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Busy modern-day Britain is full of families
struggling to find time for each other.
But could sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience
solve their problems?
Four families have travelled to Japan
to immerse themselves in the ancient culture
and learn karate -
a traditional martial art that teaches discipline and respect.
But will the intense training regime bring them closer together?
It's one of the first things I've done with my dad.
I love my dad loads.
He's everything you could want from a kid.
Or will the gruelling challenges force them further apart?
-We've got to communicate.
-I know, but you're always going on.
If she wants to be treated as a grown-up, she has to act like one.
Can this unique experience give them the fighting spirit they need
to earn a place at the World Karate Tournament?
Mikey's going to be very upset if we don't get through.
And improve their relationship?
This is going to be tough.
These four kids want to change something
about one of their parents.
My dad plays keyboard in a band,
so he plays late at nights, so I don't get to see him that often.
My dad needs to get a little bit fitter.
He still hasn't grown up to the fact that he is an adult now.
She needs to loosen up a bit, because I'm not a kid any more.
To help them improve their relationships,
kids and parents are being whisked 6,000 miles away...
But what does this modern, yet traditional country have
that can help them bond?
The answer is karate...
or ka-ra-tay, as they say in Japan.
Karate is a form of self-defence, meaning empty hand,
because it doesn't use any weapons.
It teaches discipline, respect, and most importantly,
it will force the families to work together.
Their teacher will be Grandmaster Higaonna,
a legendary black belt and tenth Dan -
the highest grade you can ever achieve in karate.
He is 71 years old and has trained his body for 55 years.
It's the Grandmaster's job to kick the families into shape
and send them home with more respect for each other.
-We need to get a better plan.
-We are awful communicators.
They'll have just three weeks to gain their first grade -
the yellow belt - an achievement that usually takes three months.
Every day, they'll train hard together...
they'll face tough challenges...
..and, if they work together and get their belts...
Well done, teamwork, son.
..the pairs will find themselves performing in front of thousands
at the World Karate Tournament.
We're desperate to go to the World Championships
-after suffering so much pain.
HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
It's 10am and the families are meeting
at London's Heathrow Airport.
Sandra, Chloe, Phoebe, Mikey,
-Mark, Joe, Paul and Jedd.
They are about to go to the other side of the world for three weeks,
so this is their final chance to say goodbye to their families at home.
Er, this is the last time I'll be able to talk to you.
-And while it's an emotional moment for some of the group...
-Mum, come on, it's your husband!
She doesn't want to talk to you.
She doesn't want to start crying.
..Chloe isn't one for fond farewells.
I can hear him crying!
I'm mean, aren't I?
Maybe three weeks of karate will soften her up.
MUSIC: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" by Beyonce
I would describe myself as
# If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it... #
Sometimes a little bit bossy,
and, em, loud.
I chose to take my mum because
Mum's really dowdy and boring.
My mum is dull.
She needs to chillax a little bit.
I'm going to show Chloe that I'm not always serious,
that I can be fun,
laugh, throw my head back and have a good time.
This is my opportunity to uncover the really exciting side of Mum.
The families are in the air and on their way to Japan.
It still hasn't sunk in yet,
I still don't believe I'm going to Japan yet.
But for Essex boy Jedd,
even the flight could prove a challenge.
Behind Jedd's chair, he's got the oxygen for his lungs.
He may have to have oxygen, but, er,
I don't know how you feel at the moment, boy, how you feeling?
I feel fine. Don't think I...
Don't think I need it yet.
Despite his medical condition, Jedd's desperate to go to Japan
because he's got a point to prove.
My name is Jedd...
13 years old,
and I'm a dancer.
One, two, three, four
and a plie.
I was born with something wrong with my lungs,
but I would like to show everyone that I can do it.
After spending three weeks together,
me and my dad will learn a lot about each other.
When we go on this trip,
it'll be good to get a bonding session with Jedd.
I spend a lot more time with my other two boys.
Me and my older brother Todd
always wind Jedd up about his dancing -
call him a little girl.
I wouldn't class ballet as a sport,
and I don't think it's as exerting as football or boxing.
