Sensei's Corner

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Training in martial arts is a lifelong journey, with challenges and obstacles of varying degrees. To some, it is like a roller-coaster ride while for others, a long stroll in the park. Many of us fall somewhere in between since no two life paths are the same. Recently, I was asked what keeps me training with enthusiasm even after five decades of involvement. 

The most direct answer is that my training keeps me in touch with my authentic self. It is a daily reminder of who I am, physically, mentally and emotionally, and where I would like to project myself. Like anyone else, I have a mixture of good and bad days, with varying degrees of energy. Overall, I have been gifted with great health throughout my martial arts career, and feel that my skills have been steadily improving over the years.

If there is such a thing as a secret to this, I would say that each one of us has to find that one “thing” that keeps you motivated through the difficult times. Whatever that “thing” is: source of health, camaraderie with others, emotional management, self-defense, or whatever, it is like a seed that gets planted with your real self. Once germinated the seed can sprout and grow, becoming an integral part of who you are.

Then, you no longer need or depend on external motivational source like the next belt color, competition or a new uniform. They become more like spices that add flavor to your journey, not the reason to bring you to the dojo. If training becomes a part of who you are, then it’s only natural that you simply, do. 

I’m reminded from the words of the masters passed down over the centuries that flowery words may inspire you but it’s the roots in the ground that nourishes the plant. Let us keep on training, one punch, one kick at a time. See you in class everyone!

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“Issoku Ittoo” is a famous samurai saying that translates to, “One step, One sword”, which basically means take one step and make the decisive cut. Like any of these old sayings, the real meaning lies much deeper than what’s on the surface.

“One step”, symbolizes the decisive moment to strike down your opponent. To explain, we need to first understand the concept of “maai” or functional distance between you and your opponent. In combat, “maai” is ever changing throughout the battle. Striking distance is attained when both combatants reach a space where either can strike and hit another. The idea is to get just shy of this distance, so that all you had left was one step, or movement, to get into the striking zone.

It is often said that the samurai’s soul is in his katana, his sword, where his entire being is encapsulated; sharp, resilient, and flexible, held quietly inside his scabbard. “One sword”, therefore is a representation of total commitment or an act where nothing is held back. Additionally, it symbolizes a skill that is refined where all superfluous movements are eliminated to just one action, “one sword”.

Combining the two, you can begin to appreciate the wisdom of this saying. This and other concepts in martial arts can be contemplated, but it is in doing that brings life into these ideas. Through mindful training, you will begin to understand at much deeper level what it means to take the decisive step with all your being.

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The Japanese word Kouryukai is appropriate for my message this month as 6 dear Karate friends from Czech Republic are here to train with us. Basically, the word means cultural exchange gathering. When Karate friends come from another country to visit and train with us, they bring their culture and through our time together, we all grow and develop a deep sense of camaraderie. The bond we create enhances the Budo experience, and remind us that this journey is shared by many around the world. 

I want to welcome, Robin, Radek, Petr, Honza, Iveta and Kuba for coming all this way and sharing your Karate with us.

On another note, my friend Radek Janus who was also scheduled to come to Atlanta had to cancel his trip due to the recent Ukrainian crisis. He heads the Czech Traditional Karate Association, and is currently involved in emergency relief efforts to bring children and families of Ukrainian Karate federation to Czech Republic. This involves coordinating transport, food and border crossings mired in red tape and hazards to their personal safety. We wish him well and hope for successful mission.