Life Changing Opportunity, Speaking Japanese in India.

Wherever I travel, I hate people going out of their way to practice their English with me. Yes, knowing English can open doors however other languages may create life changing opportunities also.

On the contrary, those practising English don’t have bad intentions they’re only trying to better themselves. However, I still find myself becoming frustrated as I don’t want to remain in my comfort zone and be ignorant. How did this mindset begin to occur?

My Trip To Japan

I’ve been training in karate on and off for seventeen years since the age of seven. Martial arts has caught my attention and still does. The variation of styles around the world intrigues me. I also love how it unites people.

In 2015, I embarked on my first life changing solo trip to Japan. As you can probably guess, I chose Japan due to my childhood fascination originating around karate. I had high dreams to train in Japan. Unfortunately, I only visited the main cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Nikko. Not venturing to its birthplace Okinawa, left me with unfulfilled satisfaction.

I may have ticked off an item off the bucket list (visiting Japan) but not ticked my ultimate bucket list item (watching a karate session in Japan).


Two years later I visited another bucket list country of mine, India. I spent the majority of my time travelling around Northern India, in the state of Rajasthan and in the city of Jaipur.

Even though I got scammed, I found Jaipur to be a beautiful city. So rich in history, beauty and culture. I don’t know how this occurred, but one evening I managed to find myself with spare time. I pondered to myself thinking

“What do I do in Jaipur on a Tuesday evening?”

To be honest I had serious temple fatigue, exhaustion from sightseeing and shopping. Then, all of a sudden a random life changing idea sprung into my mind. I consulted with my friends saying:

“Lets watch a local karate class train in India.”

Unlike I, most of them weren’t the avid karate lover. Refusing to just sit in the hotel and play drinking games I commenced my investigation via google search.

So, I actively began googling local karate clubs. I came across several however I did not know the location or time the classes operated. I had to get a friend to speak in hindi to find out information. The proposed clubs I looked for were not training that evening.

Then, I found one club promoting that their class was training that evening. However there was no contact number for that club. What was I to do?

I decided to take the risk and ask my tuk tuk driver to drive me there.

Arriving at the Dojo

After 30 minutes of driving around, with a big language barrier we arrived (thanks to google maps). My driver had spoken to several locals and was certain I was at my chosen destination.

Hesitantly, I stepped out of the tuk-tuk onto the front of the garden of what looked like a house. No signage indicating the karate club I felt at great unease. However, my gut told me to knock on that door.

So, I knocked and waited patiently. After five minutes a girl poked her head over the roof looking down on me. I asked “Karate?” She did not reply, however as she walked away I noticed her white outfit. She was wearing a Gi (karate suit).

I waited for a further five minutes. Just as I was about to leave, the door opened with a man dressed in a polo shirt and jeans behind it.

We exchanged brief conversation, with him introducing himself as Kamlesh the clubs sensei (instructor). Which then lead to me introducing myself saying that my karate club is registered and my registration is under the European Karate Federation.

Instantly he smiled, as he stated that himself and his club was registered under the Indian Karate Federation. A united bond and love of karate had begun between us both. Politely, I then asked if I could watch his students train.

Happily, he gave a nod of his head, smiled and led me into the building. What was about to come, amazed me.

As I entered the building, I entered into a gym with mats and weights. He showed me the workout area and the equipment surrounding it. I don’t know why but being on that first floor of the gym had automatically exceeded my expectations of a local club in India.

Initially, at first, I thought this was the dojo (training area). Then Kamlesh led me up to the stairs and to the middle floor. A couple of namastes were exchanged and I soon discovered that it was his home.

Then, he carried on again and we went to the top floor. Once at the top I walked onto the roof with the Indian sun glistening on my face. I looked around and my breath was taken away by the beautiful skyline of Jaipur. I still recall the orange and purple sky as the sun was about to set.

Meeting The Students

Escaping my envy of the Jaipur skyline I look around and see more students in Gi’s (karate outfits). They all greeted me with Namaste, then carried on stretching and warming up.

Five minutes passed Kamlesh insisted I take the class. Not prepared at all and in shock, I was hesitant. More to the point, I didn’t want to come throwing my weight about acting like a know it all. His knowledge of karate may have been way better than mine.

Plus, I was in flip flops a t-shirt and 3/4 length shorts. I was not appropriately dressed. More to the point, the students when spoken too were only communicating in Hindi.

I thought to myself

“Alex, this is an incredible opportunity it’s not every day this happens.”

After convincing myself, I willingly accepted the challenge. Luckily, the clubs style was Goju Ryu (one of the styles I trained in that I got my black belt). I’ve always trained in Japanese in karate and not English. It’s the universal language of the karate world.

Life Changing Opportunity

I began speaking in Japanese to students requesting them to do several techniques and katas (routines). They all responded back in Japanese and then began training.

I was in awe.

Which then led me to spar (fight) with one of India’s youngest national champions. What I didn’t prepare for, was the rough concrete from the roof. I had been used to polished indoor wooden floorboards or mats in a gym to train on. Not rough concrete surfaces.

I enjoyed the sparring greatly, on top of a roof amongst many others in Jaipur. The concrete surface caused both the soles of my feet to blister so badly I could not walk for two days after. Once I noticed the blisters, I paused my training and told Kamlesh I was leaving.

I took photos and waived goodbye to the club then left back for my hotel. Even though I couldn’t walk, the pain was worth it.

The pain to me was temporary and to this day that memory I created escaping my comfort zone, LASTED FOREVER.

So many people retreat to their comfort zones speaking their own language. That time in Jaipur I experienced a ‘pinch me’ moment. I was communicating in another country where English was not the first point of contact.

Speaking Japanese in India and training with residents of Jaipur was a life changing opportunity for me. If you can, always challenge yourself also and speak a further language other than your own. The nature of language is worth being celebrated.


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