I think I'll be good at martial arts,
cos I am quite quick and light-footed.
My dad don't think you have to be sporty to do dancing,
but I'll prove him wrong.
After 24 hours of travel, the families have arrived in Kyoto,
the ancient capital of Japan.
The door opens and closes automatically.
Lovely...lovely and sunny.
Going to get a tan, yeah.
This Kyoto weather is all my fault -
I put sunglasses on this morning, that was a big mistake.
This is the traditional Japanese inn, known as a ryokan
where the karate trainees will stay.
I've left him behind!
You shut me in.
Oh, my God, oh, my God!
It may be a modern ryokan, but you live in it the same way
the Japanese have done for hundreds of years.
You eat and sleep in the same room,
which means rolling out a mattress and sleeping on the floor.
We sleep on the floor?
I've had worse. This is quite comfy, I can live with this.
What's this for, breakfast in bed?
I come over like this...
Phoebe's here because she wants her dad to grow up.
Maybe karate will give him the discipline he needs.
..Sorted out this way.
I am Phoebe, I'm 12,
and I'm one of the craziest girls you'll ever meet.
I'm obsessed with manga.
Manga comics are basically Japanese Eastern art.
-I can't wait! Going to Japan, ah!
I'm Joe, I'm Phoebe's dad,
and I'm also a football fanatic.
He is like one big kid.
He's just, like, young at heart.
He still hasn't grown up to the fact
that he is an adult now.
Some discipline would do my dad good.
It would be great if my dad came, um,
back more like an adult.
I think she's going to be laughing at me.
That's what she expects is going to happen,
but we shall see who's laughing at the end of it.
Now the families have worked out the sleeping arrangements,
it's time to try on their karate suits for the first time,
because their masters are waiting to meet them.
Where does that go? Does that go...?
Don't ask me, I'm not the karate master.
This is wicked!
-That just doesn't look right.
It's not the most comfortable of outfits,
cos it's kind of hard everywhere,
but it's cool for what we're doing.
You look absolutely ridiculous.
I...I... That's terrible.
Are you trying to tell me my waist looks big in this?
Is that right?
12-year-old Mikey hardly knows his workaholic dad Mark,
so learning karate with him 24/7 is going to be a shock to the system.
-Look in the mirror.
-Where is it?
Oh, my God! I'm not wearing this.
Loads of people in school pick on me cos I'm small,
but the advantages I have over everyone else are I'm quite fast...
..I've got good reflexes...
..and I love being active.
My dad plays keyboard and he is in a band,
so he plays nights and I don't get to see him that often.
In a week, we probably spend hardly any time together.
The last time I spent some time with Mikey, just me and Mikey,
was seven years ago.
I know what he likes, but I don't really know Mikey as a person.
I think it would be great to spend more time chatting and get closer.
I'm looking forward to spending loads of time with my dad,
and hopefully, I'll get along much better with him.
Four kids and their parents are about to start training
in the ancient art of karate, but it's not just about self-defence.
The kids are here to grow closer to their parents,
and their Grandmaster is confident
that karate will help them do just that.
HE SPEAKS JAPANESE
TRANSLATION: The relationship between parent and child is teamwork.
If you improve your teamwork, the bond will become deeper
and this will lead to affection and happiness.
Here, the families will find out what the next three weeks
have in store for them.
To introduce the families to the world of karate,
the Grandmaster has sent two of his most trusted teachers to Kyoto.
HE SPEAKS JAPANESE
Welcome to Japan, Kyoto city.
This is Kuramoto sensei and I am Brent.
We've been sent here by the Grandmaster, Higaonna sensei,
to instruct you in the ancient art of karate.
You have just under three weeks
before you will partake in a belt grading.
If you are successful,
you will have the privilege to partake
in the World Karate Championships.
Now we're here at Kiyomizu temple,
so you'll have to opportunity to make a wish
before you begin your training.
Think carefully about what to wish for.
I think our teachers, um... look quite strict.
-It's a bit daunting at the moment, isn't it?
-Yeah, a bit scary.
But I reckon if I really want to pass my belts,
I will got to the... the Championships.
The Japanese regularly visit temples to wish for good fortune.
