I was wearing my “Pray for Japan” t-shirt yesterday, when walking around the city. On the back, it says “Never give up” in Japanese. I don’t know how many times, people on the street and in the train have stopped to thank me or take my picture. They don’t speak much english here, so when someone – almost with a tear in their eye – is trying their best to pronouce the words “thank you for coming” to a stranger on the street, it just reassures me, that making the decision to come to Japan, was the only right thing to do.
I too, was worried about coming here. But when I decided to do it and saw things with my own eyes, it was obvious, that there is nothing to fear. The only thing not normal in Tokyo, is that there are virtually no tourists and the city is darker than normal due to power saving. No one is afraid of radiation and the daily earthquakes are so subtle, that I didn’t feel a single one of them in a full week. I had actually been looking forward to be in an earthquake (natural disasters are one of my hobbies), but I always missed them. Yesterday in the gym, I was literally sitting completely still on the mat, talking to one of the girls in class, when she said “Did you feel that earthquake just now?”. I didn’t feel a thing! Then after, I get emails from friends at home watching the news asking if I am alright, because they heard there was another earthquake in Tokyo. I don’t believe in earthquakes anymore.
Japan has really swept my feet away, Judo-style. I am so extremely glad I came. Please, if you consider coming, do it. I promise you will not regret it.
Yesterday, I felt exhausted, dehydrated, overtrained, underslept and hung over. I almost fell asleep at 18:00 but said to myself that it was my last day and I had to go do some training.
There was a class at Paraestra I really wanted to join and I also had an invitation to Axis, but both were pretty far away and I had no energy to go anywhere really. Sakuraba’s gym (with the strange name of “Laughter 7”) were only a three minute walk from where I was staying, so I decided to go there to check it out. It was a nice, small gym. Looked very clean. About 5 people were doing a grappling class and I asked if I could join in. Unfortunately, Sakuraba himself wasn’t there and the mat fee was way above my budget for a single training, so I decided to walk back to AACC to see if anyone was rolling there after the striking class. Being as exhausted as I was, I am amazed that I managed to do half an hour of high intensity sparring with some of the pro fighters.
My body felt burned out, my knee injury hurt really bad, my face was bruised, but still, I felt better than ever. Training in Japan has been amazing, I hope to make it back one day and do more of it.
What an amazing day of training I had today. First, I went with Aaron, an american reader of my blog who emailed me, to the afternoon class at Paraestra. The team has many gyms around town and the afternoon class is where the instructors from those usually meet for sparring. It was a small class, but almost everyone were black or brown belt. I had some amazing rounds of sparring, those guys are really, really good.
After a few hours, I had to leave to go to AACC for no-gi class with Abe-San, who I am staying with. He is a true master of wrestling, catch wrestling, MMA and BJJ, with a quite different style than what I am used to. It is very interesting to train with him and I suck in all the information I can get out of it. He caught me with a ridiculous number of leg locks and strange holds as we rolled. I was also watching the girls train, they have a very impressive team in AACC. Fans might recognize a few familiar faces in between in the photo.
I must say, that I am starting to feel really confident in my game. Rolling with all these different people around the world has improved my defense. I am being attacked with so many different styles that I am not used to and I can feel it is really improving my game.
Tuesday is my last full day in Tokyo before I leave for Hawaii. I need to do some sightseeing and also figure out where to train. I live really close to Sakuraba’s gym so might go there?
I was excited about grappling this very special burger tonight. It’s style, known as the “Kobe Beef Style”, is known around the world.
It was a fluid, technical roll. Near perfect technique, relaxed, no ego. This burger was highly skilled with movement as sharp and precise as a samurai sword.
This was the first brown belt I have grappled with in the amazing around-the-world burger project. Well done, Japan!!
Yesterday, I went to a no-gi class at AACC. About 25 people were there and I had lots of good rolls with many good guys. Really getting to practice my Icelandic guillotine these days :)
On the other mat, Abe-San was running a wrestling class. It was super tough and had some seriously skilled guys there. Two hours of hardcore training, it was very inspiring to watch, will definitely take some things home from that for my own wrestling classes at home. I tried to concentrate about my own training, but couldn’t stop watching the other mat all the time :D
I have moved to Abe-San’s apartment, conveniently located right next to the AACC gym. He invited me to come see the DEEP 53 show. Japanese MMA has seen a quite significant decline since over the last five years, it is nowhere near the heights of the Pride days. DEEP is a small show where fighters are build up. There was some very good fights in between but also some pretty bad ones.
