Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kombat Kulcha V

Life has again reached that torturous point where I must discuss my latest excursion into the world of Japanese fightin' sports, or kakutogi as they are called here. This time I am able to describe to you my dangerous journey into the seedy underbelly of Matsue's fightin' world, the Matsue Amature[sic] Boxing Gym, located just around the corner from me in nishi kawa tsu cho heights. I have been sojourning at this gym because there is no kickboxing gym anywhere in Matsue, and rather than do an hour and a quarter, 1000 yen journey to Yonago, I have decided to at least in the short term bite the bullet and stick to boxing. Which, as I'm sure you're all aware, is likely to be a little boring and not so good on the fitness. But when in Rome ... unfortunately, there are some flaws in this gym and I think I can safely say I was dubious about it from the start.

I think even more than its position on a mountain side overlooking nowhere, more than the fact that it is perched on this mountain side right in front of what can only be a prison, the real giveaway to the fact that this gym was going to be a trifle dodgy was the masking tape across the windows. I don't know if this is to prevent the windows shattering from an Earthquake or from someone punching the bags inside; but it probably is the latter, since this building is so fragile that it rocks everytime someone hits the bag. Once I stepped inside I was assaulted by a bevy of things which my accreditation for kickboxing instruction can assure me are only bad signs about a gym. Where to start?

The gym itself is a building made entirely of sheets of wood no thicker than the windows. These sheets are nailed on to metal joists that support the walls and ceiling, and which are in turn held together by thick metal wires criss-crossing the roof. The floor is made of the same sheets of wood nailed onto some wooden cross-beams, the sheets being so old that they produce splinters regularly; and in one corner I was told not to shadow box looking in the window because the floor was dangerous. I had to shadow box looking in the window because there are no mirrors of any sort in this gym. The scales are straight from the Victorian era, via someone's shed; the ring is a kind of fabrication of the same wooden sheets with several layers of canvas over them. The entire room is the size of two boxing rings, with a half an arm length sticking out all sides; and in this space is fitted a huge set of shelves for equipment, a desk, two armchairs, a 'changing room' which consists of curtains around a raised platform in the most inaccessible section of the room (and is presumably for women, who will never come here for reasons I'll describe shortly); a bicycle; three punching bags; some stretching mats; a fridge; and a space for ones shoes. Within this busy space a group of about 5-8 students have to skip, punch, spar and stretch all at once.

The equipment shelves contain everything one needs for boxing skullduggery, up to and including sparring gear and a space for a hair drier; on another wall is a huge collection of skipping ropes. I have noticed everyone uses the equipment in the shelves, which is held in common (it definitely is shared - I saw a set of gloves belonging to a bloke called Pablo being used by a bloke who is definitely not called Pablo). However, on my first night in this Phantasmagoria of Oriental Style I was told I had to buy my own skipping rope. I am, supposedly, not to be using any ropes from the collection of several hundred which hang in the room, although I am allowed to wear a helmet, wrist wraps, gloves, mits and anything else important from amongst the shared equipment. You can rest assured, gentle pugilist, that I am availing myself of the ropes and bringing my own gloves.

The students are all men, for one simple reason - there is no toilet. The 'toilet' is a squat toilet in an outside room just by the main entrance, in which there is no light, no flush device of any sort, no door, and no toilet paper. This toilet has quite a miasmic smell which makes me think the whole place will be off limits in summer. The only tap in the entire building is an outside hose tap maybe a foot off the ground, right in front of the 'toilet' block. Need to wash your mouthguard out? No worries mate, just scrub it off in the back yard near the toilet. Sure thing, Mr. Sensei sir, but what if I drop it? It cost way too much to allow it to accidentally become a radioactive biohazardous threat to humanity, which is what it will be if it hits the ground within 60 m of that 'toilet'.

Ah, I hear you say, the facilities are poor but what of the students? Universally okay, except for the new star student who seems to be a little bit rude - he told me, for example, on my first night, as I was skipping to warm up, that in this gym we skip for 3 minutes, then do a 30 second sprint, and so on, for 3 rounds with no break. No stretching in the 30 second rest period as I was doing! I pointed out to him that I was not yet warm, and to sprint skip in such a time period was dangerous, by which he seemed very confused. He finally assented to my new madcap training regime, provided I agreed to do the skipping his way after I had warmed up, and not to deviate from the plan in front of the teacher (who had not yet arrived). Sure thing, Mr. Boxing Man, sure thing. Also, the students have the fantastic habit of training in full parachute silk tracksuit pants in order to sweat as much as possible (which causes one to lose weight). This is a good idea if you need to make the weight grade for a fight, but not so productive if you're doing it every time you train. Dehydration is not good, and in any case you just put the weight back on when you go home and drink a few extra litres of water. Which is exactly what happens - we chart our weight before and after training on the little clipboard provided, and one can see from others' charts that their weight does not change from one day to the next, but it is often 1-2 kg lighter from one hour to the next ... one guy lost 2.4 kg in fluids while he was busying himself training! Which it is possible to do if one is wearing light clothes, but he was wearing a full suit.

But finally, the clincher for the Dubious Dudes prize goes to the sparring, which is aggressive and poorly controlled. One kid went a little psycho, and by the end of his first round he had blood coming from mouth and nose. No problem, I hear you say, we all have to toughen up somehow; but he probably doesn't remember what he was doing, so how has he learnt anything? Also, during his psycho period he had another student against the ropes, with his back turned, and was punching him in the back of the head repeatedly while the teacher watched, not bothering to interrupt. I'm not sure that I'd be too happy if it was me with my back turned, and I'd have to remember that I'm not allowed to kick in a boxing match. Afterwards both bleeding man and punched-in-the-back-of-the-head man were sitting in separate parts of the room in states of total despondency - the former due to head pain, the latter due to humiliation. Also, of course, bleeding man had to clean his wounds at - you guessed it- the tap in the dirt by the toilet door. Nice. There was no evidence of any ice, band aids, in fact a first aid kit of any sort. And no comfort or interest on the part of the teacher in either of his two charges. I think this counts as bullying - bleeding man was bullied by someone he was sparring who was punching too hard and was too good for him; bleeding man in turn bullied punched-in-the-back-of-the-head-man (who, incidentally, was obviously not ready to be sparring at this pace yet); and I have no doubt that the teacher bullied the man who emerged from all of this unscathed (the star pupil who told me how to skip, incidentally - had you guessed?)

So, the impetus to start my own club grows daily. I either have to do that or start going to Yonago soon, or I may spend months raising nary a leg in anger (except when I have to cock a leg in that godawful toilet). In the meantime I aim to avoid getting into that ring until i am back in top condition (my condition at the moment is shit) or I shall bear the brunt of the star student's bullying as well. But then, what else can one expect from the Gentleman's Sport?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like an anime setup. The gaijin main character who takes over the the decrepit gym and turns it around, fighting local punks, forming bonds and everlasting friendship... and maybe we'll throw in some kind of giant robot fighting thing or a bevy of beauties because that's just the way things are.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Sir S said...

Then we can have the hentai version where the bevy of beauties have to use the squalid toilet, but there is a secret camera in there and the giant robot is watching from the backroom (wherever that is!) with his bevy of young boy lovers (all of them boxers). Gaijin of course saves the day but only after everyone's skirt falls off, revealing massive overpowering (but strangely shaped) boobaliciousness, which wobbles.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Miss Ember said...

*blinks again*

11:49 PM  
Blogger Sir S said...

Can't handle a few robot tentacles and some scattered underwear? You're in the orient, young Lady, you'll have to adapt!

12:46 AM  

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