After cleansing your hands and face at the dragon fountain,
you can buy a wooden plaque...
write your wish on it...
..then hang it on the wish tree.
Maybe this is the group's opportunity
to wish that their three weeks in Japan
will bring them closer together.
Encouragingly, the first three families do just that.
Now Sandra's keen that she and Chloe make a similar wish.
Well, we haven't had much time just yet, but...
some real good laughs...
closeness? Can't see you, babe.
But Chloe's got other ideas
and wishes for something a bit more exciting.
With the wishes made, it's time to start their karate training.
HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
All karate is taught in a training room called a dojo.
In Japan, they are respected, like a place of worship.
Now the families are about to enter one for the first time.
Even entering the dojo is a tricky business for the group.
They must remember to take off their shoes,
bow and use a Japanese greeting.
HE SPEAKS JAPANESE
First you must learn how to sit in seiza.
Left leg down, stay on the toes. Right foot under.
And sit on your heels.
If you're going to succeed in karate, you need to endure some pain
and Kuramoto sensei wants to see how long
the families can sit in this position.
HE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
You have to learn to learn to tolerate pain.
The more you can tolerate,
the more you can learn to tolerate in real life -
if someone provokes you, you will be able to not fight back.
The goal of karate is not to fight.
After many painful minutes, they are finally allowed to stand.
Hand on your hips.
The first thing you learn in karate are the stances.
One of the most important is called the sumo stance,
or shiko dachi.
HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
For the perfect shiko dachi, you must stand so that your knees
are in line with your feet.
Your back should be straight,
your hips in a sitting position.
It's a stance that gets more painful the longer you stay in it.
But it's essential for powerful defence, as well as attack.
Ankle and knee should be in a straight line,
like a house.
But it doesn't look like the kids are taking it seriously.
Kuramoto sensei has a lot of work to do.
What the families don't realise yet is that in karate, focus is key.
Karate masters train their minds just as hard as their bodies.
After years of training,
they're mentally strong enough to withstand great physical pain.
Warning! Do not try this at home.
Watch again in slow motion.
This karate expert's arms are so well-conditioned,
they can snap a three-inch-thick piece of wood
moving at 50 miles-an-hour.
Now that's dedication.
HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
In the lesson,
the families seem to have got the hang of the sumo stance.
Now Kuramoto thinks they're ready
to learn their second basic move - punching.
To increase the force of the punch, the wrist is rotated 180 degrees.
If done correctly, it can deliver a very powerful blow.
Repeating the moves over and over again is essential
if you are to perfect the ultimate strike.
The straight punch is one of the most simple
but important moves in karate,
and the families will need to master it
if they're to do well in their first ever challenge.
You can practise anywhere in your free time, not just in the dojo,
while you're watching TV, watch it in shiko dachi,
make your legs strong.
-Where do you train?
-Everywhere. Always karate, karate is life.
Training is finished.
HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
Now the senseis want to see whose focus and fighting spirit
might take them all the way to the World Karate Tournament.
It's kids versus parents in the challenge,
which the senseis have devised
to highlight how competitive the families are
and test the skills they've just learned.
Now it's time for your first challenge.
The Wall of Awareness.
Bring on the wall!
This six-foot wall is all that stands
between the winner and the loser.
It's a face-off between kid and parent,
as they attempt to punch all the pads
through to their opponent's side.
The person who punches the most pads through in one minute is the winner.
Are you ready?
With the challenge set, the fighting talk begins.
HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
-HE SHOUTS IN JAPANESE
I reckon I'm going to beat you.
-Cos I always beat you.
We're not literally fighting each other.
-No, you gotta block it.
-It's not that.
-I think I'm faster...
-..a bit more flexible...
but not as strong.
Jedd and Paul, step forward.
First to face the challenge are ballet dancer Jedd
and his dad Paul, the boxer.
I'm going to prove to you that ballet dancers
can be good at karate as well.
Won't come into play, boy. Me old boxing will come into it.
Twinkle-toes will come round,
and I'll be moving about, bopping and weaving.
Are you ready?
Jedd's going for it.
