fun.

I don’t know if I would be as comfortable during my stay in Japan if I did not start this great sport. I am stronger, wiser, and instead of being in the house all evening, I’m getting out, meeting people, learning new Japanese words and having a once-in-a-lifetime experience of fun!


Belt order from lowest to highest:  white, blue, yellow, orange, green, brown, black.

Osu: When addressed,  pupils must respond with “Osu” meaning patience, respect and appreciation.

Why Sensei Masa likes Karate: “I like to do something. To sweat. It’s great doing it together.”

Dojo is a training facility and translates to Place of the Way.

There are 2 dojos in Tokyo. To learn more,  visit www.worldoyama.com

About Samara Meade