Lots of respect between the fighters!
…is meeting Bob Sapp on the street, eating kebabs.
The first real MMA video I ever saw was “Choke” about Rickson Gracie fighting in Japan in 1995. One of the opponents were Yuki Nakai, the japanese Shooto champion. Being greatly outweighed by his opponents, and with sustaining a serious eye injury, he still managed to fight his way to the finals, where he ultimately was beaten by Rickson Gracie. His fighting spirit and courage won him a lot of fans world wide, including a young, danish teenage boy, who at that time just had found the interest for the exciting world of grappling and MMA.
He retired from MMA after that tournament and dedicated his time to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Yesterday, I visited his gym and had the honor of training with him and his team. It was a very cool experience, he was super nice and funny. Very interested in my trip.
I came at a technique class starting 6:30. There was only two other people there, so it was basically a private. We worked on some nice details on how to break the lockdown and pass halfguard. Good stuff I had never seen before.
Sparring started at 20:00 and went on till about midnight. People only showed up for the sparring really. About 25-30 people came and left during that period. The level was really high and everyone were super nice and friendly. I rolled with many black belts and brown belts. There were also some very game blue and purples. I ended up rolling for a few hours, before I called it a night.
After training, I felt so good. Endorphine rush like crazy. I can’t wait to do that again, what an experience!
When I got back, Ryan took me out for some super good and very interesting Japanese food. We had some strange stuff, my favorite being raw horse sushi :D
There has also been two earthquakes while I have been here. One was in the middle of the night, so I slept from that. The other one was on the way home from the gym, but I didn’t even notice it. The earthquakes now are very small, just like little shakes. I can’t in my wildest imagination see how these could harm me. Maybe if I stand naked under a bowl of acid, that balances on a rope and at the same time I am trying to sneak past a mad, hungry tiger, that is sleeping or something?
Not many people were going to Tokyo today. The big airbus A330 was basically empty, I counted less than 20 passengers in total. I understand that people are scared to visit, but I am SO glad I decided to go here. I have only been here few hours this evening and is absolutely loving it.
First of all, there is no panic here. Everything is normal, no one is scared and the world is not about to go under. Radiation levels are safe right now, both in the air, water and food. The earthquake, which was the biggest in 500 years or so, only killed five people in a city of 35 million. Nothing is going to happen to me here. In fact, I have been exposed to more radiation during my flight here than I will be during my stay and was in way more danger driving for 18 hours in the mountains of Taipei, than I will be in a Tokyo earthquake.
I went straight from the airport to the training at AACC. We arrived pretty late, but still managed to roll for a good half hour. Really cool gym, great facilities and a nice vibe. Everyone was extremely friendly and I had lots of good rolls. Abe Ani, the owner of the gym, was very, very welcoming. He offered me to sleep in his house during my stay in Tokyo and also take me to DEEP on friday. I was super excited to hear that DEEP is on friday. When I planned my trip six months ago, I was trying to find some dates for the big MMA shows in asia, but it was too difficult. Here I arrive first night and find out I am just in time for one, it is going to be awesome!
Everyone seem very glad that I am here. Abe-san welcomed me in the gym and told me, he was happy to see that I came even though it was a hard time here.
Going to Japan was obviously the only right thing to do. I can’t wait to see what experiences this place will bring me.
Time to sleep!
After much consideration, I have concluded, that I have to go to Japan, no matter the threat of radiation, earthquakes or sea monsters. I will be arriving in Tokyo this evening, excited to see what awaits me there.
Once again, I have visited a place, that I knew absolutely nothing about, and once again, it has been an amazing experience. Before I left, I couldn’t decide wether or not I should visit Taiwan on the way. Even just one day in Taipei seemed like it would take out valuable time from my tight schedule, and therefore wasn’t so attractive a thought. I ended up staying five days and I am bringing home priceless memories and experiences from this place.
In Taiwan, I met some very, very nice and friendly people, had great training, lived in a super cool house in the mountains, surfed on a stunningly beautiful and empty beach, went on roadtrip around a whole country and visited an engineering wonder of the world. I am so glad I didn’t skip this place.
I have come to the conclusion, that I cannot count out any places, no matter how little I know about them on beforehand and no matter how strange or dangerous they might seem from a distance. Adventure and amazing experiences can be found in every corner of the world, it seems. It is out there, just waiting to be discovered. I have to keep pushing myself to go places I normally wouldn’t go, to see what I can find there.