Saturday, June 10, 2006

Eriko on top of the mountain, under the sun and against the background of the countryside an hour outside of Tokyo, where you can already find rice-paddy's and small, quiet villages.

The members of my circle who participated in the tournament. In the fron on the left is Matsuoka Tomitaro, who is mostly in charge during practice. In front on the right is Koyanagi Ryosuke, the only one in the circle who matches my length and to whom I lost in the semi-finals...

Fighting my way to the (sub) top

So it's already been a month since I wrote my last post, but you must believe me if I say that it feels like it was just one day.
Trying to remember what I've done through the last month, two things directly pop up: the taekwondo tournament of May 7th and the climb of Mt. Tsukuba on May 21st.
The taekwondo tournament was of course the ultimate test to see if I had learned something in all the months that I've been practicing. It was a tournament for the Tokyo region, and even though there live almost as much people in that area as in the whole of the Netherlands (about 12 and 16 million, if I'm right), there were just a few people who participated. With their 'native' karate, judo, aikido, kendo, jujitsu, nunjitsu etc. the Japanese are not very likely to practice a Korean martial art. However, that doesn't mean that its easy to win, of course.
The tournament was devided in children (who numbered three), women (I think about five), men under 68 kilogram (18, including me) and men above 68 kilogram (maybe around seven) and black-belt participants (maybe around 13).
Every division had to go through three competitions: kata, sparring and the break-test.
The kata-part consists of a certain combination of movements that each participant performs individually and which have to be done as good as possible. The idea behind this test is that it creates a kind of ideal fighting-form, with the most powerfull moves in the most efficient form. However, they are done quite slowly, to be able to focus on perfection. Every time, two participants compete and the winner goes on to the next round. Eventually, with quite some luck (first my opponent didn't show up, then the next one made a mistake), I made it to the fourth place.
The sparring part consists of one round of two minutes in which the two opponents have to get point by hitting the other one with hand or feet above the belt and on the front. This is what you could call the 'real thing', it requires speed, strength, a good condition, good tactics and good techniques. Because I had done my best to get my weigth below 68 kilo, I was the biggest participant in that division. That means that I have the advantage of the longest legs and arms, which is quite handy with Taekwondo. Therefore, I managed to become fourth again.
The last one, the break-test, was something quite new for me. The goal is to break as many wooden boards (of three) with a puch and later on with a kick. Because it costs money to buy new wooden boards all the time, and because no one at our club has the repairable ones that they used at the tournament, I'd only done this one time before. However, we've been practising punching and kicking all the time, so it shouldn't be such a problem. Still, even when punching without thinking about how my hand would feel afterwards, I could break only one board. This was still one more than most other participants, so if I would break all three boards with a kick, I could go to the next round. I succeeded, but didn't in the next round so I ended up fourth together with my sempai from the same club of Waseda University. The same sempai became first in men under 68 kilo on both kata and sparring - so I've had a good teacher. Another member of our club became second on sparring after I lost to him in the semi-finals.
So with better results than I had expected, but without a medal, I went home after we had eaten with the whole delegation of the club.
For pictures, click on the heading of this article.I'm the guy with the long, blond hair ; )
About the mountain-climbing: it had been very changeable weather the weeks before, but that sunday it was really perfectly nice weather. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, the woods were cool and it stayed like that for the whole day. At the foot of the mountain there was a Shinto-shrine, and also on the two tops where we went there was a small Shinto shrine. Apparently, this was a sacred place, but most people just went there for the nice view. I really liked to walk around there, but Eriko, my girlfriend, wasn't really used to these kind of activities. But she persevered and even survived the sore muscles that followed the next few days.
Lately, I'm trying to focus on studying. With the semester ending at the 30th of June, I have to make sure to finish some papers by that time. However, with people coming over (Agnoek, a fellow student from Leiden who's studying at the University of Kyoto for this year visited Tokyo last weekend), and all kinds of activities (on Monday and Tuesday there will be a International Festival at Waseda, and in two weeks I'll have another exam for Taekwondo), that isn't always very easy. But I think it will be okay.