Training at Paraestra Togoshi

Not wanting a repeat of the mornings comedy of errors; I’m referring to losing my way looking for Axis Jiu Jitsu in the rain at Meidaimae, and leaving my cabin doors unarmed (leaving my fly down). This time I decided to take a few photos of the directions to Togoshi I found on the internet. This time I would take extra care in traveling to this gym. I would not be late for training twice in one day. I found I would have to take a subway train from Gotanda station in order to reach Togoshi. Soon after arriving at Togoshi subway station I exited through the east exit. It was raining hard. Luckily, the staff at the hotel were kind enough to trust me again and lent me another umbrella, even after I had broken the first one the night before. I started to run towards the set of traffic lights pictured in the photo of the map I had taken on my iPhone. At this point I had noticed something else. Though I was not able to connect to 3G or Wifi while I was in Tokyo. Google maps was able to pick up my location on the map. It displayed where I was traveling on the map of Togoshi I had downloaded earlier at the hotel using their internet connection. This was great; it was going to be a whole lot easier now I could use my phone as a GPS. Except for one thing. Apparently I had been running in the wrong direction towards the wrong traffic lights. “Not again!” I screamed at myself. I turned and ran back in the other direction, the whole time trying to adjust my umbrella wielding techniques not to have the wind catch it again, turning it inside out like umbrella number one from the previous night. Google maps had led me down into a small dark street littered with many small houses. “This can’t be it.” I thought, “I’m going to miss another class, stuck in the rain. What a poor start to this trip.” I actually became a tad frustrated with the situation and myself as I was a fan of the Sensei of this particular school and wanted badly to train with him. His name was Yukinori Sasa Sensei. In previous trips to Tokyo I had purchased two of his instructional books and DVDs and found the techniques they contained very practical. Just as I began to feel despair I noticed a sign down at the bottom of a small house. It had what I thought was a picture of some guys wearing Gis. I was surprised that I noticed it as vision skills are not what I am generally known for, quite the opposite really. “This must be it.” As it was at the bottom of a house, a kind of outdoor basement, I had to travel down some stairs to reach it. I could see the sign more clearly now. It now looked like a poster for a Karate tournament. “This can’t be it.” Just as I though history would be repeating itself someone had arrived on a pushbike. He greeted me and urged me to enter the door  via a few Dosos and a hand gesture. After entering the academy door I noticed the bright green mats similar to those I had seen in photos of other Paraestra gyms in Japan. Introducing myself to the gentleman who let me into the academy I learned his name was Kouichi Takai. He spoke enough English for the two of us to have a conversation, which came as a relief to me. He was a nice guy. As I took off my jacket he noticed my Full Metal Jiu Jitsu shirt and asked if I trained there. I told him that I did and that I was part owner of Full Metal Jiu Jitsu. He was very happy to hear this as he had seen a recent episode of the Jiu Jitsu Priest in which, my business partner and coach had been interviewed by Kinya Hashimoto, a well known Japanese Jiu Jitsu blogger.
As we spoke the door to the academy opened and in walked a man who I would later know as Koji Mizui, A BJJ brown belt. With him was Yukinori Sasa Sensei, the master of this particular gym and one of my favourite Japanese born Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters. He was a lot bigger than I expected him to be. We began the class in a way I was not used to. We started first with question time. Here, one student would ask Sasa Sensei a question about a technique they wanted to learn, or had trouble with in sparring sessions. As I was the guest they asked me to go first. This was a problem as very little English was spoken by the members of the gym and I spoke little to no Japanese. I mean, I could order some Ramen, ask where the train station was and say a couple of swear words in Japanese but not enough to ask a sensible question about Jiu Jitsu techniques. So I passed my turn on to another member of the gym. I won’t go into the techniques we learned but I will explain the structure of the class. First, as I mentioned, came question time. Next we would spar in specific positional training for a few rounds each. this is where, say, one person would begin in guard with the objective of passing. The other partner had the objective of sweeping or keeping guard. Once the sweep or guard pass had taken place the pair started at the start of the position again, hence the specific position training. Next was another round of question time. In my opinion the second question time was a great idea, as if the students had trouble with the original technique this could be brought to the Sensei’s attention and corrected. It also made us think more about the technique and the position. Next, we had a few more rounds of specific position training. At this point in time three more students had arrived to train at the academy. I was introduced to them all, again they were all really nice people. Next, We had free sparring. Here it was five minute rounds with thirty seconds break in between. I could not tell you how many rolls we had that night, but it was a lot. I had the opportunity to roll with Sasa Sensei, which I will write more about in my other Blog “Rolling with Royalty”, It was great and truly an eye opener. Every one at this academy had great skills and each roll was tough. As the night went on my energy depleted, but they all continued on with a great pace. At this time I looked up at the clock and noticed it was 10:30 pm. If I wanted to get home I needed to leave NOW in order to be able to catch the last trains. They were always crazy busy, and carrying a bag filled with my wet Gi on my back would be majorly difficult. As I looked at the clock the guys in the gym could tell what I was thinking. One of them offered to give me a lift home in his car, as he lived in the same area as I was staying, so that I would be able to train longer. This was a very generous offer and I was really grateful for it. We trained for longer and longer. As I realised I had not brought a water bottle with me, dehydration began to set in. Between rounds, I ran to the bathroom and drank litres and litres of water from the tap above the hand basin. Now I don’t know much, it may have been the dehydration influencing me, but I think that tap produced the best and most purest water in Tokyo. I wanted Sasa Sensei to go into business with me and bottle this magical water for sale on the H20 beverage market. But this was no time for business talk, I had been called out for another roll by a guy in the class.

Many arm drags, arm bars, flying triangles and other assorted chokes later we had finished class. It was now midnight. We had trained from 8:30 pm to 12:00 am. Wow… Wow. I mean… Wow that was definitely a first for me. I had a great time and had been put through some champion style training and I couldn’t be happier. Sasa Sensei was a great teacher and was an amazing person to spar with. All of his students, again like many in Japan I have found to be so nice and very welcoming and were also great sparring partners.

After class my new friend gave me a lift back to Kamata. It was now 1 am. I was so hungry and thirsty. I entered my hotel and found my old mate working behind the counter. He told me where I could find a 24hr Ramen restaurant near the hotel. By the time I had gotten there, after leaving my battle worn GI back at the room, It was 2 am. I must say it was the best 2 am Ramen and beer I have ever had, and I have Sasa Sensei and all the students at Paraestra Togoshi to thank for it. OSS

Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco

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