So you want to train in Japan?
Here. Let me see if I can help at least a little bit. I arrived in Japan on September 3rd and immediately got acquainted with the grappling/fighting scene in Japan. It was a great experience and I feel very fortunate that I got the chance to have trained with the highly skilled grapplers/fighters that I did. Ill catalogue my experiences as well as give a brief review of each school/ training location.
The school I have to mention first and foremost is PARAESTRA. Ex SHOOTO champion, BJJ Competitor (don`t be surprised if Yuki wins the Mundial in coming years), and Japan VALE TUDO 95 Finalist YUKI NAKAI (famous for being eye gouged to the point of severe eye damage and still fighting to the finals against Rickson Gracie. This man is the definition of heart) runs this school. Nakai san is a very down to earth and good-natured person. Paraestra has a curriculum of Brazilian Jiu jitsu (BJJ), and Shooto. I came in and did BJJ first. Nakai San is a legit top-level black belt is all I can say about training with him. His school also has a very open door policy for students from other schools. One morning there were representatives from practically every top jiu jitsu school in Japan (Purbred, unbeatable BJJ, Gracie Barra, Etc) on the mat. It was nice to train with absolutely no politics. I would come in the afternoon on MON-WED-FRI at 1pm for training. There were usually always at least three good purple belts and a black belt (at the very least). The training consisted of open sparing, five-minute matches. The jiu jitsu training was great and I don`t think you will find a better place to train BJJ in Japan. There was always a black belt on the mat (One day I trained with arguably the two best black belts in Japan in Nakai San and Hiyakoya) and one day there were three. Yuki is a first-rate competitor and teacher. It was an honor to train at his school, and he made me feel welcome immediately. I also came to some of the Paraestra SHOOTO classes. Shooto is basically free fighting style. The instructor is SHOOTO ranked fighter Fujiwara. The classes are based on wrestling takedowns, Kickboxing striking, and Jiu jitsu groundwork. If you`re interested in TOTAL FIGHTING this is the style to train in. I came in and did wrestling drills, wrestling drills with groundwork. I didn`t participate in the striking, but it looked very high quality. The training consisted of 3-minute rounds, but I would usually do two in a row. The classes have a lot of good students and Pro fighters, so the level of training is great. I can`t say enough about this school. There are 10 PARAESTRA academies in the local area, but I trained at the Tokyo (main school) location. Classes are available everyday. The best way to get there is by Subway. The stop is Shin-Egota, off the OEDO LINE. The school is literally 3 storefronts from the A2 subway exit. The phone number is 03-5984-3209. Nakai San speaks English, so ask to speak to him.
SHINJUKU SPORTS CENTER
The second place I recommend isn`t a school at all, but a public sports facility. The name is SHINJUKU SPORTS CENTER, but its not in Shinjuku, its in a place called TAKADANOBABA. This is an open facility that has a pool, weight training, volleyballâ€¦Oh yeah, and a huge mat space where the best grapplers/fighters in Japan train. On any given day top fighters like Genki Sudo, Kikuta, Gono, Kazuda Misaki, Sasake, Mach Sakurai, and countless others will come to train here. There are also every possible other discipline of martial arts training as well. Karate, Tai Kwon Do, Judo, Kickboxing, Aikido, Ninjitsu (they were a fun group to watch!), and any other thing you can think of practice here. The cost is a about $4 (less with the exchange rate) and you can train all day. My first night in Japan my friends dragged my jet-lagged ass to train here. I trained with some of the amateur fighters and then moved on to the pros. The first Pro guy I trained with was named Masakuzu Imanari (Pancrase Pro and Contenders Grappling vet). He has a nickname, which in a rough translation means "10th degree black belt of Leg locks". He was true to his name. After training was over everyone was very friendly and invited me back to train and a few guys gave me there phone numbers to train (how cool is that?). I even went to training on a Sunday, but there was a traditional AIKIDO class happening, and no open mat. The head instructor invited me to try it and I ended up doing four hours of AIKIDO on a Sunday afternoon. It was an enlightening experience. There are always great people to train with at the Sports center, but the real incredible training would happen for me in the afternoon.
