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Kochi Training Develops Personal Habits, Values, Skills

2019 Kochi Training Exchange

By Elsa Lai Yi Ting
Badminton Academy, Secondary 2

Singapore Sports School sent 20 of us from the Badminton and Table Tennis Academies to Kochi, Japan, for a week-long training stint and it has been an unforgettable one for me. After attending this overseas training exchange in Japan from 22 to 28 August 2019, I can safely conclude that Japan’s success is based mainly on their people.

Through my interactions with the Japanese at training, during my homestay and cultural activities, I have noticed several qualities evident in them which I hope to develop in myself. Firstly, the players are extremely disciplined and orderly at training. They’re also considerate and respectful towards others around them. Not only do they portray a positive attitude in the tasks at hand, they would encourage us and cheer us on during our training together. The warm friendship which the Japanese players extended to us forged close ties which we will maintain, with the help of social media. I’m definitely looking forward to welcoming them when they come to sunny Singapore for their exchange programme.

One memorable experience is the thoughtfulness of the host family I stayed with during the homestay. Even though it was difficult for us to converse due to the language barrier, they would try their best to include me in their conversations through gesturing and the use of Google Translate. They showed me that the difficulty in communication is not a problem if only we take the effort to try to understand and communicate with each other. I also noticed that the Japanese always let their guests eat before them. This is an act of respect and shows that they enjoy having us as guests. The hospitality of the host families and officials is something I can learn from whenever we host international players at Sports School.

An Opening Ceremony was organised for us on the evening of 23 August. Once again, we were overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity shown by our hosts as each of us even received a welcome gift after a sumptuous dinner.

This trip was truly an enjoyable one because of all the Japanese I crossed paths with – from the players to the translators, even the bus drivers and hotel cleaners.

Additional reporting on cultural experience by Mark Wong Kai Ji (Badminton, Secondary 1)
The exchange allowed us to be immersed culturally, not only through daily interactions with our badminton and table tennis counterparts, but also experiencing a homestay and learning about Japan’s customs and traditions. On 25 August, the boys visited Kochi Ozu High School to learn Kendo, a Japanese martial art which trains the mind and character. When we entered the hall, we were greeted by shouting and screaming by the Japanese students. We learnt the basic movements and techniques of the traditional martial art, and also the significance of shouting when launching an attack. Exponents shout as a form of aggression to scare their opponents before their attack and when they strike.

Meanwhile the girls learnt calligraphy in Tosa Joshi Junior and Senior High School. Calligraphy offers an important channel for the appreciation of traditional culture and the arts.

We made a stop at Kochi Castle, Japan’s only castle whose structures constituting its main building have been preserved. The castle was originally built in 1611 on the order of Yamauchi Katsutoyo, lord of the Tosa domain, but was burnt down in a massive fire in 1727 before being rebuilt in 1749. The view from the top of the castle is amazing as we appreciated the surrounding scenery.

We also learnt to make paper manually which was a really difficult and time-consuming process. The experience made me treasure paper and made me more aware of the need to conserve it.

Remus Ng (Badminton, Secondary 2)
“We train two sessions a day. Throughout the sessions, the Japanese players showed a high level of discipline in completing their drills and maintained a cheerful attitude which made performing the drills a lot more productive and enjoyable for us. One unique experience was the agility session where a specialist coach taught us more stable positions we could adopt in both badminton and table tennis – something we have never learnt about in Singapore.

“Over the week-long exposure, we had many sparring opportunities during the training sessions with our Japanese counterparts where I learnt to adapt my style of play to counter the different strategies employed by the Japanese. I'm happy to have forged new friendships, as well as build closer ties with the friends I made last year when Sports School hosted a team from Kochi.”

Koh Jia Qi (Table Tennis, Secondary 4)
“My teammates and I were taught some warm up exercises for table tennis which were unfamiliar to us but proved to be very effective in getting our muscles supple and ready for the agility drills that followed. The programme was similar to what we do in Singapore, however training alongside our Japanese counterparts was more mentally challenging than usual to match up to our hosts who were extremely focused and serious. We pushed ourselves to give maximum effort no matter how tired we were.”

Liu Sijia (Table Tennis, Secondary 3)
“I set foot into a Japanese home for the first time on 24 August 2019 during a homestay experience. My friends and I split up for a one-day-one-night stay with our Japanese counterparts during our Kochi training exchange. I had the privilege of visiting Sato Runa and her family. Runa has been playing table tennis for ten years since she was four years old. Her mother, Sato Kazu, is a table tennis coach in Runa's school. She was kind and caring during my stay, treating me like one of her own.

“I enjoyed the family bonding time where we played a round of jenga and watched some table tennis on television. I realised that the Japanese do not spend much time on their digital screens as they value face-to-face communication. Life is definitely more memorable without being glued to our smartphones.”