I guess this whole week will be filled with Japanese culture. It is one of the cultures I’m most fascinated with, so you’ll have to deal with it. Cause apparently there are enough Scots fascinated with it to give me the opportunities to indulge in Japaneseness.

I’ve been taking karate classes back home in America for about almost three years, and reached the second tab on my brown belt (which is two ranks away from black belt if you need to know). So when I came to Scotland, I planned on finding a dojo and continuing my education.

Well, the closest dojo teaching my style of karate (Okinawan Shorin Ryu) is in Aberdeen, which is a hefty bus/train ride away from Edinburgh. So that wasn’t going to happen. I looked up cousin styles to Shorin Ryu, and settled on Wado Ryu, which my instructors back in the States would be the closest match for me.

Tonight I went to the dojo for the first time. I talked to the head instructor on the phone, it sounded like the school had similar political principles to my previous school, so I felt like it would be a good place to go.

I got off the bus in a part of Edinburgh I’ve never been, and faithfully followed Google on my phone to find the dojo. I couldn’t help but feel this was the sketchiest part of Edinburgh I’ve ever been to. Good thing I was all dressed up in my karate uniform so no one would dare mess with me, right?

I walked into the class, and was greeted by “are you Miss America?” I responded in the affirmative. My new instructor greeted me with a handshake and asked me for my actual name again. He said he probably wouldn’t remember that and asked where I’m from. “Salt Lake City, Utah.” “Don’t know where that is, but once I went out to Las Vegas for a training, so I’m going to call you Vegas.” Great. I’m now Vegas, or every once in a while, Miss America.

Now, I haven’t had any problems understanding anyone’s accent so far. Maybe an occasional word, but generally I can get what they’re saying. However, this instructor (he asked me not to call him Sensei) not only had a heavier accent than most people from Edinburgh, but also spoke incredibly fast. So he kept asking me to show him things from my style so he could see where I was at and how the styles are different, and I just kept staring at him blankly. Not only did he call things different names than I was used to, but I had to decipher his Japanese through his Scottish accent…I’m sure he thought I had a learning disability.

Then there was the part where I was easily the oldest person in the class. This was also true of my class in Salt Lake, but I at least had my sisters and there were several black belt instructors. Here, I was this towering monster of an adult among a sea of children who were all kicking and punching their way past me. And apparently half the class was out of town for some school holiday. I have no idea how we are going to fit in the dojo when they all come back.

And suddenly, in the middle of the practice, he’d shout, “Okay, twenty pushups!” and everyone would drop and do twenty pushups. What? We never did regular exercise in my former karate school. Never. He explained to me when I had the puzzled look on my face that he didn’t want his students to have their muscles only get used to certain movements and lose strength that would be vital in a fight. Fair enough. Thank goodness for my dedication to Jillian Michaels over the past couple of years so that I can actually do pushups and situps now.

Then he had me fight him. Just free spar. He asked me how often we fought in my previous dojo. Not terribly often, like once a month. Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I’ve never been afraid to take a hit. Because he threw his punches and kicks so fast I could barely see them. Like this was an embarrassment to karate-kind. I did get some hits in, even when he wasn’t purposefully giving me easy shots. And some good blocks, too. So I wasn’t completely worthless.

Basically what it comes down to is this: Wado Ryu has a very different fighting style and seems like it’s much more intense than Shorin Ryu. That, or the instructor is much more intense. Either way, I’m planning on getting my butt kicked, literally, for the next few months.

Os! (that’s the Japanese contraction meaning “please teach me”)


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