Growing from the journey

To some people travel is their gravity, it’s like a force of insatiable curiosity for the wonders that are out there. They travel to seek for answers – perhaps desperately seeking for solitude or fulfilment? To celebrate one’s hardship?  Longing to feel lost and be found again? Perhaps to fall in love? Whatever the answer may be, travel does in fact guide us to broaden our minds and eventually our inner self grows too. 
So here’s the next chapter of my travel adventure which has influenced and intertwined with my karate progression.
You see, karate is a highly personal journey and for many out there it’s also a lifelong commitment. I wouldn’t say that my karate is exceptionally good because there is always room for improvement but our common goal is “to strive for perfection”.   In karate, we learnt a lot about etiquette and respect for others. As the dojo kun goes…
DO JO KUN ( Dojo morals / training rules)
 To strive for the perfection of character
  To defend the path of truth
  To foster the spirit of effort
  To honour the principles of etiquette
  To guard against impetuous courage
Every class, we say these words over and over but I never would have imagined seeing such similarities between these spoken rules and everyday life in Japan. So here’s what I’ve learnt and experienced from my Japan trip:
1) Travelling with an objective leaves you feeling invigorated and inspired -

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This entire “karate voyage” has delivered me a seriously active vacation with just enough cultural immersion. I’ve travelled to few countries, I’ve stayed in trendy resorts and explored exotic destinations all of which fulfilled my wanderlust, but it’s even more exciting when you travel with a purpose or goal. In this voyage, my goal was to train hard and progress into some kind of spiritual journey. That bucket list item has been crossed and checked. Looking back,  I felt all the hard training and being exposed to cultural diversity gave such gratification that resulted in a more meaningful travel experience rather than just a pretty sight seeing adventure.

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 2) It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey –

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Luckily I was travelling with a bunch of accommodative travel buddies. But unfortunately, we weren’t Japanese equipped or literate and would end up doing something ridiculously embarrassing and funny. Many times we got lost, either walking in circles or opposite directions which almost caused us to miss out on training. At one point some of us got a bit agitated as you do with unfamiliarity, Paul who is the wisest amongst us said “guys don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey”.  This made me realise a great travel experience occurs when you least expect it to. If it’s not on the itinerary, it’s off the chart, and it’s beyond your control, so deal with it and  enjoy what’s in front of you (the company in my case) and just go with the flow.
 3)We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about what’s out there - 
asakusa kimono rickshaw ice creamI was overwhelmed by the masses and intrigued by the savoire-faire of Tokyo. I quickly learnt that the people will accommodate to my needs especially asking directions with a bit of Japanese language thrown in like… “Sumemasen”.  I find it also helps that you attempt to speak their language and show common courtesy, you get twice fold the assistance you need. I mean the moment you say “g’day mate, where’s the loo?,” you’ll get a weird stare as if you’re some kind of alien.
 4)  Slippers! Here’s where etiquette and respect for others comes in. It’s funny how this works. Coming from a Malaysian background, it’s ok to remove your shoes and walk around barefoot into someone’s house but in Japan it’s same same but a tiny bit different – you are normally given indoor slippers. Quite surprisingly, this practice is not just limited to one’s home. When we trained at Nippon Sports Science University, my roommate and I was walking down the campus corridor barefoot and a student came running after us, looking rather flabbergasted with continuous bowing and insisted we use the slippers. There’re also separate slippers used when using bathrooms for hygiene purpose. At the ryokan, for goodness sake all this guy does is to make sure that all the indoor slippers were neatly and accurately aligned! It’s amazing how precise and fixated he was!

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DSC03189So lesson learnt – NO barefoot, NO shoes especially on wooden floors, and always turn your shoes facing the opposite side to the entrance ready for the next user.
 5)      Karate just got real –  It’s quite invigorating to train in other martial arts. My training in Japan has forced me to deal with confronting situations and endure challenges physically and mentally. One of the many training highlights was with the students from Nittaidai University.
After a good one hour of exhausting drill, their sensei called out “game time!” I was so relieved, it was about time to give my injured shoulder a break (mind you that was 4 weeks in the midst of recovering) and I was looking forward to doing something less strenuous.  Not knowing what was in store for me, I was asked to step into the tatami (sparring mat), and guess what? Game means kumite(sparring)! Oh boy, I was torn between backing out or to face that challenge. A tiny voice in my head said “you travelled all the way across the globe and pass this opportunity? So suck it up princess and give all you got”. So I did. It was indeed daunting experience, I was about to get my ass whooped by a 19 year old student who practically studies karate – eat, sleep, breath  karate.

Travel-tired on top of injury, it was a physical challenge that I really had to psych myself up. Yes I did get a nice mawashi in the head, but afterwards I was glad I did it. I felt it made me stronger not because of the fighting but because I persevered and overcame my physical limits.

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                         So friends and readers, when travelling with an open perspective we meet amazing people, you hear interesting stories, your inner self grows because you learn how to interact and deal with different scenarios as well as personalities. We are forced to examine our self; the good and bad, however, I believe this moves us towards a positive serendipity.  Karate has definitely radiated some positive energy into my life.
                    Im not suggesting you need to travel to Japan to learn or understand karate but rather you should continually push yourself against peers in the dojo, sign up for workshops , attend seminars and you bound to meet inspiring and awesome people. Having said that, karate is also not limited to the confines of dojo, the training and repetitive drills prepare you for life challenges, as set by the “dojo kun”. Yes.. DoJo Kun, I’ll leave it to you to join the dots. OSS!!

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