My Adventure ...June 2015
My Adventure with Sensei Takahashi, Shotokan Karate and the Takahashi Dojo
Part 1: My Shotokan story begins in January of 1980. I was in the middle of working towards getting my PhD in Chemistry from University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). I was really enjoying my life, and I had three close friends that I was working out with back then. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 5pm, we ran the hilly perimeter of the UCLA campus (4+ miles). Tuesday and Thursday, at 5pm, was around 1.5 hours in the weight room; building up strength, and or tone.
I graduated in January of 1982, and started a post doc at University of Southern California, but stayed with the Shotokan club. Since I had left UCLA, I was working out in the Santa Monica Dojo all that year. In January of 1983, I moved to University of California, in Irvine, for my second post doc. I joined a Shotokan Karate club there, which was OK, but not the same. In January of 1984, I moved to NY, for my first real job with Union Carbide (now part of Dow).
For the first 8 months of living in NY, I transitioned through several Dojos, but none of them were Shotokan. One Dojo was mainly about sparring (Kumite), which was fun. No gloves, no pads, and quite a bit of contact. I was 30, still strong, and (seemingly) indestructible (under 40). But after a while, somehow the balance of Shotokan was missing (Kihon, Kata, Kumite). Something else was missing as well, but I could not figure it out. So I moved to another Dojo, again not Shotokan, which was OK, but different. After a while I came to the same conclusion, I was still missing the balance, and that something else which was still eluding a description.
So one really hot day in August that year, I was in a bookstore, reading the Shotokan style books, "Best Karate" by Masatoshi Nakayama. At that time, I was a Brown Belt (2 stripes; 2nd Kyu), and so there were quite a few katas that I was managing to forget by not practicing on a regular basis. Back then there was no internet, so there I was in the book store, reading to try and remember. The store owner asked me if I liked Shotokan, and I told him that was my style, but I could not find a Dojo close by to train in. I knew about Masataka Mori's dojo in NYC, but I did not really want a commuting relationship.
So the guy told me about an excellent club in Mt. Kisco, and a fantastic Sensei named Takahashi. I asked "How is that possible?" I had looked in my (new) phone book, and did not see anything (remember no internet back in 1984). The owner had an older phone book, and found the name and number. So the next day, I drove up to Mt. Kisco, and watched a class being taught by Sensei Takahashi. It only took a few minutes for me to realize, this was the real deal; the school I was looking for, the instructor who was obviously amazing, the class that was clearly committed, the balance of Kihon, Kata & Kumite.
After the class was over, Sensei walked off the Dojo floor and headed to his desk. I stepped in the way, introduced myself, and proclaimed "I would like to try your class". He looked at me, and replied, "You don't try my class, you take my class", and sat down in his chair to take care of what he needed to take care of… I was just standing there, wondering, "What just happened?"
Part 2: That week I thought about it, and realized what had happened. It was all about commitment; don't just try it; you commit, or you don't commit. For me, that was just perfect. That is my nature… I either do something, or I don't do something. It is the best way to do a good job, and to avoid . efforts.
So on August 18, 1984 (just turned 31), I took my first class with Sensei Takahashi. This August 18th will be my 31st anniversary of training in the Takahashi Dojo. Only seems like "yesterday" that I joined, but 31 years later, I am still here. This July I turn 61, which means I have been training with Sensei Takahashi for more than half my life… something that I enjoy thinking about… Sojin is the only other person I have known longer during my adventure in NY.
It would take more pages than what is included in the Dojo Newsletter to explain to you what I have learned, what I have experienced, what I have gained from training with Sensei Takahashi. There are so many dimensions of learning, above and beyond the three pillars of Kihon, Kata & Kumite. Granted, I try my best, try to come to class two times per week (all that my body can handle), and I manage
to somehow hang on to whatever skills I have developed over the last 3 decades of training. But beyond the Karate skills, there is so much more. There is a way to live your life…
Let's take just one example, the Dojo Kun. We don't talk about it a lot, but it is there posted on the same wall with Sensei Funakoshi, Sensei Okano, and Sensei Okano's son. The Shotokan Karate dojo kun serves as a set of five guiding principles, intended to frame the practice within an ethical context.
- Seek perfection of character
- Be faithful
- Endeavor to excel
- Respect others
- Refrain from violent behavior
From my point of view, this is just one example of our complete training by Sensei Takahashi. The Dojo Kun is there for us to see every day, but not something that is harped on; it is just there for our benefit. It is a set of choices for how you can train, or on the other hand, how you can live your life; or both. For me, these five guidelines helped to complete what I was looking for in my Shotokan training. They are helpful in terms of how I developed my career, how I try to take care of myself, how I try to treat my family, and my friends. What I have also learned is that these guidelines are like any kata; something that will never be perfected, but something to strive for.
This is just one amazing example of our experience with Sensei Takahashi. A bit of a long story, only to end with something as clear and simple as the Dojo Kun. But in addition to all the wonderful training I have experience with Sensei Takahashi on Kihon, Kata and Kumite; this Dojo Kun has helped me with my overall adventure in Shotokan Karate, and the Takahashi Dojo. Hope you might find this helpful in your adventure as well… Keep Training…Back