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.
Our Mother and Father educated us and showed us the difference between good and bad.
We got an education; we got into sports, as a break from studying. We learned family values, so we followed education, job and some social activities. We got married — children came, and we followed the path of our parents, and, to keep active mentally and physically, we chose Karate.
Why? We sought discipline, respect, mental and physical action, so we came to the Takahashi Dojo.
After being in another school (in Greenberg), I moved to Mt Kisco, and I came to see Sensei; it was the best choice I ever made.
We may carry a little chip on our shoulder and Sensei showed me the path of sincerity and respect; I fell into a great group of men and women who share my own desires.
I am happy to have a new family, who have decided to take some time aside from home, work and family, and come to the dojo to use our minds and bodies for our own good.
There are a lot of schools and dojos, but Sensei Takahashi is gentle, smooth, and well organized, with Captains or Senpai always ready to help follow Sensei’s manners and technique.
That is why we must keep our motivation and our souls dedicated to improving ourselves, and pass to others as we pass on to our children. Sensei Takahashi, you have been and you are the best inspiration filling the place of teacher and friend.
Having had the opportunity to be part of the Dojo trip to Japan this September, I would like to share some of my experiences and observations of Japan. This was my first visit to Japan, and due to the great planning and organizational skills of Michael (Heffner), the trip was wonderful, with my wife Michelle and I having a terrific time, thoroughly enjoying both the country and the people who accompanied us – our fears of not being able to figure out how to flush the toilets were greatly exaggerated (all had handles!). One of the trip highlights was being able to train a couple of times at Sensei’s original Dojo; the history seemed to emanate from the Dojo giving substance to Sensei’s various stories regarding his training. Sensei Okano was extremely welcoming and seemed pleased that we had come, although I did think he was trying to give us old folks heart attacks by putting us through the kids warm up routines!!!
We visited three locations in Japan: 1) Tokyo (including Hachioji where the Dojo is) – think NYC without the attitude and noise; 2) Kyoto, the old Capital which is full of incredible temples, parks, and markets – Michelle & I had tea in a traditional Japanese tea garden, we were even fortunate to catch sight of a geiko (the correct term for geisha in Kyoto); and 3) Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, which is known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs (onsen) and scenic National Parks. I believe we used most forms of transit on this trip (plane, bus, train, tram, car/taxi, bicycle, boat, and of course plenty of walking). We even had the opportunity to take one of the famed bullet trains when travelling to Kyoto (there’s even an app to check your travel speed!), and found that in general punctuality seems to be one of the hallmarks of Japan – woe to you if you are even 15 seconds late!!
All three places had their own uniqueness, but they shared in common a mixture of history and modern architecture, a general cleanliness (no street garbage), people being courteous, respectful, polite and extremely helpful – numerous examples of random people going out of their way to assist us in our travels, and in particular memories of a hotel receptionist leaving the hotel and (literally) running down the street to show us a good restaurant will never leave my mind!!
In regard to food, I certainly did not lose any weight on the trip! – but did find it interesting that the Japanese breakfast, lunch and dinner seemed to consist basically of the same food groups (rice, noodles, fish), and the sweets and ice cream were delicious – I did eat horse, but can’t say that my Kibadachi improved….
Walking around the various cities was interesting in many ways, although the major cities were just as, if not more, crowded than NY. The pace and vibe was much calmer, quieter, and you didn’t have to worry whether to look right or left when crossing the road – as no-one jaywalks! Japan is possibly the only place where the concept of autonomous cars could actually work. Japan is definitely a place I would like to re-visit and see more of the country.
All in all, and thanks to our travelling companions, this was a truly unforgettable experience. Until hopefully the next trip in 2022, a big OSS!
Thank you, Katie, for all your hard work on the dojo newsletter! She’s already accepting content for the next one; articles, artwork, and any karate-related ideas are all welcome from our adult and children karateka. Please send any questions or submissions to Katie Brennan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!