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Karate and Balance

Does this sound familiar? “I just got back from a major tournament. I won 1st place in Kata. However, I only got 2nd place in Kumite. Therefore, I know that I have to train much more and devote much more time to develop my Kumite, so I that can win 1st place in Kumite next time. Anything other than 1st place means nothing to me; because that means there is still somebody who is better than I am. Although I train every single day, it is not enough. Teaching and training 7 days a week, my whole life is devoted to my Karate-Do. I have no time for a vacation, because there is always another tournament to prepare for and/or another training camp and/or seminar to attend by one of those Masters who I know expects me to be there. And at the camp next year by X Sensei, I have to take my next Dan test. At the banquet after his last camp, he gave me permission to take a higher Dan test when I was sitting next to him. So that is even more training and preparing that I have to do. I try never to miss a camp, seminar or tournament no matter what. It is one of the many ways to improve my Karate-Do. And I always insist that my adult and youth students always compete, just as I do. If they do not compete, they are not real Karate-ka. I tell all my kids in my kids’ class that they must be at the dojo at least 3 days a week, 5 if possible. As in anything, the more the better. Sometimes they tell me that they have a baseball game, band concert or some other event, but I tell them that those things are not nearly as important as their Karate-Do. In fact, I do not like them to participate in other activities besides Karate-Do. Those activities are a distraction to them from their Karate-Do and hinder their progress in Karate-Do. I have told this to all the parents. Some have asked me about it and some have argued with me about it. Whenever either of those things happens, I tell them that I am the one who is the Sensei of my students. Not them. This is MY dojo. If they do not like it, they can go somewhere else and do something else. Nothing is more important than Karate-Do! My wife has been asking me when we can take a vacation together. Just the two of us. And then maybe one with the kids to Disneyland. But there is no time for any of that. Summertime is the time of the YYY National Camp. I must prepare for my Dan exam. And I must compete in that YYY National Tournament. And my students must come with me to the tournament. I told them, ‘this is your vacation!’ My own children asked me to take them to a baseball game next month. ‘Sensei’ (I always insist that my children call me Sensei, as I am not only their father but I also am also their Sensei) my youngest one said, ‘I would love it if we could go see the Birds play the Doves next month. Do you think you could please take us (my other son usually doesn’t ask, as he knows me too well and knows what is most important in my life)?’ I told him that I would like to, but that is the same weekend that I have to go out of the country for yet another seminar by X Sensei. I have trained with him several times and will see him later in the year, but this is a very important event. My sons and daughter just do not understand sometimes. I told my sons that I would take them to the seminar, but it is just too expensive for all of us to go. My daughter, who is my oldest, began Karate when she was only 5! I could immediately tell that she was a natural. She is so flexible. She made Black Belt in only 2 years! Can you believe that?! A 7-year-old Black Belt! She used to compete in all of the tournaments that I would bring her too and she was a gold medalist many times in both Kata and Kumite. However, deep down I am very disappointed in her. When she got to be about 15, she started to want to do other things. Like be on the cheerleading team at her high school and be on the volleyball team. I could not believe it! All the time that I put into her and you would think that she would be grateful! She is not just my daughter, but she is my product of Karate-Do. I have tried to get her to come back to the dojo, but she always says she is too tired and doesn‘t really want to go anymore. I just cannot believe it! I guess she is tired from doing all those other activities. She has a boyfriend who is nice, (but very shy and quiet) and she seems happy with him. But I told her that she should marry a Karate-ka! They make good husbands, will protect her, and that because he is a Karate-ka, that they will have healthy children. And then one day my grandkids can all be Black Belts too! My wife used to train in this wonderful Karate-Do, but she stopped, much to my disappointment. I was training her for her Black Belt test and she said it was just too much. I made her do all of her Kata every day at least 5 times each. Then we would work on Kihon. I know all the requirements for X Sensei’s organizations Dan exam. Then we did Kumite everyday. No gloves. Like old YYY style. I told her that if she could do Kumite with me, she would have no problem on the Dan exam when she would probably face a woman in Kumite. But she quit and said that Karate-Do is not for her. Some people do not live their Karate-Do! She keeps track of the finances and bills. I am too busy to do any of that. Karate-Do is my full-time job. Karate-Do is my life.” And so it goes… Have you ever known someone like this? Or maybe more than one person like this? “Obsessed” is putting it lightly. Never taking time to “smell the roses,” the “Sensei” in this fictional story above is his own fan club, constantly wanting to be the center of attention; whether it be in the tournament ring, on the tournament rostrum, sitting next to his supposed own ’Sensei’ (who he may see once a year, if that) at some belt test or banquet, or even wanting to be the center of attention on the internet. All he thinks about is Karate, Karate, Karate… The idea of taking up something quite different, yet possibly even complimentary to Karate-Do has absolutely no interest for him. Playing the guitar? “Nahh…takes to much time away from training.” Taking some cooking classes? “Why bother? My wife does that and always has dinner ready after training.” Painting just for the fun of it? “Hmm…maybe. But actually no, because paintings could take up too much space on the wall where all those Dan Certificates, medals, trophies and those pictures of me with the Masters go. I have so many of them now that there is no more room for them in my dojo that I built in my backyard, which is where my kids’ swing set used to be.” Forgetting about “The Big Picture,” this person chooses to live in a reality/fantasy all his own. Obsessed with something to the point of missing many of the endless joys and fascinating things in life. Quite like the character that the late, great Jack Klugman played in a

