Thursday, September 25, 2008

Journey

The music group Journey was one of my favorites as a teen (and I still enjoy their music.) Matter of fact, I just went to their concert about 2 weeks ago and their new singer just blew me out of the water. But that is beside the point. The reason I start with this is that when Journey first came on the scene - or rather when they first starting enjoying major success - they were often asked why they named the band "Journey". Their reply? "Because we all felt like we were from another place - on a journey."

And we are all on a journey. Our journeys begin about the same - we are born. And our destination is the same, too - death. (Okay, I know that opens up a whole new can of worms, but let's leave theology out of it…you know what I mean…you leave this world in a physical sense.)

Since I started this blog, I've mentioned how my martial arts are all about the journey, not "arriving" at a certain belt color / rank. And I stick by that belief.

The various stops and stations in my martial arts journey are the things that make me want to continue on my path. From the first little feelings of , "Hey I enjoy this!" when learning it when Buddy was taking the first class all the way to getting my yellow belt a few months ago, each new thing in between and since excites me even more.

If I had a scrapbook of my journey in martial arts to this point, the first page would include a photo of me watching Buddy learn moves in his first session, and a text bubble over my head, thinking to myself, "If I'm gonna learn this anyway for him, I might as well learn it for myself, too!" A few pages later may include a xanax taped to the page - to symbolize the nerves I had watching Buddy's class, waiting to go to my first adult class as soon as his was over. Afraid everyone would laugh at me. Another page might sport a photo of a teenager staring their first day in a new school. The nerve it took to say hi to people and engage them in conversation to the point that I consider many of these people very good friends now. I might tape a little fake set of car keys to represent the feeling of exhilaration driving on my way home from my first class - knowing I had taken the a crucial first step of my journey. (And I have had that same feeling driving home from almost all the classes since then.) I could go on and on and if you're at least to the point in your journey that I am, you will know exactly what I'm talking about - the first sparring match. The first time you made it all the way through your first kata with no mistakes. The first time using a bo staff. The first time you received a compliment on one of your techniques. The first time you felt your own technique worthy of a compliment. All such small steps, yet such big hurdles!

The reason I'm waxing so nostalgic is that one of the senseis who started our karate school died this past weekend unexpectedly. He was a very high ranking black belt in more than one discipline. Taekwondo, Judo and a few others of which I'm not sure right off the top of my head. He was a police officer for many years, including terms as police chief in multiple cities. He served more than one term as the Executive Director of our state's Police Association. O-Sensei was a World War II veteran and a Korean War veteran. He was our Sensei's sensei. He had a wife he adored (who preceded him in death by about 2 years) and lots of children and grandchildren. He had a very full and honorable life. His martial arts journey has ended, whereas mine has just begun.

Even though I had only met him once, I was asked if I would like to attend his wake with others from our school. Approximately 12 of us attended, carpooling since it was a pretty long trek to his wake. The funeral parlor was packed. Lots of family, friends, many different police officers dressed in various municipalities' uniforms in attendance. I hope it makes a difference to that many people when I go. It was heartwarming to see.

It may sound tacky to say that I enjoyed myself, but despite the circumstances, I did. I felt a connection to our school and those currently involved as well as those who have gone before us. The history of our school surrounded me. I met people I had never met before from a sister school. The people that I see every week and know - I learned things about them I had not known before last night - Our highest ranking sensei who still teaches, started our dojo's location 28 years ago, the two senseis with next highest rankings started with him almost 20 and 21 years ago to the day. I saw one of those senseis mist up a bit when we walked by O-Sensei's casket and she realized that this wake was taking place on what would have been his 83rd birthday. I asked a couple - one a brown belt, one a black belt, which of them had started first and learned they had begun together about 10 years ago or so. A woman getting ready to test for her green belt tomorrow night said she had started when the woman of the couple was pregnant with her second child - so almost 4 years ago. I met one of our black belt's wife, whom I had never had the pleasure of meeting before. And the highlight of the evening - I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of one of the other senseis who had started our school. His personal history was as colorful and honorable as the sensei who had just passed away. He was a bit frail, but formidable. And charming! I introduced myself as a beginner and he introduced himself as having 65 years in martial arts. I could tell he genuinely enjoyed meeting me and seeing the others he already knew. And the feeling was completely mutual. You could just feel how much everyone truly liked one another and respected him.

So, all these people in one place for one reason. People all at different marks on the timeline of their martial arts journeys. From the lowest ranking person who attended (me) to the highest ranking in attendance were all there to honor O-Sensei and his journey - his martial arts journey as well as his total life journey.

Reminder to self - It's not about the destination, but about the journey…

11 comments:

Ikigai said...

Very sorry to hear of his passing!

There's always a little void left when a great instructor passes away. But it is definitely encouraging in that his training and efforts left an impression on many people, and hopefully we can all make that same kind of impression one day.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping you would post about this. It was a great read. Now, just stop and think about how many people he affected in one way shape or form and they DIDn't go (aka - me - Rose) My own sadness lately has been enough.
It is a journey and we have to always remember that all the time. I think that's why I don't and can't procrastinate. I want to do it all and I only have a limited amount of time. Again, good post and thanks for writing.

Martial Arts Mom said...

ikigai & Rose - I agree. I thought even though he is gone, he is still "Lucky" in that so many people were touched by his life in one way or another. Last night, our sensei, 2nd generation to O-Sensei's 1st generation (he was his direct student)gave a little talk at the end of class in regards to living your life with integrity. You know what? I like Sensei even more now than I did before if that is even possible.

BikerMomma said...

So sorry to hear of his passing. Your post was wonderfully written, moving and thought-provoking. I'm sure he would have loved it. :)

Martial Arts Mom said...

Thanks, Biker Momma.

CrimsonPhoenix said...

That was a great post. I think you described his character well and in a very thought-provoking way. I'm sorry to hear about passing, but it's nice to see how many people's lives he has affected through the years and how that knowledge is now being passed down to you through his students. It reminded me of my instructor's instructor who I've only met a few times before, one of the times being this past Tuesday. Thank you for the great post!

Michele said...

You wrote a wonderful tribute to your Sensei and the organization he founded.

I am sorry to hear of his passing.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Yes, I wish I had gotten to know O-Sensei. I had only met him once, at the black belt testing of two of the students. Another student is getting ready to test for her black belt in November and I'm sure had he lived, O-Sensei would have attended.

Julie said...

You never fail to 'wow' me. What a sweet, insightful post about someone who lived to touch other's lives. Sounds as if his journey was successful because he has touched so many. I think maybe his journey hasn't ended actually, because his legacy will live on :)

Martial Arts Mom said...

Thank you all for the compliments. I appreciate it. I agree w/you, Julie - I think he will live on as well through all he did in his lifetime. It's like that story about your life being about the "-" (dash) (You're born - that's the first date, you die- that's the second date, but the dash inbetween - that dash stands for everything you've done in your lifetime, good and bad. So make that dash count!

Blackbeltmama said...

It's neat that you were able to meet your sensei's sensei. Unfortunately, our sensei's sensei passed away before I even started.