Budo for all. Budo for everyone.
Association Budo Culture for the Disabled
Ricki Rica Ebihara
It was my second year as a translator for this seminar, and I was still a little unsure of my ability to translate. Professor Matsui kept assuring me that my Japanese was good enough to translate. Last year it was just a 2 hour event, so I managed to get away with on-the-spot amateur translation. This year it was different. This year we had invited 4 people from Sweden, including last years star, Pontus Johansson. Three of the four had disabilities. This time it was not just 2 hours. This time, we had sponsors, and four different locations to have the seminar. We had to gather people to come to our seminars from all over Japan. The seminar was to be held first at our University, International Budo University located in a country town of Katsuura in the south part of Chiba prefecture on the east coast of Japan. The second location was also in Chiba Prefecture, in Chiba city which is more north toward the center of east Japan. We had the seminar in one of the Toyota showroom called, Chiba Toyota Heartful Plaza, where newly designed cars for the disabled were showcased and presented. The show space was filled with vehicles designed especially to fit the disabled in wheelchairs, cars with pedal-less driving seats, and many other specially modified cars. The Third location was at the Sports Center for Disabled in Tokyo. The final location was in Kumamoto Kyushu, the farthest western island of Japan.
The major point of the seminar was to show that through Budo (Martial Arts), disabled people could train and improve or sustain their mobility and balance, and give them a goal- spiritually as well as physically. In order to do this we allowed able people to experience being disabled and to try training in several different budo and exercises. Once everyoneﾕs mind was open to this concept, we would teach how to teach a class with disabled and able people together.
At our University, 11 IBU students were preparing to go to Sweden in September as part of our University Cultural Exchange program. All 11 students were our staff members for our seminar. Along with them, three students who were part of the Sweden Cultural Exchange Program last year, a few student volunteers from the University and myself as the Translator make the entire staff of our seminar.
Our guests arrived on Thursday, July 18th from Sweden. Professor Matsui, myself, and last yearﾕs three Sweden cultural exchange students, went to the airport by University bus to pick up our guests, Pontus, Maria, Margareta, and Niklas. Also there to greet them was a TBS TV cameraman. TBS is a national television network in Japan. TBS aired a special news broadcast about our seminar later that week and wanted footage of the Swedesﾕ arrival.
It was the second time for me to meet Pontus, and the first time to meet everyone else, but we hit it off just fine. Pontus arrived in his wheelchair, Maria came out walking with her canes, and Margareta came out walking on her own. Niklas came out last pushing everyoneﾕs luggage. We all got on the bus and two and a half hours later, we arrived at the International Budo University, International Exchange Hall. This is where our guest stayed during their time in Chiba.
The following day we had a rehearsal meeting and training time. We had to teach everyone how to tie people up with Karate Obi (belts), to create disabled situations. We had several different disabilities to choose from, and our staff members had to know how to make each disability with the obi. For example, to limit function to the legs, we would tie the obi just above the knee, this would be a disability with limited movement. It was tied tightly, as not to come off easily, but not too tight to cause the circulation to stop. Our staff spent the rest of the day practicing tying each other up in different situations.
A day later was the University Open Campus where our first seminar was held. The TBS TV crew was there, as well as a large turn out of almost 100 people, mostly University students. We had some special guests from all over Japan as well. I would like to explain the seminar in detail so you can understand what it consisted of. The seminar was held at the main dojo (kendo training room) of the University. Everyone entered the lobby of the Main dojo on the first floor. There they were asked to choose a disability from the many photos that had been prepared, and then tied up by our staff to simulate the disability. Once our guest was tied up, they had to make their way up the stairs. Guests who had disabilities that did not affect their ability to climb stairs, were asked to help those who needed help up the stairs. Once up the stairs, they entered the Kendo dojo. We were showing presentation videos, videos of last years seminar as well as TV interviews on the wall by projector until a good number of participants had gathered for our seminar. Once we had enough people gathered, our staff members tied themselves up and joined us.
