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Busy, modern-day Britain is full of families
struggling to find time for each other.
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?
This is the first thing I've ever done with my dad.
I love my dad loads.
He's everything you want in a kid.
Or will the gruelling challenges force them further apart?
-You have to communicate.
-You're always going on about it!
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 is going to be very upset if we don't get through.
..and improve their relationships?
This is going to be tough.
These four kids all want to change
something about one of their parents.
Mikey and Phoebe.
My dad plays keyboard in a band so he plays late at night,
so I don't get to see him that often.
My dad needs to get a little bit more fit.
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 anymore.
The families will be taught karate by Masters Kuramoto sensei
and Brent sensei.
Once they're good enough,
they'll be students of Grandmaster Higaonna -
a legendary black belt
and one of the best karate Masters in the world.
It's the Grandmaster's job to kick the families into shape,
by setting them daily challenges which test their new skills
-and their relationships.
-We need to get a better plan.
-We are awful communicators.
Their aim is to pass the first grade - the yellow belt -
which normally takes three months of training.
Our families have just three weeks.
If me and my dad get a belt, it will mean the world,
because we'll both go to the karate championships together.
-Teamwork, son, teamwork, eh?
Last time, the families arrived in Japan.
-Are you saying my waist looks big?
And their first challenge brought out their competitive natures.
Beat you, Dad!
Day two, and the families are up at the crack of dawn.
There's no time to spare. After a quick noodle breakfast,
they're off for their second ever karate lesson.
Today they're learning how to block.
There are three types of blocks in karate.
Jodan - upper,
chudan - middle,
and gedan - lower.
KURAMOTO SHOUTS OUT
Why do you shout out "hai"?
KURAMOTO SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
It's the energy coming out.
But this is no laughing matter.
The block is just one of 20 moves
the families need to get to grips with - in just over two weeks,
they will be expected to perform this very routine,
called a kata.
The kata consists of all the basic karate moves,
and the families will have to perfect it
in order to get their yellow belts.
Back in the dojo, the lesson continues.
Blocking requires precision and timing, but,
compared with the kids, the adults have neither.
-They pick it up.
-They're not thinking too much.
-Their eye and hand coordination is better than ours I think.
-One thing we're OK, put two things together...
Excuses are all very well,
but they won't help them in today's challenge.
Later, the families will be using the block to fend off...this.
So why is blocking so important in karate?
Let this sensei demonstrate.
Blocking is fending off an attacker,
so the stronger your forearms, the harder you can block.
Warning - do NOT try this at home.
Watch again in slow motion.
His wrist hits the wooden baseball bat with more power
than a baseball pitched at 100 miles an hour.
As our families are beginning to discover,
Japan is a funny old place.
It's about twice as hot,
the bedrooms are very different...
We sleep on the floor?!
It's really strange that people sleep on the floor
and they don't have beds.
..the food is weird...
I don't like it. It's horrible.
..toilets are confusing...
Then if I press that... Nothing is working for me!
..and the customs are puzzling.
It's kind of hard grasping their tradition -
always taking off your shoes and bowing every time.
To understand karate, the families must understand Japanese culture.
That's what they'll do today,
starting with an ancient tea ceremony.
Just like karate,
the ceremony requires great discipline and respect.
It takes these women 15 years to perfect the serving technique.
Not long then(!)
You must sit properly,
and obey the complicated rules.
If you get them wrong, it's a huge insult.
First of all, the families must eat this sweet.
But it's made of bean paste.
Jedd's managed to hide his.
This isn't a good start.
And if they thought the sweet was challenging, just wait for the tea.
It's made from a green powder called matcha,
which sort of tastes like pureed vegetables
with a really bitter aftertaste. Yum(!)
Can our karate kids stomach it?
The kids have done all right.
Let's hope the adults don't bodge it up.
They might get out of here without insulting anyone.
JOE SNORTS WITH LAUGHTER
I spoke too soon.
Trust big kid Joe to let the group down.
The senseis don't look happy.
That's just embarrassing.
The worst thing you can do in Japan
is disrespect your hosts and their traditions,
and Joe has done just that.
HE LAUGHS It's just...so serious.
When I get in a serious situation... This happens a lot.
Phoebe was embarrassed by her dad.
