The fog has descended on Tokyo, bringing with it the sweltering heat/rainy season. With humidity levels at an average 80% plus, anyone living here just has to accept that for the next few months of their lives, most of it will be shared with a constant sweat. Exercising through it also is a challenge, and my hat is off to all those athletes out there living in tropical countries, because theirs is a touch road.
Had my first session today (Sunday) with Hiroyuki Owatari, a K1 fighter (K1= the name for the professional kickboxing circuit here in Japan) and full time salaryman/office worker, who has a fight coming up in a few months that he wants to be ready for. The kettlebells are going to help him get there in a big way. He had watched me working out with fellow k1’er Jan Kaszuba and his interest was peaked. He learned rather rapidly that with kb’s, watching and doing were two separate realities altogether!
(More about Hiro later- he’s a very interesting guy and will be interviewed here sometime soon)
It was hot while we trained, and raining that hot, tropical rain outside that comes in through open windows as a thick heavy moistness. I went through the basic kettlebell movements one by one, and Hiro emulated in kind, as we gradually worked through the layers of coordination necessary; posture, breath, relaxation, drive, flow. His face changed from intensity to smiles in the course of the afternoon.
Gradually the mindset of those around me here in Japan changes- what people initially look at with skepticism and judgement gradually becomes openness and discovery. Its been a few weeks now since I first turned up at the kick boxer gym with these funny looking cannonballs and six foot tall Jan wielded them about. Tentative attempts to pick a kb up were met with ” oh, so heavy!!” Yet, here was Hiro, a few weeks later, an hour or so on the very basics, making it look easy. And people took notice.
At the end of our session, as we went through a three exercise circuit, combining everything that he had learned during the afternoon, another fighter sat down and watched as Hiro worked. The constant, obvious level of energy he was expending, pneumatic expression of breath and showering stream of sweat was a pretty good indication that Hiro was totally in the zone. Our watcher was total concentration- taking in how Hiro kept going, yet was sucking in air like an automatic engine, creating a steadily expanding pool of sweat as he worked.
Fighters work hard. There is no other way to say it; when the sweat starts to flow, it flows like a fountain, and it doesn’t stop when the workout is finished.The kettlebells just add one further layer of intensity, power and coordination to any conditioning routine.
At the end of it all, with Hiro rehydrating after a challenging session, the watcher got up, and unasked, wiped up all of Hiro’s sweat off the floor, then bowed to him and left quietly, without even waiting for a thankyou. When the Japanese repsect something, it shows in their actions.
I got some tutoring on the fine arts of kicking, and suddenly we are out of there and into the damp, darkening sky. Where did the afternoon go? A quick stop at a nearby cafe and a quick deep discussion on finding the balance between work and sport (more on that in the interview).
I did a lot of boxing this weekend, but I find my body is bouncing back well after each session. Still got a long way to go, but that’s the fun of the journey, isn’t it?