Greetings From Southern California

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.


Jon Light and Melissa Waters


Interview by Nancy Beckerman

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. 

Ed Sordellini -Sai kata

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!

Martial Artists get Better with Age

Everyone in this picture has overcome a serious injury and has undergone major surgery (knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, and on).  Just short of a miracle that each has found a way to come back and is working out with as much vigor and passion as ever.  Well done.  You inspire!

One of the keys to athletic longevity is understanding one’s body and compensating to accentuate your strengths and to accommodate your weaknesses. Everyone in this picture can still kumite ( i.e. spar) with the 20 year olds. They each have the poise and wisdom to hold back, to observe, to conserve, and to counter when the opportunity presents itself. Karate is one of the few sports that is truly like a fine wine; karate students get better with age.


  A few months ago, Sensei asked us to come up with a list of the things we enjoy most or want to do more during class. I thought about this for a while and, of course, the first things to come to mind were weapons forms, kumite, bunkai, and all of the other fun things we do from time to time. However, as I thought more about this, I realized that my favorite part of any class is at the end when we take a brief moment to quiet our bodies and minds to focus. That brief moment of clarity is something I try to keep with me long after I walk down the stairs and drive home. I feel free from the burdens of life and the plague of stress that can weigh a person down. Mokuso is when we silence our thoughts, or as Bruce Lee would put it, “emptying one’s cup”. 

We all know someone who could use a little more meditation in their life, and each of us are probably in that boat; but, have you ever met someone who has meditated too much? Crazy question, but that’s what jumped into my head one day as I was driving to the dojo. The more I thought about this, the more I realized how I’m always so focused on practicing my katas that I often left out my favorite part of the class. Even when I’m at home and step into a back stance, usually while my three-year-old and one-year-old sons trying to grab onto my legs, I’m more focused on getting the movements and timing right that I forget to relax and focus. 

            The longer I thought about all of this, and the more people I talked to about it, the more I realized that there is something special in mokuso that separates us, as karateka, from the rest of the world. People can go to the gym for a good physical workout, and they’ll probably leave tired and in a better mood. People can take a mixed martial arts class and learn the best grappling or street fighting moves around and be a great fighter. All of those are great things for people to do, but when you are about to step into a job interview, or lead a corporate meeting, or deal with an emotional teenager, or face any of the constant battles in life’s uphill adventure, there is an opportunity to pause, breathe, and focus. When people come to our dojo they not only push their body and learn how to defend themselves, but they also exercise something powerful within themselves that is difficult to achieve anywhere else. This is what separates us from everything else. This is why I enjoy my weapons techniques and katas so much; those katas are a means of helping each of us become the best version of ourselves that we can be. While the corporate office is no place for a roundhouse kick, despite how frustrating the day might be, the same confidence and composure you gain in the dojo can help you succeed outside the dojo. Remember to take time to breathe, even if it is just for a few moments. It might change your day and slowly could change your life. 

            As a closing thought, I would like to invite you to look up a Japanese word: kokoro. A single word having such meaning is something truly beautiful. 


Peter Dey