Training in Japan FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Training in Japan

SVSK Chief Instructor Jon Keeling answers questions about training in Japan

Can you tell us a little about your training in Japan?

I lived in Japan for a total of eight years. But only the first three years were focused primarilly on karate. For the first three years, I probably trained an average of 10-12 hours/week. The first year was more. But after I started working more, I had to cut back the hours. Although I cut back the hours, I was able to arrange my schedule so I could participate in the classes I found most valuable. During the other five years, I was there primarily for business. With a work schedule that often exceeded 70 hours a week, I was sometimes unable to make any of the weekday classes for months at a time. During that time, I trained and/or taught at the Hoitsugan on the weekends and did my own training at home. I would ride a bike quite a bit to supplement my limited karate training. During the last couple of years, though, I did manage to cut back my work hours and train more. Again, I tried to choose some of the best classes to attend, usually training with Senseis Osaka, Kawawada and Naka every week, sometimes getting in extra training with others such as Ogura Sensei. I led the majority of classes on Saturdays at the Hoitsugan during this five-year period, as Kawawada Sensei would often take that day off from teaching.

What about university training in Japan?

I only trained at Aoyama Gakuin Daigaku for about 2 months on Saturdays, in 1992. I never trained at the “tougher” universities, such as Takushoku, Kokushikan, Komazawa and Taisho, although I met many of those students in the tournament rings and at dan exams. Aoyama Gakuin is known for kata. They often recruit the high school kata champions to join their university as freshman. Their classes were typically two hours long, with the first hour or so being kihon. After that, it was usually about half kumite and half kata. Aoyama Gakuin has produced several good competitors, mostly in kata, including the women’s all-styles champion many years in the 1990’s, Ms. Mimura.

Is training better in Japan than in the West?

There are obviously many talented people doing karate in Japan. But is training so much better there that everyone should try to arrange to live there to take advantage of their superior training methods? I don’t think so. The type of training that is done in Japan is not suitable for everyone. In fact, very few westerners would improve much faster training the Japanese way. Generally, learning in Japan is through repetition. Thinking is not expected. Although it can be a great experience, I do not recommend to everyone that they make the extra effort to travel to Japan for training. One thing that is very good about training in Japan is that in many classes you might be surrounded by dozens of people who are very good and training very hard. This can be very encouraging. But, with the exception of certain instructors, the level of teaching is not necessarily higher in Japan than in other countries.

Who are your favorite instructors at the JKA Honbu Dojo?

Although there are many great instructors at the Honbu Dojo, my favorite 3 are Senseis Osaka, Kawawada and Naka. Their teaching styles are more technical in nature; highly educational. There is also a kata class taught by Ogura Sensei, another top-level instructor, which is also very technical.

How would you recommend that someone go about planning a trip to Japan?

The first thing I recommend to people thinking about going to Japan for training is that they try to find someone who has already done it, so they can speak in person with someone with this experience. As I do not know, personally, most of the people who ask me about training in Japan, it is difficult for me to give advice. Some things worth considering…
Why are you going there?
How long do you plan/want to stay?
Do you know anyone who is there now?
What kind of training are you used to?
How much money have you saved up?

Tokyo is very expensive. It used to be possible to get a room at the Hoitsugan. The rooms were cheap, but they were also small and dirty. Generally, people wanting to stay at the Hoitsugan rooms needed a letter of introduction from a senior instructor, preferably Japanese. Without this, it was still possible with a minimum of six months training at the dojo, showing seriousness and maturity, and the approval of the instructor. Those rooms are no longer available for rent, as they were converted to another use several years ago.

What about training at the JKA’s Honbu Dojo

There are some excellent karate instructors outside of Japan. But nowhere else will you find as many high level instructors in one city as in Tokyo.

The JKA’s Sou-Honbu (general headquarters) Dojo is located about 12-minutes walk from Iidabashi Station, near the center of Tokyo. Classes are taught by some of the best karate instructors in the world. Almost all classes at the JKA Honbu are very physically demanding, so if you’re able to train there, you’ll be sure to get a workout.

For directions on how to get there, or for more details on training, read through the FAQ. The location of the Honbu Dojo has changed several times in recent decades. Today it is located at: 2-23-15 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo Japan 112-0004.

The present class schedule
4:30-5:30 + separate childrens’ class conducted simultaneously – M/W/F
6:00-7:00 + separate women’s class conducted simultaneously – Thu
7:05-8:05 + separate seniors’ class conducted simultaneously – Fri
8:10-9:10 (Thur) Kata class; additional fee required.

Sat: 12:00-1:00, 4:00-5:30, 5:30-7:00 (Dojo closed second Saturday of each month)

More questions about training in Japan…?

There are various special events during the year and the seasons are quite pronounced in Tokyo. If you are planning to go and have questions (anything from ‘What should I pack?’ & ‘What’s the best way to get to in to Tokyo from the airport?’ to ‘How can I arrange to stay there for a few months to train?’ & ‘Do you recommend training at a university dojo?’), feel free to contact me. I am proud to have already helped several dozen people from around the world get a taste of training in Japan and look forward to continuing to help people in this regard.

 I hope to be able to upload more images (maybe even short video clips) of training in Japan. I have many hours of digital videotape of tests, tournaments and camps that I’ve taken in Japan.