Dear Sensei

Tomorrow marks the sixth year of your passing. I have had a lot of people come and go in my life. With most, the missing subsides after a few a months. With you and a select few others of my family, the void has remained, and the irony is, I take solace in that void which reminds me, almost daily of your presence.

The dojo is doing well by our metrics. Both of us never cared for the commercial side, and therefore we were unclouded in our assessment of who truly wished for shoshin. Me more so than you. I know you had to endure students…pick up check as you would jokingly say…fortunately, I was in a more favorable (or stubborn) position. I know one of your big concerns prior to leaving, was that people would take advantage of my soft side. You’d often say politely, to “be disengaged”…and then again towards the end you said it directly…”Don’t take shit from anyone”. I’m happy to report that in spite of all, I didn’t take shit from anyone, and you’d be very proud of the stances I took.

What kept you and I, as different as we were, so connected, was our serendipitous connection to the internal truth of karate-do, a truth that between us was individually and inherently different… yet the mere fact that it was tapped, is what set us apart from others, and on that lonely journey. It has become my understanding that the dojo you left me, was you telling me that it was now my turn to lead the journey of solitude. It was never about the students and numbers, or keeping the legacy going as I envisioned. Those who didn’t want shoshin, or couldn’t access the internal truth, I let go, sensei. I know you would concur and approve. You would have rather had one good student, than a room full of “pick up checks”. I vividly recall almost 20 years ago, when you went to London for a month long trip, and you handed me the dojo keys to run it in your absence. My only desire at the time was that you would return, without me having lost any of your students. Twenty years later, I find I am chasing away students, much like you did. How our understandings change as we mature and grow! To be fair, I haven’t yet met another student, or high ranking sensei for that matter, with that elusive “internal truth” quality, and perhaps I never will. I have given up on looking for it in others.

Sensei, I know you had asked Mark and Jeff to help and support me when you were gone. I want you to know that while they have come several times, I have never taken a penny from the camps we set up. It was my way of returning the support, and supporting them, and the other students. You know I’d be too protective to allow anyone in that space. You’d be amused to know that sensei Yaguchi has left ISKF. A few years back I did a seminar with Yaguchi sensei, and frankly speaking, I was not impressed at all. That’s been the case with every sensei I’ve met since having you as my sensei. I remember complaining to you about Ohta sensei and Pich sensei, when I was going through my divorce in London. I couldn’t wait to get back to training with you. No sensei has come close to inspiring me me like you do. And you still do. Yesterday I was at the dojo, and working the bag. I had one of those light bulb moments that I would constantly get from you when you’d teach. Words that you spoke to me years ago, came flooding back and I had a new epiphany, a new awareness, a new discovery. Those far and few gems that you’d drop, that would reinvigorate my karate training. I thank you sensei. I want you to know that you are still present with me. I feel your presence to the core. When I walk into your room at the dojo, it still smells of your fragrance. After my workouts, I leave my belt right next to yours, until the next training…and crazy as it sounds, that one time soon after my surgery…I was going through a rough patch, so I came to the dojo as I usually do, to reflect and do kata. I saw you. I saw you sitting in your favorite chair in the corner. You were in your black sweats, and you were observing. It freaked me out at first, and I kept looking over to you. Each time I looked, it was undeniably you. You had your arms folded as you usually did. You were silently encouraging me with your presence to keep going, telling me everything would be okay, and just when my nerves and fears subsided, just like that, you were gone. I want to thank you sensei. You gave me the greatest gift of curiosity and love for karate-do. You taught me the right way…the shoshin way, and I have never stopped learning, feeling, at applying the lessons and mistakes, to my own growth and healing. I want you to know that I am doing well, and that shoshin is alive and well and on the right track. I believe, most humbly, that you would be proud. May you rest in peace, sensei. I miss you. I love you. I can’t wait to see you again. Oss.

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