The day did not start off as planned. I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by my friends at my hotel in the morning. They had rented a Nissan GTR R34. If you’re into cars, especially tuning cars – that’s a big deal. Also, it’s a bit scary to drive a high performance car in a country that drives on the other side of the rode. We went through a McDonald’s Drive through, and crossed this off our bucket list. By the way, the R34 is awesome.

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However, we ended up getting a bit lost (even using GPS). By the time I got to the hotel I had to leave on the train for Nagato’s class. I grab my bag rush, rush out the door, and hop on the train to Hombu.

I sprinted from the train station to get to class just as they’re about to bow in. I wait for the bow to be over and quietly go to the corner to change. I open my bag and something was missing: no gi pants.

Flustered, frustrated and ashamed at my lack of preparedness, I quietly head back out the door. One of the translators comes after me and asks to come back in. I follow him and explain that I forgot my gi pants, and on top of being late that I didn’t want to disturb the class more than I have already. Nagato listening says, “shorts okay. Dress casual.”

Now I join class very embarassed. Nagato explains there is no set dress for class – you can wear whatever you want. He teases me a bit saying “Scott, you look nice – very casual.”

I don’t know if this helped training or not, but working with Jacque and Barry was great. Jacque is always encouraging, and Barry has improved quite a bit in a short time. The big take away from class was this simple advice from Nagato: “if something doesn’t work, change distance or change angle.”

At one point he did say I was getting better, and I felt some progress – but it was pretty limited. At the end of class everyone else there was supportive. “Hey, it happens.” Still I felt like a total screw up. I was happy to leave to the next class, stopping at my room to find my gi pants sitting there after falling out of my bag. Ugh.

Next was Shiraishi Sensei’s class at the Kashiwa Budokan. I arrived early to find Shiraishi smiling as always. The class was all Japanese students, and I got to see Nakadai who I hadn’t seen since my last trip. My training partner was Saito, who was very helpful. “Shoulder work” He kept reminding me. And with a few more inches of twist, he flopped to the ground, with laugh and a nod. The training was extremely soft (except for the falling) and very subtle – or “sneaky” as Shiraishi would say. “Moto shoulder, next step. Hai.”

I walked back to the station with Nakadai and got to talk to him more. He’s very nice and supportive, and also gave me more insight into training.

It was an exhausting day. And I have several more to go – but now with gi pants.

Shidoshi Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is an 8th degree black belt in the Bujinkan, and travels regularly to Japan to train. In addition to being the owner and head instructor of Todai Dojo, Scott is also the CEO of a national manufacturing company. He has also received training in other martial arts, and in-depth modern weapons training.

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