The “Why” Of It

Many people have asked me,

“Why do you do the things you do? You are always giving free self-defense classes and seminars to women. You do free Anti-Bullying Classes. You do free classes at the Boys And Girls Club. You run a business and you could be making a ton of money. You don’t even charge as much as a lot of other people around town for your regular karate classes. Why is it that you don’t take advantage of your opportunities?”

The answer is simple and complicated at the same time
In 1993 my ex-wife was sexually assaulted by a man I worked with and considered a friend. For weeks and months I watched as she went through the fear, anger, nightmares, and countless other terrors. I felt helpless to help her. I did my best to be supportive. That was all I could do as she went from one emotional extreme to the other. My anger began to grow inside of me but there was nothing to do. The stresses of that nightmare finally led to our divorce a little over a year later. That was one of the darkest times in my life and in that darkness a seed was planted within me.

Flash forward to 1996. I had a new wife and a new step-daughter who I considered my own child. I had found peace in my life yet the memories of the past still haunted me. My daughter, and we still joke about this today, fell “up” the basement stairs twice. I clearly remember telling my wife that if she did it again I was going to sign us up for some kind of martial arts class. Sure enough a couple of hours later came the unwelcomed sound of her bumping her way down the basement steps. We were in class two nights later.

I had been involved in the martial arts on and off all of my life. I advanced rather quickly and my daughter, with it being new to her and something she could do with her Dad, kept pace with me.

I found myself practicing with a fever that had not been there in the past. I was being driven by some un-named force to push myself to my physical and mental limits to not only succeed but to exceed. In that I found true peace. I gained the knowledge that with great skills one must have a compassionate heart.

In time I earned my black belt. In time I became a Sensei. Some people thought of me as a true warrior because of my occupation and the very real violence I faced and lived with on a day-to-day basis. I looked at myself as a student who was still learning every day. But I realized something one night while watching the news. Several women had been sexually assaulted in a near-by city. My mind screamed that something should be done about it! I think we all have those moments. I think it’s common in all of us to learn of something horrible and think, “That’s awful and someone should do something”. We say that and wait for the other guy to do something. I was that way until I realized that I had the tools to do something. I had the means and the opportunity to make a difference.

I had done a few women’s self-defense classes with my old Sensei but in reality didn’t know very much about how to put a class together so I began researching. Some of the things I found not only shocked me but angered me as well.

I saw people out there that were blatantly taking advantage of people’s fear. I saw women who had been in abusive relationships and were now “Masters” of women’s self-defense. Giving credit where it is due, they had skills. Yet, they were mass producing and selling the things they had learned to the multitudes of people out there as if their techniques were some cheap item from a thrift store. They came up with cute little names for their courses and it appears their marketing skills became greater than their martial arts skills, if they ever had much more than those learned at a regular self-defense class. To make things worse, they were coming up with organizations where you could pay them a fee and become an instructor yourself. Does anyone see anything at all that resembles a pyramid scheme here?

It disgusted me, it still does, and I was faced with a choice. I could go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and feed off of the fear and pain of others and make money or I could do what I felt was right in my heart and do what I had set out to do and help people. I actually did a few seminars and charged for them. Even then the fee I charged was so minimal it seemed a joke.
Earlier in this blog I had announced a free month-long class for women to learn basic self-defense techniques. This came on the heels of a predator right here in our small town preying on women in their homes. I took everything that I believed in my heart and put it into action. The results were amazing. And the cause I was fighting for earned me the respect of some other instructors who actually volunteered their time and some of their equipment to help me.

In the middle of all of this another door opened. I had made the class open to women who were 14 and above in age. I had at least five young girls who were elementary school age who wanted to participate as well. Being me, I toned down the criteria a bit and allowed them in. And that’s when the issue of bullying hit home to me. I went straight out of the women’s self- defense and founded our town’s Be A STAR chapter.

We are pushing onward with Be A STAR and intend to do more women’s self-defense in the near future. So when people ask me why I do these things the answer is simple in a way. I care more about people than I do people’s money. I took a very negative thing in my life and used it to try to bring about positivity. We do these classes and food drives because there are people out there that need our help because they don’t have the means or tools to help themselves. Isn’t that the true spirit of the martial arts? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t it the job of the warriors of old to protect people or lands or property in the name of their leader? If I remember correctly, the only warriors who fought for money were mercenaries, ninja, who fought for anyone with no conscience or concern for anything but money. I’m a Sensei, at least I certainly try to be. A Sensei is a teacher. I teach. That’s what I am and what I do. I will make my money by hard work and forge my reputation by helping others. That’s my heart. That’s the “why” of it.

  1. December 9, 2011 at 10:47 am

    the gift of giving oneself (~_~) sharing knowledge is not free, one gives of themself and their time, an admirable trait.

    bows humble

  2. Holly
    December 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Sensei, in the truest sense… just had a “near miss” tonight ourselves at the little local grocer there in our “great little town”… it was a miss because we were paying attention in that parking lot – while no one got physically hurt, I know several women and their children in that parking were emotionally traumatized by their even closer encounters… and I know the paying attention is catching! When we go home, having talked about what we might have done differently (young kids in tow), we were walking up to the house from the driveway, and the youngest says, “mom, was that light on when we left?” (it’s a light that’s rarely on)…in this case I knew it had been left on, and felt secure, but how I complimented him for recognizing something was different and paying attention, not just blowing it off! Yeah for little sensei voices! 🙂

  3. December 10, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Yay for the youngest one! And yay that none of you were hurt in your near miss!
    The “Little Sensei Voice” is quickly becoming your personal inner alarm.
    Karate is, and never has been, all about kicking and punching. It is about personal growth.

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