GRABAKA - Shinjuku Sports
There is a famous Grappling club from Japan called GRABAKA (translation is crazy grappler). Their membership consists of the very top fighters/grapplers in Japan. They don`t have an open door policy, but I was fortunate to have a friend who arranged for me to train with them. They train at the sports center on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. If you want to train with them you will need an invitation or know someone who knows them (I saw a lot of people show up unannounced and try to train, but they weren`t even acknowledged). Everyone there is a tough train and the skill level is very high. I came on a Thursday afternoon the first time. On the mat was Kikuta (Yeah, that guy who won Abu Dhabi, King of Pancrase, PRIDE vet), Misaki (Ranked 5th in Pancrase), Sasaki (ranked 4th in Pancrase), Satoh (No not that one, the Pancrase fighter), and a whole cast of Pros. I had the pleasure of training with all these guys and I was thoroughly impressed. They invited me back, and I was more than willing to take their invitation. The next day I came Mach Sakurai showed up. He was the first person I trained with and he is so skilled it was saddening for me. Everyone was very friendly and when I go back to Japan this is the place Ill train the most. If you can, get a chance to train with them. I would suggest training at one of the other schools and then enquire about training with GRABAKA. This would be your best bet. For the sports center take the JR line and get off at TAKADANOBABA. It`s about a ten-minute walk from the station. If you get lost just say Shinjuku Sports center and people will understand. Also, if you decide to use the weights there bring an extra pair of shoes. They don`t allow street shoes on the work out floor.
Mach gave me his cell phone number, and invited me out to his school. This was not an invitation I was going to turn down. His school is FAR from Tokyo. It`s about a two-hour train ride and it`s in the sticks. Mach had one of his students pick me up at the subway and drive me the ten minutes to his school. His school was new, and had a lot of weight equipment, a ring, standing bags, and a decent mat space. I trained wrestling takedowns, grappling positions, kickboxing, and boxing with takedowns, and straight grappling. 6th ranked SHOOTO lightweight Tatsuya Kawajiri showed up with some other pro SHOOTO fighters to spar late in the evening. Mach's school trained from 6:30 until 11:00 when I was there! He has a lot of new students, but everyone was good nonetheless. Mach has been one of my favorite fighters for a long time and now I have a higher degree of respect for him. He treated me like a friend and ensured I had everything I needed while I was at his school. If you get a chance take the train and visit Machs school. It`s in a place called SANUKI. You have to take the JR line to UENO and then transfer to a train going to Sanuki. The phone number for the gym is 0297-65-2966. Sakurais English isn`t very good so try to have someone who speaks Japanese call. When you are at the school there are students who can translate.
DAIDO JUKU School
The good thing about Japan is there are so many schools and different styles to train at its ridiculous. A good friend of mine invited me to train at his DAIDO JUKU School. DAIDO is a very hard style of Karate. They incorporate kicks, punches, knees, head butts, throws, elbows, and a little ground fighting. Its basically organized street fighting, and they train very aggressive (They wear the full face guards, pads, and protective wear). I thought it would be a good chance to try a different style so I went to check it out. I spared with this bunch and I`ve never been so impressed with karate. Everyone in the class just straight brawls!! Full contact, grabbing, pushing, everything you could expect from a street altercation. It was pretty intense. They asked me to stay and teach some ground technique, and after the good standup training they gave me, I was more than happy (but tired) to oblige. DAIDO sport rules are similar to Judo in the grappling aspect, throws and 30 seconds on the ground. I taught them some basic techniques and then had to spar every black belt and brown belt on the ground. Did I say I was tired? I came back one other time, and I can say if they had this style of karate here in the states when I was a kid, I would have stayed interested. As always a great bunch of guys. They invited me back anytime I wanted to come. Their main branch is in IKEBUKURO and the phone number is 03-5953-1860. They also have a website at www.daidojuku.com. If you`re into stand up or complete fighting you wont be disappointed.
Kazushi Nishidas KickBoxing
The last place I trained was my friend Kazushi Nishidas old kickboxing gym. Kazushi is the Number one ranked light heavy weight kick boxer in Japan. The school was in another public training facility. We started off by doing drills. 30 jabs, 30 straights, 30 leg kicks, 30 punch combos, 30 kick/punch combos, and a lot more. Then it was 3 rounds for 5minutes of shadow boxing. Then is it was time for sparing. When you cant move anymore, then its time for knee sparing. After the brief break (yeah right) we did pad work at a furious pace. I was drained after this workout, but I was very happy to be doing it. I don`t have any contact info for this place, but I will soon.