He just starts to go...
HE LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY
-You're so annoying!
How can that tea take them 15 years to make? It was disgusting!
Oh, dear. The senseis have a lot of work to do.
The next time I come to Japan, I'm not bringing him. Never.
So after the disaster of the green tea ceremony,
the families are being sent on surprise trips to help them
get over their differences and throw them into Japanese culture.
I haven't a clue what I'm going to do here.
-I ain't got a clue.
-There's no-one here.
-What's this about?
-Wow! What do you think it is?
Mikey and his dad Mark have been sent
to do some traditional taiko drumming
and spend some quality time together.
DRUMMERS CALL OUT
Finally, Mark gets to share his passion for music with Mikey.
-Better than your drumming.
My dad plays keyboard and he is in a band,
so he plays nights and I don't get to see him that often.
The last time I spent some time with Mikey, just me and Mikey,
was seven years ago. I think it'd be great to spend more time with Mikey
and get to chat, get much closer
and get to know more about each other.
But so far in Japan, Mikey's felt let down by his dad's attitude.
I think he needs to double his effort.
I think he's not trying 100%.
I'd always try and do my best.
There's not much point not doing your best, really.
Like karate, taiko drumming requires stamina and timing.
You must hold the sticks correctly, stand in the proper stance,
and hit the drum with precision...
Again and again and again.
-It's harder than you think, isn't it?
-I've got loads of aches in my arms.
They are taught a traditional chant to go with their drumming.
But doing two things at once is proving difficult for musician Mark.
MAN SHOUTS OUT IN JAPANESE
Uh-oh. The drumming sensei does not seem impressed with Mark's rhythm,
despite all the time he spends at band practice.
MARK CHANTS SLOWLY
-Er... It's trickier than you think, isn't it?
I thought you were going to be very good at it.
-But you look like a clown.
-I look like a clown?!
-You look like...
-I've usually got a fine sense of rhythm.
Shocking, Mikey. It's an outrage.
-Hi, welcome, welcome.
Phoebe, a keen manga artist, can't believe her luck
as they arrive as the world's biggest manga museum.
Please come this way.
-Oh, no. Not manga again.
It's her dream come true. And my nightmare.
I'm obsessed with manga.
I like it because you can invent your own characters
and make them, like, really, really wacky.
I'm Joe. I'm Phoebe's dad,
and I'm also a football fanatic.
He is like one big kid.
It would be great if my dad came back more like an adult.
But so far in Japan, Joe is still acting like a big kid
and it's starting to annoy Phoebe.
I really wanted to have this experience
and I wanted it to be perfect.
And for him to kind of just ruin it kind of upset me a bit.
But surely even her dad can't ruin Phoebe's first ever chance
to meet a professional manga artist, can he?
I drew this and it was supposed to be English
-so I drew a girl having a cup of tea...
..and some cakes.
The teacup is too big.
Like karate, manga takes practice and attention to every detail.
The manga artist is keen to see what Phoebe and her dad can do.
I'll give him, like, the face of me as a baby...
before I looked like a Teletubby.
-Yeah. THEY CHUCKLE
BOTH: # Teletubbies
# Teletubbies... #
I'll make that into a scarf.
This is the first time I've ever seen you draw something.
You kind of draw it like you're a little kid.
-Now, the knees are very important in football.
I would do it like this - have a little knobbly bit there.
-My dad is embarrassing me again...
..cos he talks a lot through the whole thing.
The legs... My legs are a bit too thin.
As you can see, he's doing it now.
Luckily, Phoebe's drawing is more impressive.
It's very good.
So what do you think of mine?
Can you see where Phoebe gets her inspiration from?
It is... Hmm...not good.
I guess I'll have to live with that.
Phoebe's karate is like that, my karate is like this.
'It was really amazing, because I got to actually be there,'
like, in Japan in the manga museum and it's just so overwhelming,
I just got so excited, it was unbelievable.
For the first time, I wasn't hurrying towards the exit,
so yeah, it was a great experience.
Jedd and Paul are at a kendo lesson,
and they have no idea what to expect.
-What are they wearing?
-I don't know. Some sort of protection.
