I’ve never been the kind of person who just dips their toe in the water to see how it feels. Nope. I jump right in or I don’t jump in at all. With Goju Ryu karate, it is fair to say that I have taken the bomb-dive approach – you know the one? Found on the same ‘Will patrons refrain from…’ board that graces the tiled walls of public swimming pools across the UK. That always makes me laugh, the picture of a man perfectly executing a bomb-dive (just in case you were unsure) falling somewhere close to the ‘No heavy petting’ instruction (yes, the old boards used to say “heavy”!).
So, how do I know this? I’ve started to teach myself Japanese.
“You fool-hardy, insane son-of-a-gun!” I hear you scream. And I scream back, “YES, I KNOW!”…but I can’t help it. I’ve already started to jump in the pool, committed to the bomb-dive, knees tucked ready for the impact. The scary thing is my feet haven’t even touched the water yet.
Here’s how my brain came to this seemingly abnormal decision that studying Japanese would be a good idea:
- I wanted to lose weight and get fit. Correction – my wife battered me into submission that I needed to lose weight and get fit.
- I joined forces with Jamie van Damme to find a suitable sport we could do together
- We settled for a martial art (his nick-name was a sign)
- We tried Wado Ryu – no joy
- We found Goju Ryu – have never looked back. I stare curiously at the Japanese calligraphy associated with Goju Ryu. Conclusion = it is gobbledygook (I am entering this word for the “Most underused word in the 21st Century” award)
- During the class, we [try to] speak Japanese words and phrases, without much success
- I do my first ever Japanese translation of the phrase ‘Gekisai Dai Ichi’ (to pound and destroy, number 1)
- Sensei gave us both a book to read by Goran Powell – Waking Dragons
- I loved the book so much, I have since read three of his book recommendations and his second novel, A Sudden Dawn
- In ‘A Sudden Dawn’ I learn about Bodhidharma, Zen and the culture of India and China. It mentions translation of Sanscrit and Calligraphics. This sparks my interest in learning Japanese
- I downloaded an app on my iphone and start learning Japanese And there you have it.
I blame, in the nicest sense possible, my wife – sorry hon, you’re taking one for the team. Yep, behind every great man is a greater woman. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be doing karate, wouldn’t be writing this blog, and certainly wouldn’t be learning Japanese.
How am I finding it? It is the most unusually thought-provoking exercise I’ve undertaken. It’s like discovering a hidden code. The calligraphics (called katakana, hiragana and kanji) have started to etch themselves into my subconscious – I find myself dreaming about them, making shapes that morph into different objects or animals. It is quite other-worldly and a little bit unnerving. The sounds made in Japanese are very different to Western idioms. They have no words for ‘the’ or ‘a’ and the present and future tense require no conjugation and are the same. It is wonderfully captivating and I feel like I am getting a unique insight into their culture through their writing – sounds silly, I know.
Anyway, I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on with my learning. But first, kon-ban bīru-o nomimasu.