Lake Redding Park, Redding, California
Awesome car show on the banks of the Sacramento River.
Everything about this image reminds me of my mentor, friend, and Sensei, Shihan. It speaks to him.
Shihan (師範) is a Japanese term that is used in many Japanese martial arts as a title for expert or senior instructors. It can be translated as “master instructor”. The use of the term is specific to a school or organization, as is the process of becoming a Shihan.
The first thing he did when I walked on the mat for the my first day was explain the above definition.
The second thing he said was (“No-one is your master. We are all white belts. You are a student, you are a teacher.)
He was thin, guessing he went 120 lbs on the high side and a good day.
He wore his hair long and smoked like a chimney (I hated to go into his office as the smoke rolled out the door in a wave).
He loved radio controlled aircraft. He dressed the part and competed in cowboy shooting events.
He drove a motorcycle and an old truck when it rarely started.
He had a grip much like turning a vice three spins past what you should; he would do it with an impish grin while shaking your hand.
It was years past when I was a 4th degree brown belt when we spared. His speed was amazing. It was an honor.
I like the word “Blessing”. It was a blessing when my girls walked into his office at that point in my life and signed me up for classes
I think HE felt my need but never let me know.
I became physically ill my first work out. “Please do not mess up my mat. Bathroom is that way.” I think I heard him giggle a bit as he was pointing.
He made me strong and made my family stronger by bringing Isshinryu Karate “One Heart Style” also translated “One Heart One Mind” into our lives.
Isshinryu was my personality although at the time I didn’t know it…I grew into it.
Founded in Okinawa by MasterTatsuo Shimabuku It is both a hard and soft style; about choices; it was about control over your opponent. You decided what the outcome will be.
Shihan was all about control and technique. I spent thousands of hours punching and kicking a heavy bag. You want to learn control? It’s a horse-stance throwing punches to a brick wall and learning stop fractions before impact. The lose of concentration had immediate consequences.
I was not a fan of competition and he knew it. There was a time where it seemed I was fighting every weekend in the LA/Inland Empire.
I was comfortable with Kata. Wood weapons; empty hand that was my zone. I loved the technique and not the theatrics. My kiai was barely audible.
He rarely strung more than five words together during a competition. I still remember just a hint of a smile while I was doing fairly well in an International competition in Pasadena. Couple golds for weapons and bronze in kumete.
I didn’t warm up properly and felt my Achilles’ tendon roll up like a window shade. It was a long silent drive home. “You did well. Don’t miss class tomorrow.”
For no contact competition, I felt a lot of contact.
It seemed like anything that could be fractured was fractured. With old age my body reminds me of each strike almost daily.
Kumete was a chess match for me; you’re always looking three moves ahead trying to move your opponents into position.
I certainly favored the look of a bull and not a butterfly.
Because of my age, as an orange belt I fought mostly brown and black belts. You learn fairly quickly. I first started my interest in my twenties but as they say life happens and twenty years passed before it was a full time passion.
God blessed me with fast hands (the branches of the tree in the wind and forgot about the trunk which was more root bound.)
He showed me how to teach. To understand that every student has a gift to build on.
His gift was understanding the broken and abused before they reached the dojo door.
These lessons transferred easily to my job managing photography departments and how to build a team.
When his congestive heart failure started to take his energy, I took over the studio on weekends; I loved teaching, but this was our home and needed to be protected.
I drove him to dialysis when his kidney’s started to fail and cooked his favorite steak that he could hardly eat.
We helped to transform his garage into a studio so he could teach when his health allowed. It didn’t allow for long.
This was his roots, training those who wanted to learn in his westside LA home garage just showed up. Auto parts salesman by day.
It was somewhat fitting this is where it would end.
This is not a sad story. This is a story about passing along gifts. Anne, Ashley, Alayna, Peter, Brian, Hudson, Blake, Addy and Cece at some point have or will be touched by Shihan’s teachings.
Sometimes it takes a lifetime to understand you can make a difference in someone’s life in just a BLINK.