Demanding Attention

“Karate is like boiling water. If you do not heat it constantly, it returns to its tepid state”. I can vouch for this statement of Funakoshi Sensei, not just in karate terms, but on many fronts. Today, I will try to make the case to show how karate ideals can influence, and shape your personal relationships.

Outside of my preteen years, karate has come pretty easy to me. I have always had an athletic side and had a good sense of proprioception along with a spiritual and philosophical depth, that nurtured and advanced my karate interest and abilities, beyond my peers. As I grew older, and particularly when Sensei Johnston passed and I took over the mantle of teaching, I noticed the subtle changes in my personal karate practice. I no longer had the presence of sensei pushing me, nagging me, and irritating me to give more. In hindsight I regret not sufficiently appreciating his efforts. He didn’t have to do it. He certainly had many other priorities, including his battle with cancer, among other things. He could have simply turned his attention to another student. But he didn’t. He gave, and while it was hard on me at the time, I’d like to think I gave back equally. I was present, and while I too had important priorities of my own (being a single father to three very young boys), I found a way to keep connected with sensei, to keep the water boiling. I of course gave 100% in the dojo, but it was also selflessness in the little things…sharing a look, a smile, or finding an article about a topic he was interested in. We’d go out for a meal, or no matter how busy I was, I’d call him in the middle of the day to say hi. I’d take him shopping, or we’d go zipping in his car to and from the doctor’s. At it’s core it was a labor of love, but those who know sensei, know that he was not an easy guy. It required effort. Five years has passed since sensei left to another abode. Losing sensei was difficult for me in a myriad of ways, but what I wish to discuss here is the loss of his boiling water in karate terms. Those with foresight will easily be able to interpret and extrapolate to greater and larger perspectives, i.e. their interpersonal relations.

Without sensei’s “insecure nagging”…without his demanding attention, the first thing that went was my physical fitness. I was able to mask it with the exquisite timing and command of distance sensei had “irritatingly” drilled into me, but soon that sharpness and acuity fell by the wayside too. There would be sporadic, successful comebacks, but with age, injury, and a cancer scare of my own…the outlook was very tepid indeed. A comeback looked unlikely, and soon interest and passion began to wane….

Your relations are the same way as karate. Even if you believe your relationship is divinely inspired and gifted, like I believe my karate was/is, it still demands attention. YOU must demand attention. You must keep the water boiling. It is not insecurity to demand attention. It is passion. It is care. It is the natural quid pro quo whose roots are organically based in love, but requires equal and constant effort, just like proper karate-do. The way you look at your partner, or hold a hand…the way you talk or text…. these require giving, and selflessness. Nothing in life is so consuming that a person cannot express love, gratitude, and appreciation. In the midst of suicide and cancer, fear and confusion, I did it. And my sensei did it too. So there are no excuses. Passion means demanding, and fighting for attention, even if it means arguing about it…..rinse, wash, repeat. I see relations where the connection is lost, the effort to keep the water boiling is taken for granted, even if momentarily. They are like people living separate lives. Project that relationship into the future. What I see is a tepid, dispassionate and sexless relationship where interest and passion waned long before, and successful comebacks are not be. Just as karate-do is in the details and being present to it, so too are your relationships. Demand attention. Give back equally if not more, like I did with sensei. The fruits of that labor of love will give back exponentially, and know that life is too short to live without passion.

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