We started lining up seated, at the sound of the TAIKO (Japanese drum). We completed a short meditation followed by seated REI (bowing). Pontus, Maria, Margareta, Niklas and I were lined up seated, facing out towards the guests. Keita Shioya, Kazuse Nakagawa and Atsushi Yasuoka were the three IBU karate students who went to Sweden last year in the cultural exchange program, they leaded the guest into line up and meditation. Keita was in charge of introduction and translation of karate techniques. I was in charge of translating all the statements, questions and ad-libs which Pontus would made during the seminar. I know nothing about Karate, as I am a Kendo student, so I had to rely on Keita to do his part. After REI, Keita stood up and introduced Pontus, Maria, Margareta and Niklas. We welcomed them with applause. Keita explained that some people who were not able to applause with their hands, should find another way like stomping their feet or slapping your arms or legs. There are so many ways to show applause. The goal of this seminar is not to see what you CANﾕT do, but to see what you CAN do. The goal is to get through this seminar not saying ﾒI CANﾕTﾓ but to say ﾒI CAN!ﾓ. There will be many exercises and techniques which may seem impossible depending on the disability you have been given, however, if you can not do the exact exercise or technique, do not sit in the corner and think you canﾕt do it, but join everyone, and move the part of your body which you can. With this in everyoneﾕs mind, we moved on to Pontusﾕ famous warm-up.
For warm-up everyone started running around the whole dojo. Some people ran, some people wheeled themselves, some people waddled and some people slid across the floor. Pontus would add to the running, rotation of arms, one at a time and in different directions. Then he would change the running to knees high and heels to back continuing to circle the dojo, he would change the direction and speed. You could see many of the participants already getting very tired.
Next. everyone was instructed to go to one side of the room and lay on their stomach. They had to use just the strength of their arms to get their body across the room. Once across they had to come back backwards. Of course some people had their hands or arms tied but they wiggled and squiggled until they made it across to the other side. After a few different versions of this, was Pontusﾕ favorite part of warm up, Push-ups. You could hear everyone complain of dread, and yet see them continue trying to keep up to Pontus. Three sets of 30 push-ups, 30 sit-ups and 30 hand to feet crunches. You could see by the second set of push-ups and sit-ups, almost everyone could not keep up, and they were all dropping like flies. Inside the crowd of tied up people, you see Niklas, Maria and Margareta full of energy and doing every push-up and sit-up and crunch perfectly. It makes you wonder which people are the ones with the disabilities. This was the end of the warm-ups. Everyone was relieved and yet afraid of the thought of ﾒIf that was warm-up what are we in for next?ﾓ
Next was Balance practice.
Everyone grabbed a BOKUTO (wooden sword). Pontus explained that although he himself does karate, he had to incorporate training techniques from other budo (martial arts) to train his body according to his disability. He borrowed this training of SUBURI (the swinging of the sword) from Kendo. The BOKUTO is held in the center line of the body with both hands (one hand if only one hand is able), swinging the sword over your head and bringing it back down to hit the imaginary opponent in front of you. Repeating this movement becomes SUBURI. After doing 30 suburi with just arms swinging, next was with footwork, back and forth, and direction change. Pontus explained that this was mainly for balance training, which is difficult to keep standing balanced when both your hands are occupied.
Next we did some Karate. Keita, Atsushi and Kazuse gave a demonstration of some Karate Kata (Forms). Keita and Atsushi stood behind Kazuse. Keita was tied to simulate the disability of no arm. Atsushi was tied at the ankles. Kazuse stood in front of them to show how the kata looked without diability. The kata included several punches and kicks. Though Keita had no arm, he made the movements of the punches with his shoulder. Atsushi couldnﾕt move around much from the position he was in, so he changed direction with much force and power and occasionally punched when a kick was performed. Everyone was very impressed by this demonstration.
Next Maria and Margareta performed a different kata demonstration, along with Kazuse standing behind them. Although Maria and Margaretaﾕs disabilities were very different, it was very easy to see that they were able to do the kata along side of a able person (Kazuse) without any problem. It was very impressive.
Pontus explained that he chose karate out of all the budo not because it was better than any other budo, but simply because karate has so many katas. With kata, one could practice by themselves for as long as they needed or wanted to. Kata can be practiced anywhere at anytime.
Then we moved on to the basics of Karate. Punches, punches with footwork, punches with opposite footwork, punches with kicks and punches with opposite foot kicks. After everyone got an idea of the basics, the next step was to get into pairs. Everyone would find a partner, and Pontus and Niklas would demonstrate the technique.
Niklas would throw a punch to Pontusﾕ face. Pontus would block it with his arm, and punch Niklas in the chest as a counter attack. Once everyone understood the movement they had to try it with their partners.
