Sunday, January 04, 2009


No, I didn't sneeze (but thanks for the blessing anyway)

Gasshuku, actually written 合宿, is a tradition in most Japanese martial arts, and even extends to other sporting clubs such as tennis. Gasshuku are weekend intensive training camps, usually done once or twice a year on long weekends, where we go off to the country and do a focused training event.

Especially for Japanese Budo, this is a must. In many schools where I trained, gasshuku were twice a year (summer and winter) and a time of great camaraderie and friendship, hard training, and good food. Some aikido and karate schools like to do these in the hottest and coldest weeks of the year for spiritual purposes as well.

Gasshuku were times when we students and teachers could really bond together. These intensive camps were also great training times where we could cover huge amounts of material in detail in an immersion setting, which really helped many of us to increase our skills. They were also events that our overseas brothers and sisters came home for. For Japanese, gasshuku have a certain nostalgia.

A typical aikido gasshuku, for example, went a bit like this:

Arrive late Friday night (usually a place 4-5 hours from Tokyo)

Training starts 6 am with a 5 km run
First class at 7 am for 2 hours
Second Class from 10 am - 12 pm
two-hour break (including lunchtime)
Third class from 2pm - 4 pm
ONSEN (natural hot springs) from 4pm - 6pm (one of my favorite parts)
Meditation/lecture from 6pm - 7pm
Dinnertime from 7pm onward (usually followed by very heavy sake/beer drinking as part of Japanese martial tradition!)

Usually a half-day session including 5 km run (tough after drinking until 3 am), and two more classes. Then we went home by car, bus, or train.

These Gasshuku remain some of my fondest memories of training in Japan. Here in Singapore, we can have access to some outstanding places such as Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, etc. where we could have some awesome and memorable Gasshuku.

Let me know your favorite Gasshuku stories!


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