In recent history...
In June I started Aikido. I met a friend at Leafcup, my work, who had been doing Aikido for a year. He explained it a bit more to me, and I found it interesting. I went to a couple of beginner's lessons, and learnt quite a bit.
When I came to Japan, I had thought to myself that it would be cool to do some martial arts, but I hadn't thought too thoroughly about it. Meeting Andy, however, was an interesting turn of events. He had joined a very difficult course, called the Senshusei course (Senshusei meaning 'Specialists'). This course was designed by Shioda Gozo, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, to train the Tokyo Riot Police. It started in 1957 and was known for its difficulty, despite assuming no former knowledge of Aikido.
The course was opened to International Participants around 1991. It starts April 1st of each year, and finishes March 1, of the next year. The Senshusei course is run at the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. This is the main Headquarters for all Yoshinkan Aikido, and is the base for the leader of the style, and many different masters. The course itself is taught by many Senseis, all Masters in Aikido.
Unfortunately, however, I started the course in July, as a special entrant. Many international students had dropped out of the course, for many reasons, and since I had been so interested in Aikido and training so hard, Kancho offered me the chance to join. This was a very special offer, and I accepted, but there was a catch... because I was starting 4 months after most participants, I had to attend extra training, to catch up to the rest of the participants.
Accordingly, every week I am at the dojo for 12 hours on Tuesday and Thursday, 14 hours on Wednesday and Friday, and 8 hours on Saturday. In comparison, normal Senshusei students spend 5 hours at the dojo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 hours on Wednesdays and Fridays, and 5 hours on Saturday.
Also, a lot of this time is training, and if not training, it is spent cleaning. For example, on a Wednesday, I arrive at 6:30 and clean. I start training at 7-8, then 8:30-9:30, then 10-11:30, then 12:30-2, then 3-4, then 6:30-8:30. I must be in Seiza 5 minutes before each class, even though I cannot sit this way, and after each class we must sweep.
Needless to say, I don't have much time to work with this schedule, but fortunately my cousin, Blair, is so generous and doesn't charge me rent. I also take my dinner for lunch for the next day, as after each day, all I am really interested in doing is sleeping, and food for the next day is so important, since the days are so exhausting.
However, I am learning a lot of Aikido, and even though it is exceedingly difficult sometimes, I do enjoy it. I also study Aikido from DVDs in my spare time, so that I can perform techniques perfectly.