How to Survive Karate in Both German & Japanese When You Speak Neither

I attended my first karate class this evening.  Yes, I’m that insane that in my first week in a foreign country I start martial arts training.  However, I needed to get back to training as I haven’t done any since the Gay Games back at the beginning of August and I was starting to go a little crazy from lack of exercise.

There were five people in this evening’s beginner class; three brown belts and two beginners (me included) plus the instructor who was a black belt.  The class was run in German, except for a couple of times when I must of looked completely lost and things were explained to me in English.  I did a lot of watching other people and following.

Because it is Karate all the commands and the names of stances/moves are said in Japanese.  Therefore I was doubly confused as the Japanese names meant nothing nor did the German explanations.  However, by the end of the class I was solid on the German words for left (links) and right (recht) and the Japanese counting which sounded a lot like itchy knee. Everything was itchy, move, knee, move over and over again.

Thankfully, thanks to 18 months of doing Kung Fu, I could easily pick things up and follow what was going on.  Some things, however, were different to the way we do them in Kung Fu, so I had a little trouble changing what I was so used to doing to the Karate style.

It totally annoyed me that in sparring they keep their hands down.  My hands are up guarding my face at all times, but apparently if I do this, I can’t see.  Strange I’ve had no trouble seeing before.  No wonder we can get headshots on the karate folks so easily.

I had to laugh when one of the brown belts said rather bluntly, ‘you are going to try to learn German aren’t you, because all sports are taught in German’. I explained that yes, I was starting German classes next week and had only been in the country a week. They were then shocked that I was starting training so soon.

All in all, I really enjoyed it.  It felt so good to do a solid workout and I have some lovely bruises from blocking forming down the length of my left arm.

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6 thoughts on “How to Survive Karate in Both German & Japanese When You Speak Neither

  1. I remember learning basic Japanese when I was in school. All I can remember is: itchy knee san shee gogo lock. I think. Those numbers stuck with me because I found them amusing. ;-)

    Sounds like you’re doing really well! Far better than I did when I landed in Syria. I hid in my hotel room too terrified to go out! And I had started learning the language so I really had no excuse. So well done!

    • If I was in Syria, I might do the same thing. However, Germany is quite similar to Australia in many ways especially in terms of what is socially acceptable etc so it is not as intimidating.

  2. You have some serious courage! I’m impressed!
    It is such a good idea to be in a class like that…make connections and develop good routines that will keep you sane until you learn the language! So proud of you…love hearing your journey!

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