Posts Tagged ‘Karate in Tigard’

Sensei Ligo

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Karate, Kyokushin Kai
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Here is a news story about Sensei Ligo who wrote the book Mightier Than the Sword: A Kyokushin Karate Coming of Age Story.  I trained with Sensei Ligo in Japan, back in the day.


This book was written by a guy, Nathan Ligo,  who trained at the Kyokushin Kai Kan Honbu Dojo in Tokyo Japan at the same time I was there. He was an uchi deshi, one of Sosai Mas Oyama’s personal students. This is his story in his own words.  I have only read excerpts, but so far I’m impressed.

We went to spar with our good friends, but rivals at Seishinkan this past weekend. My 9 year old, got his ass kicked last time. But this time it was payback! He fought like bull in a China shop. He fought 6 matches and I thought he won them all, although the Ref had a different opinion. He fought so well, I’m testing him for his next belt. He was so proud of himself, he couldn’t stop talking about it.

My older son had similar results. They both fought opponents 2 years older, but fought like champs,  in spite of the outcome, although they won most of their bouts.

Sparring is important, because it is the closest thing to a real world self-defense situation. It allows you to train safely with full equipment, for an attack by a bully or predator.  It gives kids confidence, and should they ever need to defend themselves, they won’t freak out the first time they get hit in the real world, if they have been hit in practice. All the kids fought very well, and all the matches were very close and hard to call (I was a ring judge).  Here are the photos:

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This is the Fight Quest Episode where Doug & Jimmy try out Kyokushin.  Keep a few things in mind as you watch this. 1) Doug & Jimmy’s Japanese pronunciation is horrible, they say just about every Japanese word wrong. 2) They hammed it up pretty good for the camera. For example, we never fought on stone, in fact we never fought outside the dojo. When we did fight, it was always on a hardwood floor with a little spring & give. We only trained outside the dojo on Sundays when the weather was nice; we would jog through town, then run up hills and do some kihon (basics) outside. Other than that, we always trained inside the dojo. 3) Even though Doug & Jimmy are wearing white belts, they are not beginners, they are trained MMA fighters. 4) You will not fight or train this hard until you reach a pretty advanced level. I say this because I don’t want to scare anyone away from trying out Kyokushin. There is a reason they call this “The Strongest Karate.” Watch and you’ll see why.

While researching links & such on Google, I stumbled upon a link to LIGO DOJO of BUDO KARATE. This dojo was started by a guy I trained with while I was in Japan training at the Kyokushin Kaikan Honbu Dojo, the original headquarters of Kyokushin Kai, in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. At the time, the founder and grandmaster Sosai Masutatsu Oyama was still alive and teaching a few classes a week. I knew Sensei Nathan Ligo only as “Raigo-San.”  In Japan you go by last name even if you are foreign.  All I remebered was,  Raigo-San, it was 20 years ago after all.   Raigo-San was an Uchi-Deshi, a House Disciple, a personal student of Mas Oyama.  Raigo-San, was the ripe age of 19. Uchi-Deshi, lived in a dormitory behind the dojo, and they trained I think 3 times a day;  once at  Uchi-Deshi Keiko (House Disciple training),  once in a regular class, and once on their own, weight training or running & such.  They were required to keep a journal of their training. An Uchi-Deshi trained I think about 6 hours a day or so, and they had other duties too, like cleaning the dojo. Advanced students teach, and I remember one of the Uchi-Deshi chauffeuring around Sosai (the Grandmaster).

At that time, no foreigner had completed the 1000 day Uchi-Deshi program.  Raigo-San was the only American to receive a certificate of completion, and to date I think only three foreigners (including Sensei Ligo) have completed the program.  The program was intense, to say the least, and I don’t think I could have lasted a month.  The Uchi-Deshi are restricted from leaving the dojo for the first year. I think there are some exceptions, but mostly you live in a karate dojo for three years with very little break, or rest, or contact with the outside world. You train injured, and you train and train and train.

Although I trained hard while I was in the dojo, I trained only three or four times a week for about an hour and a half.  I lived in my own apartment, ate whatever I wanted and had a Japanese girlfriend at my beck and call.  Actually I lived a pretty good life while I was in Japan.  Although I’ll never reach the skill level of the Uchi-Deschi, I still experienced the epicenter of Kyokushin Kai, and I lived a much more comfortable and enjoyable life.

One day, a Saturday I think, I went to the dojo,  trained and then went to one of the nearby department stores to buy something.  When I went to pay, I was shocked to find that I didn’t have enough money in my wallet.  I realized someone had stolen money out  of my wallet in the dojo.  We had no lockers, so someone  just cleaned me out.  I went back to the dojo to let them know, and it was Raigo-san who translated for me.  It was then that I learned the word “Nusumu, ” to steal.  After that day, we left our wallets at the reception desk, where the receptionist held them for us until after practice.  Undoubtedly this was a change over way things had been done over the previous 30 years.

I have added things to my dojo, specifically Israeli Krav Maga, and CrossFit, so I can appeal to a wider demographic. But when I think back to my time in Japan, and the people I met, like Sensel Ligo, and the special experience I had at the Kyokushin Kaikan Honbu Dojo, I also want to preserve and teach karate the way I learned it, at the source.

I had four new kids sign up for karate this week.  This is awesome.  But teaching kids can be hard. First you have to worry about each child’s commitment. Then you have to worry about each parent’s commitment.  Although a lot of schools just sell belts, we don’t, you have to earn them.  It should take five years of consistent training to earn a black belt in Kyokushin Kai.  Most kids don’t have the patience for this. Worse, most parents don’t have the patience.  A black belt requires a huge commitment both from the student to train hard and consistently  at least twice and hopefully three times a week,  and from the parent to drive the child to and from the dojo and to keep paying tuition, regardless of economic conditions and other demands for household income.  Then there are weapons, sparring gear, and tournaments, which require a time and dollar commitment from the parent.

I always try to show my appreciation to the parent for trusting me and investing in their kid’s enrichment through my school.  Ultimately, when you see the child make a breakthrough, whatever that may be,  learning a new kata or sparring well or any measurable progress,  it is rewarding; not at all like handing in a boring report to your boss.  When opening my dojo,  I worried a lot about teaching kids,  for many reasons,  but boy it sure beats working for a living!

If you live in the area, I encourage your to stop by and check us out. Bring in your kids for a trial lesson, I’d love to meet you & your child.

Someone asked me yesterday if I only do Women’s self-Defense.  I suppose I could understand the question since I am promoting a Free Women’s Self-Defense Seminar on Nov. 5th, and I do talk and blog about the subject as well.  The answer is no, Krav Maga, and Karate for that matter,  are for Men, Women & Children.  A lot of men are naturally attracted to Martial Arts and Krav Maga,  women, not so much.  Often women need to either be attacked, or have a close call before they start thinking about self-defense. I wish it weren’t true, but that’s just the way it is.  I do these seminars to create awareness and to give back to the community.

I read that 80% of rape victims are between the ages of 16 and 24. That being the case, girls need to get prepared early in life, if they want to avoid becoming a victim. What’s a good age? I just signed up a six year old girl for karate, and she obviously doesn’t have the strength and coordination to do a lot of moves effectively. But if I can keep her interested through her teen years, when she will be strong and coordinated, then she will have a great foundation for self-defense.  So I think as young as possible,  including six, is a great time to start.

But the bottom line is, we teach the same things to men & women, but I feel like women need it more and are less interested; maybe it’s a calling…I want to help women learn to defend themselves against the scum of the earth.