Training at Axis Japan

Training at Axis part 1

Ok I’m ready to start my Jiu Jitsu training pilgrimage. I arrived safe and sound in Tokyo the previous night. I had a nice dinner and a beer followed by one of the best night sleeps I have had in a long, long, time due to the fact that the hotel I am staying in has equipped the bed in my room with a memory foam sleep pillow. This thing is gold I tell’s ya, GOLD! I am in no way sponsored or payed to promote this product but if anything can help me sleep better I will praise it for life!

Ok so I’ve checked the internet for train schedules and routes from Kamata station to Meidaimae station. This is where I will find the Axis Jiu Jitsu academy headed by Taka Watanabe Sensei. This academy is full of hard training people with great talent and determination. From the recommendations I’ve had from friends and fellow Jiu Jitsu practitioners, I know this is definitely one place I am going to enjoy training at.  As I am going to Axis for the morning class I have woken up at 6:30 am to ensue that I get a good breakfast, I am showered, my gi, belt and water bottle are packed, and not to forget, one of the packets of Tim Tams (Australian chocolate biscuits) I brought with me to present to the teachers at each gym I visit in Tokyo as a sign of gratitude. You may think it’s a cheap gift, but then you underestimate how much chocolate means to me and how hard it is for me to carry them, resisting to eat them all myself.

The train trip wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Seeing as the last time I visited Tokyo and attempted to swing by Axis Jiu Jitsu I had caught the wrong train. Which, turned out to be the right train, but when I had figured this out I had already caught another train taking me back in the opposite direction. Long story short; I’m a bit of a goose when it comes to navigation (Remember how I referenced my Mr. Magoo impersonations in an earlier post? ). This time I found the first two trains, no problem. I then boarded the third and final local train from Shibuya station bound for Meidaimae station, piece of cake. As the train began along the tracks I felt that odd feeling you get when a train full of people are staring at you. This has been a common occurrence for me when I visit Tokyo.  I do not think it comes in a malicious way at all. I just think that some people are not used to seeing a foreign looking person on their local trains and are curious to their appearance. Or, as I was to figure out shortly, it could have been due to the fact my fly was undone, allowing part of the lowers section of my shirt, which had been unintentionally tucked in to my shorts, to be unleashed from the whole fly area appearing to be some sort of cloth like appendage, set against a multi coloured back drop, which had been the underwear I had selected for use that morning… Cristiano in Tokyo public transport…off to a great start. The shock and embarrassment of noticing this is nothing compared to the difficulty of trying to appear as though this problem did not exist and then to casually adjust my attire with out drawing further attention. Even though it is pretty hard to draw more attention when you have 100% of it already. At this point in time the train then stopped at another station in order to let passengers off and other on board the train. As the doors opened a very tall gentle man, about 6 foot 6 roughly, bearing a striking resemblance to Danny Glover (the well known actor famous for his roles in the Lethal Weapon films) entered taking the horrified attention from me and focusing it towards this giant of a man, skinny Danny Glover let’s call him. I quickly fixed my clothing and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the train ride. Thanks skinny Danny Glover!

Arriving at Meidaimae station I had only just realised that through all the preparation I had forgotten to do one thing. Ok if you count zipping my fly up I had forgotten to do two things. Find out where Axis Jiu Jitsu was in relation to the train station. Probably the number one thing I should have done. Ok besides doing my fly up, it should have been the second number one thing I needed to do. Oh what’s that? It’s raining now? Brilliant! “Ok if I walk around a bit I should be able to find it. There’s a Family Mart. I think it was near a Family Mart… or Seven Eleven?…crap!” I found a police man and asked him where I could find Axis Jiu Jitsu. He had no idea. But, this did not stop him from consulting his colleague and looking on a map. He then proceeded to ask me if I was looking for a Judo school. “No, not Judo.” I replied. He then asked if it was a Kendo school. “No, it’s a Jiu Jitsu academy.” I replied again. “Ahhhh Jiu Jitsu!” he said laughing and smiling “What is Jiu Jitsu?” He said. I was shocked. I’m pretty sure it was in this area and for him not to know was odd but to not know what Jiu Jitsu was is crazy to me. I thanked him for his help and kept on looking on my own. Time was ticking down now. I had made sure I awoke early and left on the train at a good time in the morning so that I would not be late to the class. This was not turning out how I hoped. Still searching I found a real estate agents office. They must know the area well surely. I entered the office and asked one of the agents if he knew Axis Jiu Jitsu. He said yes and handed me an umbrella. I was puzzled for a second. Had I asked him in Japanese if he knew Axis Jiu Jitsu or had I asked him to buy his umbrella from him? Then he grabbed another umbrella for himself and walked outside with me. He was going to walk me there, in the rain, while he was meant to be working. What a nice guy. He was a lifesaver, I was going to make it to the class on time now, Hurrah!!!! After about ten minutes of walking we arrived at our destination… A karate school… a closed karate school. “Oh no, it’s closed.” He said. “Ah it’s not quite what I was after.” The poor guy felt embarrassed that he had taken me to the wrong place. I couldn’t fault him that much though, he had gone so far out of his way to help me, such a nice guy. Eventually we went back to his office and searched the Internet for directions. Success! He printed out the directions for me and I left his office now in a rush. I was definitely late now but maybe if I run I could watch the remainder of the class being taught. It was raining harder now. I wished I were able to keep the umbrella that the real estate agent had lent to me. After about roughly two minutes of running I figured out I was looking at the map from the wrong angle and was heading in the wrong direction (it’s Mr. Magoo again!). Okay I’m headed the right way now. I can see the sign for the academy. I’m home free.

