In a few days time, Sensei would have turned 86. To say I miss him dearly, is a huge understatement. One of my treasured memories of Sensei was listening to him talk about his time as a Zen practitioner. He would recount the difficulties of the Zen retreats with daily, 6 hour plus sessions of meditation…a feat he readily admitted to being much harder than anything he experienced as a karateka. Some evenings, when it would be just me and him, he would drop gems of Zen knowledge that would shift one’s way of thinking and perception. I’d encourage sensei to share what he shared with me, with the rest of the class, but he always shied away. Not that he was shy. He just knew who had the intelligence and the openness to be receptive.
Sensei’s criteria for keeping students and teaching them, was Shoshin, The beginner’s mind. If you came to learn karate, he would teach. If you had other ideas, he’d chase you out. I’ve pursued the same philosophy, and have enhanced it to include openness beyond just the physical teachings of karate-do. You see, where sensei feared to lose students, I don’t. The beginner’s mind is not limited to what meets the eye in the dojo. Karate-do as most people know it, is only the gateway. There’s an entire universe of awareness and discovery to be had in that little, tucked away, humble dojo…but a mind that’s closed or limited…deaf, dumb, and blind, as they say, will never experience it.
What I encourage my students to do, is to question, and in that process there’s a struggle. A struggle against one’s own arrogance, one’s own comfort, one’s own narcissism, and the lies that one has been fed. It’s not an easy struggle….not with me at the helm. What I present to my students requires not only the determination to reflect and study, but also the courage to engage intelligently, and discuss core truths without cutting and running, or shutting down. Ultimately, if the heart is sincere and the fighting spirit is present, then one has either confirmed their path with thoughtful conviction, or one needs to change course. Either way, regardless, one has to constantly ask or remind themselves respectively….Why am I here? What am I doing? Where am I going? This is the spiritual pursuit of karate-do. It is a long, methodical, thinking man’s journey. True karate requires intelligence, reflection, purity of intent, and a sincere heart.
The students that I have today are few in number, but they are truth seekers in the fullest, most comprehensive terms. They do not settle for the status quo. They keep seeking, and searching, and questioning. They know there is a calling and a return beyond what meets the eye, and their struggle of karate-do is simply the physical manifestation of their inner struggle for truth and peace. And when they get there… these are the fighters one wants by one’s side.