Over all Japan had some of the best training I`ve been able to have yet. A lot of great schools, and a lot of great fighters. If you get a chance check it out. There are a number of top schools I didn`t visit, but have great reputations. A few are RJW, KZ Factory, Caesars shoot boxing, Purebred gym, Nova Unio Japan. If you go to these places tell me how it was. If any one thinks I didn`t cover something that they were interested in or just had some questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Bank of Japan-Mitsubishi. This bank gave me the exact amount according to the current exchange rate. Don`t exchange money at the airport. When I first arrived I needed a small amount of yen, so I exchanged at the airport. It was a difference of 10yen per dollar off the exchange rate and a $5 exchange fee. Fuck that!!
Buy subway cards in large increments. The subway system is expensive, and it`s a little time consuming to wait in line every time you need to buy a ticket. You can find cards in denominations of 1000, 3000, or 5000 yen. Don`t travel to early (7-9) or late (11-12) if you can help it. The actual amount of people that use the subway can be unbearable. During rush hour times there are subway employs who`s job consists of packing people into the train by pushing. Get a subway map in English. All of the major stations should have these. Its makes traveling much easier.
Roppongi is the place to go. It starts getting good about midnight and goes on till 5 or 8 am. All of the good clubs are based here, and a lot of people speak English. If you go to any other area prepare for a night of drunken Karaoke. I had to endure this on a few nights and trust me, its true suffering. Roppongi has a lot of good clubs, but my recommendations are GASPANIC, ALIFE, WALL STREET, but check around, other spots looked good as well. If you plan on going to Roppongi I would suggest getting a hotel room in advance. If your staying far from Roppongi a cab can cost a lot. One drunken night I paid $200 for a cab back to where I was staying. A hotel close can cost $100 +, but its well worth it. Be aware there are bars where you pay to drink with beautiful women, and just talk to them!! Fuck these places! Don`t go near them. If you need to pay to talk to beautiful women you have bigger problems.
Picking up chicks
I was training so I really didn`t have a lot time, but I still got out and did my thing. There are a lot of Japanese chicks that like Gajiin (foreigners). Your best beat is Roppongi. These chicks hang out here and try to speak English, and are very much interested in meeting Gajiin. There are also a lot of other nationalities in Roppongi: Russian, Chec, Korean, Aussie, US & more. Easy targets if you`re decent looking. Japanese chicks if your not!! LOL! If you have a little game in your country of origin then you can pull in Japan.
Learn basic Japanese. This was my biggest mistake. The language barrier makes thing difficult. The more Japanese you speak, the easier everything will be especially pulling chicks.
Going To dinner
If your going with Japanese hosts don`t expect to go just for food. Dinner is just as much a social event as it is eating. You might even end up eating at two restaurants one after the other we did this a lot. Be sure to bring your appetite, and drinking ability. The Japanese love to drink beer while eating.
It virtually doesn`t exist. The only problem I had was with a huge American, but it was resolved without incident. Don`t worry about carrying lots of money, wearing a nice watch, or having a nice camera. I wouldn`t do this in many countries, including certain parts of the USA, but in Japan its fine. Their fricken armored car drivers carry batons for Christ sake.
I found it kind of hard to get all the protein I like in the Japanese diet. I would suggest bringing a protein powder with you supplements are expensive in Japan. You can also go to any convenience store for protein jelly. Its how it sounds. It`s just a flavored jelly similar to soft jello that is a protein supplement. Weidler makes the product, and they also make Vitamin, energy Jelly`s as well. Sports drinks I would suggest PACORI SWEAT, KIRIN SUPLI, AMINO SUPLI, and AQUARIAUS. They all have a slight citrus taste, and are similar to Gatorade. I think they taste better though they are less salty and sugary. I didn`t see any good supplement bars, but look around and I`m sure you`ll find them
Can`t help here, I stayed with a friend. Soâ€¦. stay with a friend! LOL
Japan is a great country and I really enjoyed myself. I wish I would have seen more than just Tokyo, but I made training a priority. All the people I met were very nice and genuinely helpful. It`s a clean country that is travel friendly. I`ll be heading back as soon as I can, but I think another trip to Brazil to chill with Scotty might have to come firstâ€¦â€¦.
I didn`t cover something? Have other questions or comments? Think I`m a dipshit? Feel free to Email me at email@example.com
And Remember Work hard, train hard, PARTY HARDER!!