Two weeks is a decent amount of time to be away on business but I managed to train a few times during my trip. Here's a recap of some of the spots. -Luke
SHINJUKU SPORTS CENTER (TOKYO, JAPAN)
One of my earliest instructors, Tokuro Aoyagi, returned to Tokyo after living in New York for 10+ years. He's presently a brown-belt under Fabio Clemente (Alliance NYC) and decided to take me to the Shinjuku Sports Center. It is a government sponsored building that holds a number of facilities open to the public for a very small fee. One particular room is outfitted with judo-mats with more than enough space for a small tournament. After paying 400 yen (roughly $4 USD) for an all day pass, we got changed and began warming up. In the room there were several different groups practicing martial arts. There were no-gi grapplers with MMA gloves on, aikido, karate, kung fu, caporeira and what I think was jeet kun do. Everyone is doing their own thing with little mind paid to those in and out of the room. The vibe was pretty relaxed and it was nice to see people training in a such a casual and informal environment. Tokuro explained to me that before guys like Yuki Nakai (Paraestra) had a place to train, they all came here. The early stomping grounds of Japan's present day black-belts was the Shinjuku Sports Center. If you happen to be in the area, be sure to pronounce it, 'spo-sen' which is how the locals say it for convenience sake.
AXIS JIU-JITSU ACADEMY (TOKYO, JAPAN)
Now this was my second time training at Axis but more than a year between visits. This time around I went with another Japanese friend who had just moved back from New York. The training here is great as they're a technical group of guys, most of which are on the small side. These days without much consistent training I'm walking at 95 kilos (roughly 200 lbs). Even so, I found it very challenging. One of the things I really enjoy about training at other schools when I'm traveling is that it takes me out of the dance-routine that can often happen when your training partners are too comfortable with your game. How is a complete stranger going to handle my weight and style of passing? And while I am not there to crush guys, I am there to challenge myself and create opportunities to learn.
On this occasion, I also got to meet Watanabe-san, the head instructor of Axis Jiu-Jitsu, a Rickson Gracie black-belt. I believe he is Japanese but raised in Brazil since he speaks Portuguese, Japanese and English (all with a Brazilian accent). The instruction and technique was really something as all the movements felt very natural and versatile to all body types. Watanabe-san also informed me of an exciting event coming this year. Rickson Gracie will be sponsoring a BJJ tournament in Japan, something he has not done since 2000. I will report more once I've received further details.
Another hilite of this visit was one of the sparring partners I had. On this day, I wasn't the only visitor as there was a hakujin (white-guy) and then two judoka. One of which has recently made quite a name for himself having beaten one of the top-ranked in his division as an Olympic hopeful. I got to roll with Satoshi Ishii, a monster of a guy who competes at the 100 kilo weight division. I believe he took silver at the 2006 Asian Games. I wish I could end this story with me winning by kimura or armbar but sadly no. I came really freakin' close to passing his guard but made some mistakes and gassed out to his monstrous power. Really nice guy though, kind of a gentle-giant of sorts. Another cool thing is that a judo black-belt of his competition level is coming to take BJJ classes. Wish I could have had a second chance, damnit.
The second city on this work tour didn't give me much opportunity to train but I did finish my trip in New York. Again, just like in Tokyo, I'm greeted with snow followed by sleet and rain. So walking in either city in this kind of weather definitely took a toll on my body. I earned my self a wonderful hacking-cough with plenty of phlegm. I had planned on stopping by my old school, Alliance but got tied up with work and running around. I did manage, although not sure how, to make it to my friends 6:30am class. Josh Griffiths was recently awarded his black-belt from Kenny Florian and now heads StudioX on 27th between 6th & 7th (Manhattan).
STUDIO X (NEW YORK)
It's been quite a while since I've woken up this early to attend anything at that hour. I would have just as likely not slept and wait for class to start. I think I had gone to bed at 3am that night anyways. Anyways, once you're there and the drills have woken you up, it's a great way to start your day. With training all done, the rest of the day is yours. For such an early class, there's a healthy number of students, most of which were blue and all there to give it their best.
Josh has always been one of my favorite instructors for his comprehensive and wholistic approach to jiu-jitsu. As he was there when I first started, it was great to show him how much I've improved and to get some added pointers. He's an individual that not only has done will in competition but looking to be an accomplished teacher as well. He takes an invested interest in his students.
So, now that I'm back in Bangkok it's time to get back to business. I want to thank all those I got to train with and the schools that are always so welcoming. I look forward to seeing everyone again in the future. In the next month or so I should be here but come April I'll have another travel fit. So look forward to some reports from Hong Kong and (cross your fingers) Seoul, Korea. It'll be my first time there and I hope to get at least one opportunity to train.