As I enter the academy I am greeted by Joao Carlos Kuraoka, a black belt from the academy. From the information I had gathered about Joao from mutual acquaintances, I knew Joao was to be a good guy and a great black belt. He introduced me to the Master of the academy Taka Watanebe Sensei, who was already conducting the class. He told me that I had missed out on the class as the students were now sparring, but I could join in if I wanted…I wanted. This was very kind of him as I know other academy masters may have told me I could not join in for being so late, he was a really nice guy. As I walked across the mat to the change rooms I noticed a familiar face. It as skinny Danny Glover! Skinny Danny Glover trains at Axis!

I had two rolls that day. One, with a blue belt who had some great skill. Unfortunately I ripped his Gi pants while trying to pass his guard. Yep I’m that guy, I turn up late and rip dudes Gis. What a legend I am (Sarcasm doesn’t translate well in text but trust me there was plenty of it in that last statement about myself). The next roll I had was with a black belt by the name of Yasuhide Kurihara San. This guy was great. I had a great time sparring with him and I learned a lot, mainly not to let him choke me. It was a theory that I learnt not so much of a practical lesson as he proceeded to choke me three times in that roll. Everyone at Axis was very nice and made me feel welcome.  I introduced myself to skinny Danny Glover. He was really nice, just how I imagine real Danny Glover to be…only skinnier. I met another Australian guy at Axis named Patrick. Patrick was very kind and went with me and made sure I made it on the train and into the Isami Shinjuku store. I had such a good experience there and I looked forward to returning later in the week.

Training at Axis part 2

Ok so a few days have passed since my first visit to Axis and now it was time to go there again. Today I would not be late. Awaking early again I headed for the train station. The last time I visited Axis was on a Saturday and the morning train was not overly crowded. Today however was a weekday. The train would be populated with Japanese salary men, dressed in their suits and armed with brief cases on their way to work. And there were thousands of them! I can’t say it was a good experience being packed like sardines in a train with a bunch of dudes. On the bright side I did not have to hold on to the handles, which suspended from the ceiling of the trains inner cabin, in order to hold my balance. Arriving at Axis, early this time, I took the time to listen to the Beastie Boys on my iPhone as I waited for people to arrive at the gym. Kurihara San was one of the first through the door and he welcomed me with open arms, he is a great guy. Also, the nice lady who served me at Isami earlier in the week arrived to train at Axis. Her name is Naomi and she very kindly introduced me to her friends in the academy and made me feel really welcome.

Joao San would be teaching today. He is a really good teacher and concentrates on the finer details of the techniques and explains the concepts of the positions extremely well. Today he taught weight distribution, control, movement and attacks from side control. I learned a lot from his teachings today and having Kurihara San as a training partner also befitted me greatly. Now it was time for sparring. Joao had us spar for roughly 40 minutes with assorted partners of different belt colours in intervals of five-minute rounds with thirty seconds rest in between. I felt good and used a lot of the techniques Joao had taught, due to his teaching they became relevant to the situations I found myself and my partners in. Finally, I sparred with Kurihara San again, and again he choked me many times. It was great.

I will not forget the great time I had at Axis Jiu Jitsu and the kindness and acceptance they showed me. I will definitely return to train at Axis the next time I visit Tokyo and I urge those of you who read this blog to do the same. DO IT!

Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco

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