Pontus would explain that this was also a way to study balance. When his balance was not so good in the beginning he would train in this technique and use the opponents body to gain balance. When using your arm to block the punch coming toward you, you use your arm on the opponentsﾕ body to keep your balance. After a few more techniques like this, we moved onto sitting techniques.
Pontus borrowed these techniques from Aikido also to gain balance techniques.
A very interesting IDORI demonstration of Pontus throwing Niklas across his body from sitting position was performed. Everyone was amazed. This one was too difficult and dangerous for everyone to do, so Pontus showed an easier technique for everyone to try.
Sitting, facing your partner, your partner holds his arms out with his palms facing down. You hold your arms out over his arms, also palms facing down. With your thumbs between your partners arms, grab the wrists of your partner, not too tight but tight enough that you donﾕt come loose. Now your partner twists his wrists to grab your wrists from above, while pushing backward and forward and twisting, trying to get you to lose your balance. Everyone seemed to enjoy this technique, so we let everyone try it for a little while.
Next was NEWAZA (lying down technique) borrowed from Judo. Pontus showed us different training stages for different degrees of disability. He explained that though Judo newaza, he could determine how much mobility and balance ability his students have. If the disability prevented sitting up, these techniques could be done from a lying down position. Pontus showed us some examples of these techniques.
Next we played the Newaza game: Start in sitting position, back to back with your partner. When the signal was made, both of you turn around and try to get your body in top of your partners. You and your partner have to be facing each other, and neither of you were allowed to stand up. If you could pin down your partner, you win.
Everyone had a great time with this one. You could see Maria and Margareta inside the crowd playing with participants. Most of the time they would win.
This was the end of the physical part of the seminar. Everyone was lined up again and we bowed and said closing remarks.
Then it was Q&A time. Our guests could ask any questions to Pontus, Maria, Margareta or Niklas. Most of the questions were about disabled people in budo competitions and Pontusﾕ plans for the future.
Pontus explained that competitions were a part of training and that first we had to focus on getting disabled people into budo before we could even think about competitions. And as for future plans, Pontus hopes that next time, the seminar would be mainly consisting of disabled people where he could focus more on how to train and giving them a chance to see what they could do.
This is the summary of the seminar we conducted at each location. At Chiba Toyota Heartful Plaza, our main participants were mostly children, but we had a turnout of about 70-80 people. In Tokyo our turnout of over 100 people was great, but the seminar was held in a room about half the size of the rooms we had been doing the seminar in. In the end everyone managed to cram inside and have a good time.
Our seminar in Kumamoto was too far for our student staff to go, so just Professor Matsui, Pontus, Niklas, Maria, Margareta and I flew to Kumamoto. Once in Kumamoto we had to collect staff to help us with the seminar. To gather student staff, we made visits to local schools and did shorter introduction versions of our seminar. We asked the Karate clubs in the schools to help us with the karate demonstrations. We asked the other budo students to help us with the tying people up. For some reason all the student staff we had in Kumamoto turned out to be young and energetic high school girls. We met all of them for the first time, but they did an excellent job and they all seemed to enjoy themselves at the same time. Our sponsors in Kumamoto were great. When we had free time in Kumamoto, our sponsors took us around for some sightseeing, and we spent most of our time looking around the city and shopping. We even got to see a MATSURI (festival) at the top of Kumamoto Castle. We had to walk all the way up the hill, which was very long and steep. Margareta had to help me up the hill, but I was still the last one to make it to the top. The whole way up the steep hill I couldnﾕt help asking myself, ﾒWhich one of us is disabled?ﾓ. Though Kumamoto city was not totally barrier free, it was the most barrier free city I had ever been in within Japan. They had local trains with the ability to carry up to two wheelchair passengers. They had wheelchair accessible toilets everywhere, and the local people were very aware of the special facilities and where and when they were available. I was very impressed.
Everything we did took a lot of preparation and teamwork. Though all of us were volunteers, I think we all came out of this with something money can not buy.
My translating improved with each seminar, as well as my understanding of the disabled and how to care for the disabled. I came out feeling that we are all disabled in some way, and that people who are labeled ﾒDISABLEDﾓ are not so disabled after all and just because you are disabled, does not hinder you from doing anything.
If you are an instructor of a sport or budo, please open your class to a disabled person. The experience will change their life for the better and you may be surprised to find that it may change the way you look at life as well.
I hope that in the future there will be no need for seminars like this, and that all schools of budo and sports will be open to anyone who is interested whether able or disabled. Until then I hope to help get the world to accept this idea.