Its a warm and muggy Saturday evening in Tokyo as I meet my student R for a two hour intro into the world of the kettlebell.
On meeting her, I can tell by her physique and the steady gaze in her eye that this is a sportswoman, trying to find her way here in Japan.
For any gaijin out there recently transplanted to Japan, its a daunting task; to settle oneself and get into a routine that keeps you fit mentally and spiritually as you deal with new paradigms of stress, workloads, crowds and generally not enough free time.
My advice to the newly initiated: you have to make the most and best of the situation and tailor your life around you to support your fitness goals the best you can. Its definitely not a perfect world, but you can make it pretty close if you try.
R and I start to go through the basics, and are watched by a groups of young Japanese, chain-smoking vacantly or lolling about lethargically while we get down to business. Sad to say that the only people doing any kind of active physical exercise in Yoyogi Park that night were other foreigners jogging around the park… come on Japan!
Thanks to(?) or no thanks to Youtube, a lot of people don’t realize just how important the warm up is before you pick up a kettlebell and start propelling it through space. Its imperative that you confirm that the body is ready, joints are lubricated and small muscle groups prepared to work before any serious lifting is attempted.
As the humid sky started to fade above us, we went through the basics; swings, clean, posture, breathing, body awareness, the turkish get up, the importance of full range mobility and strength, and lots of laughs along the way. R has another sport that she manages to fit in to her busy Tokyo lifestyle, and the immediate benefits of kb training were apparent pretty readily to her. This is an anywhere sport- you dont need a lot of room to train, and if you do a little research, you can find alternative exercises to just about everything.
Two hours, a lot of sweat and a few mosquito bites later, we make our way out of Yoyogi park, smiling and just feeling damn good.
The young Japanese near us, having watched the crazy gaijin couple hurling these weights about, continue to chain smoke as we leave….