Thursday, June 18, 2009


True story, Word of Honor:

Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.

I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel 'Catch-22' has earned in its entire history?"

And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."

And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"

And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."

Not bad! Rest in peace!"

-Kurt Vonnegut
(from Bob Sutton, the author of "The No Asshole Rule")

The gym scene in Japan, overall, is terrible. Especially in rural settings, finding a gym with free weights is difficult. Even when you do, olympic barbells and squat racks are almost non-existent. Often gyms will require initiation fees; it's rare to find gyms with a reasonable daily fee.

Once again, I find myself in the land of the rising sun, trying to stay in shape. Space is a precious commodity here. Even in rural areas, you'd be hard pressed to come across unused floor space or ground.

Years ago now, I bought a 28kg kettlebell and I do the bulk of my training with it while I'm in Japan. My "gym" is right here (between the Nissan and the Toyota):

The view from my training space is, thankfully, not a neighbor's front window, but a small park:

I often do pull-ups off the slide in the park, and I can use the Jump Stretch bands I brought with me for a variety of exercises and mobility drills. Most of my workouts include jerks and snatches, pull-ups, push-ups, bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, or walking swings. I've done the following complex a few times now, and I find that it leaves me feeling good and limber:

1 one-arm kb clean to 1 kb jerk to 1 overhead squat (right)
1 one-arm kb clean to 1 kb jerk to 1 overhead squat (left)
2 one-arm kb cleans to 2 kb jerks to 2 overhead squats (right)
2 one-arm kb cleans to 2 kb jerks to 2 overhead squats (left)
3 one-arm kb cleans to 3 kb jerks to 3 overhead squats (right)
3 one-arm kb cleans to 3 kb jerks to 3 overhead squats (left) etc...

You don't put the bell down at all - any rest is going to be done in the rack and overhead positions. The record (for now) is finishing 5 reps w. a 28kg bell (that's all I have right now). Ten is probably a good goal. This complex is a variation of the clean and squat combo that Dan John introduced in the thread Kbell Dbl Clean to Dbl Front Squat.

I am forced to do, with less. But I find that it is "enough". More than enough actually. And with less distraction from the myriad of options I have at home, I find it easier to notice the small and simple pleasures surrounding my "gym"...


Peter D said...

Explaining the total lack of O-weights and cost of training in Japan to people in the US was always hard. Too often they'd chalk it up as an excuse, but it was just hard to find good gear. I ended up doing lots of improvised lifts there...dragging a homemade sled, towel pullups on I-beams, pushups, "box jumps" on low walls...

Still, I'm jealous...I miss Japan. I'm definitely going back for a visit this year!

Boris said...

I used to go on "quests" to find gyms with squat racks. It was tough going, but I met some really interesting people and went to a few suburbs and places I woudn't have otherwise. A few places let me train for free (definitely one of the few advantages of being a 'gaijin' in Japan is the occasional "star treatment" you get). Met some world class lifters and interesting people. On one quest, I was stopped and interviewed by a manzai group w. cameraman - I don't know if it was televised or not, but they weren't very popular.
Fun - if you have time and $.

Anonymous said...

What are you doing over in J-Town Sensei?

Anonymous said...
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Boris said...

Hi Tom,
I'm in Japan, visiting the in-laws and giving a workshop with another RKC next Sunday. I'll be writing about it soon.

Peter D said...

Heh, getting interviewed at random is another gaijin perk. Or just getting filmed. I'd show up at school or the gym and have people say "I saw you on TV yesterday, you went to the (whatever) matsuri..." They'd just see me walking around in the background.

I lucked out in Japan, though, my MMA gym in my town had a power cage! Not much else, but really, that's enough.

Boris said...

Gaijin stick out like Waldo. I don't mind being Waldo, but it does get old after a while.