Sensei Masakazu Takahashi began his karate training under Master Tomosaburo Okano in 1961. In 1971, he came to America and began his teaching career. The Takahashi Karate Dojos, located in Old Bethpage and Mount Kisco, New York, were established over 40 years ago and offer traditional martial arts training to all ages. Sensei Takahashi heads the U.S.A Kenkojuku Karate Association and is the highest ranking Kenkojuku Shotokan karate master in the United States. Sensei Takahashi has devoted his life to master this art and pass it on to his students.
It’s funny writing an article before I’m about to make a trip back east—as we will be doing in less than two weeks—knowing it’s going to publish after we’ve seen each other and ostensibly caught up on all the big stuff. Regardless, here are a few numerical milestones since my last dispatch:
3. The age Maya turned on August 23rd. She’s already taken a couple classes with yours truly at the helm and calls me “Senpai Daddy.” We’re demonstrating some serious flexibility and a formidable AAAAAIIIIII!!!,” though she isn’t terribly sold on the idea that she has to share me with others. “MY Daddy!” she warned one student (who, come to think of it, I haven’t seen since…), so I might have to enlist the help of six other samurai.
5. On August 9th, Jenny and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. It took me six years to reach shodan but I’d say we’re ahead of schedule, at least in terms of mastering the basics—if only because I don’t take summers off to go to camp.
40. The age I will turn on September 23rd. Many of you, I anticipate, will have seen me at the dojo (SURPRISE!) two days before my actual birthday, which, incidentally, marks the 33rd anniversary of my first official karate class (my biographers will correctly note that I had a private lesson with Sensei the Thursday before, September 18). And I’d be lying if I wasn’t pondering the fact that Sensei was, let me do the math, 39 years, 2 days on that day. So…
…in gifting me this opportunity to contribute to the dojo newsletter, Nancy has, once again, provided me with the greater gift of an opportunity for reflection, and, in this case, to use this Hallmark birthday to consider the most important lesson I’ve learned from Sensei. After painstakingly considering the obvious—personal responsibility, loyalty, humility, friendship, how to wear a gi like a Hugo BOSS—I’m going with, love the process.
I’ve never heard Sensei use these words, per se, but watch him work. Getting from point A to point B appears a joy. I feel like my experience of Sensei’s karate is no more profound than when he articulates the first movement of ten-no-kata number one. How he sets himself, weight evenly distributed among the major points of each of his two feet—kakato (heel), sokuto (edge of the foot), koshi (ball); how he relaxes his hips and, maintaining the integrity of his back leg, lunges forward with his right, carefully plants his front foot, then, feet set, releases his trunk, and allows his upper body to spiral around climaxing in that neuromuscular contraction we call kime for [I’d bet] an eighth of a second before, just as deliberately, returning to his place of origin.
In that movement, a plain ol’ lunge punch is the essence of what I’ve learned about karate from Sensei. To slow it down, smooth it out, and love the process.
Greetings from Southern California. Melissa and I have now been away from NY and the Dojo for just over a year. Although we miss our Dojo friends and I miss working out with everyone at the Dojo, we are very happy in SoCal thus far. We are near our kids and will be near the grandkids when they start arriving….perhaps as early as next year. Although I have not joined a new Dojo, I have stayed active by regularly running, biking, swimming, lifting, and stretching most days of the week. And yes, occasional sessions of practicing Katas have been thrown in as well.
We have been lucky to have kept in contact with a few of you by email, FaceTime, telephone, and even have seen some Dojo people in person. When we first were moving out to SoCal, Melissa told Sewell we were temporarily going to rent in Temecula and Sewell replied that was where Julaine Benedict (a past Mt. Kisco Dojo Captain) lived. So after we drove across the country and landed in Temecula we contacted Julaine and met her and her husband Ken several times before moving to our current house in Laguna Niguel. In late May we took a road trip visiting seven US National Parks, four MLB baseball parks, and a few museums, with the returning leg bringing us through Tuscon, AZ. This happens to be where Dave Bantel (coincidently the Co-Captain with Julaine) lives, so we visited with Dave and his wife Alexis. Finally, before we moved across the country, we had known that Nancy Beckerman (one of the distinguished newsletter editors) visited a relative in SoCal regularly. As it turns out, her aunt lives in the next town from where we ended up. So recently we got to visit with Nancy on one of her western trips and hope to get together with her in future trips.
So we may not be at the Dojo in NY, but we haven’t lost connections and hope to stay in touch going forward. Finally, we plan to travel to the East Coast in May and certainly will look to visit the Dojo. Until then, perhaps we will see more Dojo members who are traveling out west.
1. How did you find out about our dojo? I knew about Takahashi Dojo because my son Jon was a student here back in 2005 to 2006.
2. Did you ever study martial arts before coming to the Takahashi dojo? I did study a bunch of different styles of martial arts. I hold a black belt in Tang Soo Do. Tang Soo Do is from Korea; it’s different from Tae Kwon Do as Tang Soo Do focuses more on self defense and doesn’t have the fancy high kick that Tae Kwon Do has. I started talking Tang Soo Do when I was about 10 years old.
3. What got you interested in martial arts?
Well, when I was a kid my mom and dad got divorced, I moved up from the Bronx when I was 6 years old and had no friends. I was picked on and bullied something awful; I had no confidence in anything I did. My mom had a friend who was into karate and suggested that I take a class, I did and fell in love with karate, the rest is history.
4. What do you like best about our dojo and studying karate?
I absolutely love that fact that we are a family; as I said, I’ve been in martial arts since I was 10 and this is the first dojo that I feel is like family. Everyone here generally cares about each other and it definitely shows, but that starts from the top with Sensei — you cannot ask for a better man then him. What he brings to the dojo is beyond comparison to anything else that I’ve experienced in my years of martial arts. His friendliness and his leadership are top notch.
5. Do you find that what you learn at the dojo is useful to you in the rest of your life?
Martial arts has given me self-discipline; it has taught me commitment and has given me the confidence that I needed to be the person I am today.
6. Would you recommend the study of karate to others, and what would you suggest to someone who wanted to try karate?
Yes, I talk about our dojo to everyone, I love our dojo and its way of life. I would tell new students to not give up and stick with it, don’t get frustrated, it’s not easy. If it was easy everyone would do it. And I would add: enjoy the ride!