episode of The Twilight Zone, who was so obsessed with becoming a billiards champion, that he virtually lived his entire adult life in the pool hall until he got a chance to challenge the “Master” (and won). The “Master” (played by the late, great Jonathan Winters) could not have cared less that the man won, because he knew that there was more to life (“The Master” had passed away already) than billiards and winning. “Negligent” is also perhaps appropriate. Spend some time with his wife? “Nahh…she quit Karate-Do. We can’t talk about Karate-Do because she is not interested in it anymore. Anytime I bring it up, she asks me, ‘is that ALL you think about?!’ She doesn’t understand me anymore.” Take the kids out to a baseball game or throw the football around with them? “I would like to, but Karate-Do is much more important than any sports such as baseball or football. They know that. But they still want to do other things. Doing other things might interfere with their Karate-Do, so I do not encourage it.” Missing out on the joys of being a parent (which lasts a lifetime, no matter the child’s age) this egomaniac lives only for himself and only for what he wants. Even his children see it, and their relationship with him becomes more and more distant as the children grow older. Later as the children grow older, he wonders why his children never want to come home to visit. He has endless time (and money it seems) for his Karate-Do, but no time for his family. And friends? His only friends are in Karate-Do. He only wants to be around people that he can talk about Karate-Do with. And also so that he can tell them to come to his dojo so that he can teach them. *** Mind you, there is nothing at all wrong with training in Karate-Do. And there is nothing at all wrong with competing in Karate tournaments, if that is what one is interested in. Nor is there anything at all wrong with taking Dan examinations if you are ready to and that you are given permission by your Sensei. Nor is there anything at all wrong with teaching Karate-Do for a living, as long as it is done in an ethical, wholesome and honest manner. Yet, there is a difference between “training to live” and “living to train.” The fictional character above is certainly doing the latter of these two. As for the Dojo Kun, while he may feel that by going to as many Karate events as possible year after year that he is pursuing it as much as possible; while the fact is that he is not. To “seek perfection of character” is a life-long endless quest, which includes having many experiences and being open as a person. The person in this fictional story is closed up completely in his own selfish existence. To “be faithful” is more than simply training regularly. Being faithful to one’s duties as a husband/wife and as a parent are inclusive in this tenet of the Dojo-Kun. To “endeavor” is not, for example, simply doing one’s Kata over and over in hopes of a shiny gold trophy, medal or a rank promotion. To endeavor in pursuing all of the tenets of the Dojo Kun includes balance and not being self-absorbed. To “respect others” is to not simply bow to your Sensei, Sempai, Kohai or anyone at any time in the dojo and say “osu.” Being open and sensitive to others’ feelings, emotions and needs is certainly all part and parcel of this most important tenet. To “refrain from violent behavior” includes not starting trouble, nor acting in a way that could cause trouble. However, when one is constantly having a “win at all costs” attitude, and is pushing others to do something that they are not interested in, and/or pushing them to live and act in a way that they naturally are not inclined to, could certainly be behaving violently in the emotional realm. Behavior is how largely one acts towards others. In the movie The Karate Kid starring the late, great Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi (who not even once asked, nor insisted, that he be called “Sensei”; yet was called that respectfully by his, as of yet, possible future wife when referring him to Daniel as to his whereabouts) told Daniel, “must have balance. Go find balance.” After which he gave Daniel the keys to one of his fancy old cars to take his girlfriend on a date. A lot of Karate-ka could heed that excellent advice and reminder. Or, in the words of Master Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan of the International Shotokan Karate Federation and a direct student of Master Gichin Funakoshi, “Don’t get a big head. If you get a big head you will lose your balance and fall down.” Great words for us all to remember. Postscript - In The Karate Kid, the double for actor Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi, is Master Fumio Demura (Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai International), pictured here to the right of the late, great Pat Morita.

Here is our own Master Takayuki Mikami, (Chief Instructor of Louisiana Karate Association and Chief Instructor of Japan Karate Association/American Federation) pictured here to the right with "Mr. Miyagi" (Master Fumio Demura) in an ad from 1992 for KI International.

Sensei Mikami in karate gi ad with Sensei Demura, aka Mister Miyagi stunt double, circa 1992d

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