THEY SHOUT OUT
THEY SHOUT OUT REPEATEDLY
Kendo means "way of the sword"
and is based on ancient samurai fighting.
What's going on?
Like most martial arts,
its purpose is to better the human mind and body -
a purpose that is lost on Jedd.
They're just hitting each other on the head with bamboo.
JEDD AND PAUL CLAP
Ballet dancer Jedd and his dad await their turn.
It's absolutely crazy.
Chloe and Sandra have arrived at their secret location.
-What's the word for "hello"?
The girls are at an okiya -
a traditional house that trains maiko girls.
A famous symbol of Japan,
maiko are traditionally 15 to 20-year-old girls,
now only found in Kyoto.
They learn the proper way to serve tea, play Japanese instruments,
and perform the traditional fan dance.
Chloe and Sandra are here for a makeover.
-It looks really good.
-I don't trust your "good"!
Chloe and her mum have very different ideas about style.
I chose to take my mum because Mum is really dowdy and boring.
I definitely don't get my style from my mum.
She hasn't got a sense of style.
-My mum is dull.
-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.
But it was a bad start for Chloe and Sandra in Japan
when they were expected to make a wish together.
Sandra knew what she hoped to get out of the experience...
Closeness... I can't see you, babe.
Are you all right?
But Chloe had different ideas
and wished for her own fame and fortune.
Huh. And fortune.
Maybe having this girly day together will bring them closer
as they start to relax.
Some strange socks!
Sandra's relaxed so much, let's hope she doesn't have an accident!
Chloe couldn't put her booties on and then...
SANDRA LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY
Leave me alone!
Back at their kendo lesson,
Jedd and Paul nervously wait to find out what injuries they might get.
-Did it look like it hurt?
-Yeah, it looked like it really hurt.
-It doesn't, though.
-No. You're gonna have a go at it now,
and you'll see what it's like. OK?
Do you do any other sports at all?
-I do dancing.
That's perfect, because in kendo footwork is what it's all about.
My name is Jedd...
and I'm a dancer.
One, two, three, four!
And a plie.
I wouldn't class ballet as a sport,
and I don't it's that exerting, not like football or boxing.
My dad doesn't think you have to be sporty to do dancing,
but I'll prove him wrong.
During karate training, Paul is starting to realise
there's more to ballet than he thought.
I'm picking up what it is all about,
seeing how it's benefiting him with his karate and the moves.
What he knows and what he's putting together has helped me too.
Now dressed for the occasion,
Paul and Jedd are taught the basics of the art of kendo
using traditional bamboo swords.
You've got to learn how to strike to take it to the next level.
Lift it up.
BOTH SHOUT OUT
Kendo should improve their power, timing and focus,
which will help their karate.
Look into each other's eyes
-JEDD CALLS OUT
PAUL CALLS OUT
-Did that hurt?
-It doesn't hurt!
-No, it didn't hurt.
-It doesn't hurt.
-What do you reckon?
-Scary, isn't it?
-No holding back now, though.
No, not now, cos I'm going to beat you.
-It is scary.
Back at the okiya, the maiko mother has transformed the girls
into the perfect Japanese ladies.
Look at the bow!
It's so pretty.
Thank you very much. Arigato.
They look the part, but now for the ultimate test
as they meet a real-life maiko
who'll teach dancer Chloe and her mum a traditional fan dance.
JAPANESE MUSIC PLAYS
Every movement is precise
and has been handed down through generations, just like in karate.
Unlike her street dancing, Chloe isn't taking it seriously,
and even the maiko mother and her apprentice
can't keep a straight face.
You are laughing!
The girls may not be the perfect maikos,
but the day has been a success for their relationship.
It was like a change,
cos, normally, I don't really see a lot of Mum.
It was nice to spend time with Mum,
even though she took the mick when I couldn't put my socks on.
We could spend more girly time together,
-cos we've quite enjoyed it.
-I liked it, enjoyed it.
Don't do that eyebrow thing.
Armed with foam training swords, ballet dancer Jedd takes on his dad.
Points are scored by making a clean hit to the head, arm,
or chest of your opponent. The first to get two points is the winner.
MAN CALLS OUT IN JAPANESE
OK, so that's one point each.
So the next point that gets scored...is the winner.
