Insights gained on Japan trip

Joel Baker is back at Cambridge High School after visiting Japan on a special combined schools trip.

A local teacher has touched down in Cambridge after a whirlwind trip across the Pacific as part of the Japan Sports Forum.

Cambridge High School’s Joel Baker joined a group of ten physical education teachers from around New Zealand on a trip to Japan last month, learning about the culture, traditions and society of Japan, “so that they are better equipped to teach their students about the country,” explained Yasheeka Bertram, leader of the trip and education adviser to the Asia New Zealand Foundation, which funded the trip. “We hope teachers incorporate the insights gained from the Tokyo trip into their lesson plans in relation to upcoming sports events, which will give students a deeper understanding of the sporting culture in Japan.”

Joel Baker in Japan.

With Japan set to host four major sporting events in the next few years – the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and Paralympics, and the 2021 World Masters Games – part of the aim of the trip was to establish connections and friendships ahead of the big events, in addition to helping both cultures better understand and benefit from each other, especially when it comes to sports education.

“We were trying to make connections with universities, schools, rugby clubs, all these types of connections we could, and to increase our knowledge about how the education system works and what’s actually happening over there in a physical education context… with the idea that we’re gaining that knowledge to be able to bring it back to our students,” Joel explained.

A stop in at the Nippon Sport Science University, the Senior High School at Otsuka, University of Tsukuba, and the Toyko Metropolitan Aoyama High School, gave an idea of the stark contrast between New Zealand’s sport education and that of Japan – where at high school, students choose between three main martial arts disciplines under budo – judo, sumo or kendo – gaining much more than just self-defence skills. “They were learning those core values of respect, discipline, self-drive, all those types of qualities. They don’t really view martial arts just as a physical tool to use, they’re very respectful with how they do it,” said Joel.

“People ask me, what was your highlight of the trip, but I don’t have a highlight, it was that good, the thing that I learnt the most was probably about respect, and their traditions and customs.”

If he had to name one, Joel said their visit to Kodokan – the home of Judo – and watching one of only five sumo events in Japan each year, were some of the best experiences.

Now back in Cambridge, as part of the aim of the trip, Joel hopes to incorporate some of what he learned in Japan at Cambridge High School. “One thing I’m very interested in is creating a unit of work around budo… really teaching the traditions behind it and underlining what really grounds that form of marital arts.”

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