Akemashite omedeto (明けましておめでとう) – Happy New Year to all members, friends and family of the Kengokan Karate Dojo.
In Japan, New Years (oshogatsu 正月) is one of the most important celebrations of the year, both in the dojo and in general society.
My memories of New Years for my 2 years in Japan include hearing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (“Ode to Joy”) playing everywhere, the ubiquitous mocha rice cakes and of course the first training of the year – hatsu geiko (初稽古). One of my favourite Japanese New Years experiences was visiting various shrines and temples around Tokyo, experiencing the huge crowds at the Shinto shrines, and listening to the temple bells being rung at Buddhist temples. The temple bells are rung 108 times on New Years Eve, symbolising the need for people to wash away the 108 defilements.
For the Kengokan Dojo, our hatsu geiko will occur today as an informal, outdoors session in King George Park, Rozelle at 4pm. Gi’s are optional for this session – many of us like to wear the zubon (gi pants) and a t-shirt. Being outdoors, its a good chance to practice weapons and also to move on different ground, and with a different atmosphere.
Afterwards we will enjoy a dinner at a Japanese restaurant or noodle bar, to welcome the New Year.
The first official dojo training for the Kengokan Dojo will be on Tuesday 10th Janaury. This will be our kagami biraki (鏡開き) session. Kagami biraki marks the end of the New Years festivities, and the beginning of “getting on with it” for the year.
In most cultures, New Years represents a time of renewal and focus. It is a time to “wash away” the errors of the past, and to focus on what needs to be done going forward. Hatsu geiko and kagami biraki represent that renewal and refocusing in the context of our karate training. Use these sessions to set yourself up for the training that is to come in 2012.
I trust that 2012 will bring you happiness, success and health, and that your karate training at the Kengokan Dojo is an important part of that mix!