It's not a bat, it's not a bat. Ooh, he blocked it!
Oh, he blocked it. Oh, he blocked it.
Not only has Paul won, he's also learnt a lot about his son.
-He's got fantastic reflexes and absolutely wonderful footwork.
The hardest thing to learn in kendo is the footwork. One more day.
Can you stay one more day?
-Do they do this in England?
-You sure can.
I want to do this.
But I beat you yesterday!
It's one of the first sports me and my dad have done together.
I thought it was really good. Really, really...
And to be honest, we were on about the same level.
I really enjoyed hitting my dad with these foam things.
That was really good.
JEDD SHOUTS OUT
See? I won. Just got the last point.
Having spent the day apart working on their relationships,
it's challenge time.
For their second ever competitive challenge,
they will be tested on the blocking skills they learnt this morning.
To win, they'll need speed, agility...
and an understanding of Japanese.
It's time for today's challenge - the Bamboo Spear.
You will be blindfolded...
and attacked with a bamboo spear.
They must block when they hear Kuramoto sensei
shout the Japanese words for upper...
If you are struck three times, you are out.
Do you understand?
You're going to get me on this one.
Jedd and his dad Paul are first. Jedd won the last challenge,
so he must be pretty confident.
-Are you ready?
I'm going to beat you today again like I did yesterday.
-We've just done our kendo and I slaughtered you.
In the competition, I beat you. It's one-all.
Paul is the first to be hit with a low blow.
Oooh, then Jedd gets one in the face.
Paul takes another hit.
Then one in the gentleman's department.
Jedd, you are the winner.
Step forward and receive your fighting spirit headband.
Whoo, well done, Jedd!
Yes, I got another one!
We know the moves and how to do them...
As soon as you get up there... Oh, I must have looked terrible.
Next it's Sandra and Chloe.
'Mum was quite good with the blocking today in karate.'
I was! I'm quite shocked that you said that.
-Are you ready?
But Sandra fails to block the first attack.
and the second...
and the third.
Chloe wipes the floor.
She's won her first fighting spirit headband.
'I'm proud of Mum.'
-She knows the moves...
..but didn't understand what he was saying.
Now it's Mikey and his dad Mark.
-I've got an advantage.
-No, you haven't.
I've got a psychological advantage.
I'm definitely going to win this challenge, no question.
They've both been hit in the middle.
-And down below.
-But Mark blocked the high shot.
And Mikey gets it right in the noggin.
-Mark, you are the winner.
Mikey is not happy.
I thought I was going to win, so...
I think I'm in the doghouse well and truly now with Mikey.
I feel terrible.
I wasn't expecting to win that at all.
Joe is pretty fired up about beating his 12-year-old daughter Phoebe.
IN JAPANESE ACCENT: I want to go Manchester!
-Scared now, ain't ya?
-Cos I can talk the lingo.
-No, I'm quite scared that you're crazy.
-Are you ready?
Joe gets hit on the first shot.
Then Phoebe takes a hit.
-Then they both get whacked. Who is next?
Joe, you are the winner.
At least Joe didn't do anything embarrassing.
I'm proud of my dad for taking things more seriously.
But he's still a bit childish, as you can see. But...
I'm proud of him.
So with another challenge over,
what is next for our group?
I now think you've learned enough basics to travel with us to Okinawa.
Oh, they must be talking about Okinawa - the home of karate.
Weapons were banned on this island,
so the people developed karate as self-defence,
where the hands became the weapon.
There are more world-renowned dojos in Okinawa
than anywhere in the world, and once there,
the families will train with
the Grandmaster Morio Higaonna sensei.
He is one of the most respected men in the karate world.
He is 10th dan - the highest rank you can ever get.
At 71 years old, he's not your usual granddad.
As the group prepare for the next stage of their journey,
Kuramoto sensei is concerned what his boss, the Grandmaster,
will think of them.
HE SPEAKS IN JAPANESE
-Watching the guys train these past two days,
I have been really worried.
But today we had two hours training,
and now I'm confident they will make it.
Are we looking forward to Okinawa?
Next time on Hai! Karate: Journey To Japan...
the group realise that life on Okinawa has got a whole lot tougher.
No-one messed around.
And that they have some pretty unfriendly neighbours.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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