It's Billy Elliot versus Ricky Hatton
and it looks like Jedd's light footwork is giving him the advantage
over his heavyweight dad.
-He's getting tired, Jedd, really tired!
-Not long to go, Paul!
you are the winner.
Yes! Beat you, Dad!
My brothers give me stick about being a dancer,
and I think I've turned the tables a bit.
Bit fitter than me, so that was the...
that's the reason he beat me on that one.
Jedd is the first winner of a fighting spirit headband.
Fighting spirit is a great honour in Japanese culture.
I'm really glad, really happy.
Gotta let the kids win, that's what it's all about.
The Wall has claimed its first victim - who will be next?
Joe and Phoebe,
Next up, it's big kid Joe and his daughter Phoebe,
who quite fancies her chances.
I think I'm gonna beat him, I'm gonna kick his butt inside out.
Your time starts...
But footballer Joe is fast on his feet
and Phoebe is struggling to compete.
Go on, Phoebe! Keep it up!
It looks like Joe's combination of pace, power and permed hair
will be enough to guarantee victory.
-Phoebe's winning now.
-No, she's not!
Joe, you are the winner.
Yeah! Yeah, take that!
I went hammer and tongs to beat her at the Wall of Awareness.
If we do things individually and have to go against each other,
we will try our hardest. We're really competitive.
Joe's win puts the adults level with the kids - one all.
I feel really, really annoyed for losing, cos...
I don't know, I just really do.
Unhappy that Phoebe's had to lose to me,
but she was winding me up prior to it and I thought,
"I'll teach her a lesson."
Sandra and Chloe,
Competitive street dancer Chloe is not short of confidence.
I'm gonna win. It's against my mum, come on...
enough said, I'm gonna win.
Your time starts now!
Go on, Sandra.
Come on, Chloe!
It's a closely fought battle, but Sandra's karate slaps
are proving surprisingly effective.
Sandra, you are the winner.
-You get your fighting spirit headband.
Sandra's clearly delighted with the win,
but how's it going to go down with Chloe?
I think Mum was just really happy cos she's never ever won anything before
and she won against me - that is an honour!
Sandra's win puts the adults in the lead - two to one.
I am ecstatic, I am so happy. I'm glad I won!
I don't feel bad at all, I feel really good.
Now it's time for the final battle with Mikey and Mark.
THEY CHEER Go, Mikey!
Come on, Mark, we're depending on you!
It's down to Mikey to beat his dad so the kids can draw equal.
I'd like Mikey to win,
but there's a competitive streak, isn't there?
Pint-sized Mikey is finding it hard to punch the pads through the wall.
But Mark shows no mercy as he goes all out to win.
OTHERS CHEER AND SHOUT
Come on, Mikey!
The winner is Mark.
Oh, Mikey, I'm sorry.
Dog-eat-dog at the end of the day, isn't it, Mikey?
-I did feel terrible about that...
-No, you didn't.
That didn't feel like you felt bad, it felt like you don't care.
You showed us fighting spirit and focus.
Here is your fighting spirit headband.
Someone's gotta win, Mikey,
and there's plenty more challenges to go.
It's been tough but, they've survived their first day of karate.
Tomorrow, they'll have to do the same thing all over again.
You all have to train a lot more.
Let's train hard together.
And as the thought of more training sinks in,
the kids reflect on the daunting task that lies ahead.
Brent said that it can take up to nine months to get your yellow belt
and we've only got three weeks.
I find the karate interesting...fun.
I'm going to keep on practising hard in the lessons
so I can achieve my belt.
Oh, my gosh. This is going to be tough.
Whatever happens over the coming weeks, it's not going to be easy.
TRANSLATION: The first step in karate is to enjoy it
and I can see that they did, so they've all done well.
What is certain is that the Grandmaster
has a life-changing experience in store
for the families.
TRANSLATION: If you have the courage
and move step by step, you cannot fail to reach your goal.
Next time on Hai! Karate: Journey To Japan,
the families enjoy some traditional Japanese culture.
You look like a clown!
But for some, trouble is already looming on the horizon.
Next time I come to Japan, I'm not bringing him.
Subtitles by Kirsty McLaren Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]