Home > Karate, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized > It’s Not The Place, It’s The People

It’s Not The Place, It’s The People


This is a continuation of the speech I made at the Holiday Pot Luck And Awards Ceremony this year. Emotion sort of took over and I didn’t say everything that I meant to.

We all go through tough times in our life. We all have things happen that make us want to throw our arms in the air and just quit. I have always said that when karate wasn’t fun anymore I would give it up. It has always been a special part of my life and for a long time it has defined the real me. A lot of people know me as “the prison guard guy”. People I work with know me in a certain way. People I deal with daily know me as something else. When I walk into the dojo that’s who I am.

A few months ago I had gotten to the point that karate wasn’t “fun” anymore. I was tired of the stress of running a “business”. I went up to the dojo on Sunday as I always do to clean and do paperwork…sometimes I even get a chance to practice. I swept and mopped, cleaned the restroom, and went through the motions of a few kata. I was ready to simply walk away. My mind was telling me that it was time for my black belts to step up to the plate and take over running the dojo.

It was then I started looking around the dojo. On one wall hung a plaque which read,” Arigato Gozaimashita” Thank you for training me. My students had given me the first year we were open. Above that was a hand-made scroll with the kanji for “Journey” also made by students. On another wall framed was a small poster with several clip art karate guys kicking. Under the figures read: The Family That Kicks Together, Sticks Together. Then the Shito-Ryu Mon was pasted under that. There, next to this in its’ own frame was a crudely drawn mon complete with the kanji. It looked like it was done by a four-year-old…because it was. On top of the shelves where students stow their clothes and shoes for class was a cloth ball from Japan and a bamboo plant. All of these things were given to me for the dojo by students. I walked into my office. In its’ predominate place on a shelf was the statue of a Samurai warrior. On that shelf were also books. One of which I have enjoyed very much on Aikido. In my desk drawer there was an old hand-made card which read “Hiiiiiyaaa!! Judy Chop – Ninji Kick”. An old joke which brings me a smile every time I think of it.

All of these things, every single one of them, were gifts from my students. I realized that even though they were given to me they weren’t mine. They belonged to the dojo. They were part of the dojo. They represented the students who were part of the dojo. No, not part, they were the dojo. Even the ones that had left for whatever reason were still there. It was the spirit of the students that made the dojo. It was their presence that determined what the dojo was all about. That presence was represented by all of the things they had given that were now part of the fabric of the dojo…and part of me as well.

I sat at my desk and let my mind reflect on the past year. The demos we had done. The Women’s Self Defense courses we had sponsored. The anti-bullying class and joining the B.A. STAR alliance. The food drive for the Crisis Center. The free classes at the Boys and Girls Club. The seminars we had attended. Opening our doors and hearts to USA Tang Soo Do when they needed our help. I thought of all of the things we had done just in one year and all of the lives we had touched. I thought of all of my students, past and present, and what karate had meant to them in their life.

I got up and felt renewed. I felt fresh. I felt…good. I put my gi on and probably had the best work-out of my life surrounded by my students, my family, in an empty room. Karate was fun again.

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  1. Holly
    December 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

    By the same token, Sensei, you have become part of all of our lives, part of wh we are and who we are becoming, no matter our age! Merry Christmas, and looking forward to another great year of growth!

  2. December 24, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    …O…
    ../ \..
    (~_~)
    happy
    x-mas

  3. December 29, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Great post and very heart warming. I can remember several times in my own journey when I felt like walking away. Like you, I find that reflecting on my trip to date and especially the adversity that I have over-come, the challenges ahead and of course those that I have helped, really help enthuse me.

    I’m only an assistant instructor but hopefully one day I will have my own students and they will bring me such meaningful presents, you’re a lucky man.

  4. December 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Thank you Jamie. I feel very honored to have great students. I don’t take credit for it. I give that to what the martial arts do for those who participate in them.

    If that is what you want, your own school, it will happen. Although there are a lot of adversities you will face you will love it if it’s part of you.

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