One of the things a lot of foreigners who visit Japan want to experience is training in one of Japan’s famous, traditional martial arts clubs. Finding a club to join can be difficult however as there is often a closely knit community which is difficult to break into, then to make things more difficult, a lot of the clubs are only open to admitting new members at certain times of year. The internet, usually a useful source for finding local clubs isn’t always as helpful as you’d find back home, only a few clubs seem to have websites and usually only in Japanese so when you’re new to Japan it can be pretty difficult.
In Kyoto however there is a way to get started in training in a number of different Martial Arts, sometimes even in the famous Kyoto Budo center itself. The Kyoto amateur sports association runs a number of different sports such as Iaido- using a katana, Kyudo- traditional Japanese archery or Aikido. As well as the traditional Japanese martial arts there are programs such as badminton, volleyball and archery.
While living in Kyoto, through the Kyoto Sports Association I’ve been able to train in Iaido and archery. Registering on the website was easy enough with google translate helping and after I’d put in the comments section as I applied that I wasn’t a Japanese speaker both the Iaido and Archery clubs made the effort to send me all the necessary information in English.
The Iaido practice was the first club I went to, for just 4000 yen I was able to go every Monday for 8 weeks and learn the Iaido Kata. I really enjoyed the training and the club members couldn’t have been more accommodating! There was an English copy of the Iaido manual waiting for me on the first day and two of the members who spoke English took turns helping to translate for me. At the end of the 8 weeks we were able to renew for another 8 weeks and keep training.
The archery was a 4-week program and we were able to join the Nishikyogoku archery club at the end of it. All the equipment was provided and they were again incredibly friendly and made us feel welcome and part of the club and it was a great chance to get to know some local people.
Most of the classes start in April but keep an eye on the website for registration opening – Kyoto City Sports Association*Automatic translation