Have do-gi, will travel: training with a 72 year old karate master

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to be invited to travel to San Fransisco to train with the head of the style of Karate which I practice. Karate is a family affair. My father has been teaching for decades and I hope to continue to train until I am his age. B I immediately booked tickets and spent 4 days training under Hanshi Yamaguchi with my dad. My father has dedicated over 40 years of his life to the style.  Traveling to be stand under the watchful eye of  a 70+ yr old living legend of martial arts can be a bit… stressful. My dad has traveled out there to train dozens of times, and was infinatly more relaxed than I was. While I have trained at the honbu (headquarters) before, it was several years ago and I was the first person to be allowed to train in Japan and then return to the honbu dojo. iIn many years.  Needless to say I was ridiculously nervous. Catching a poisonous snake or wrestling a gator was nothing compared to my nerves for this. Upon arriving it the honbu dojo, I realized that maybe the reason I was so nervous was because I had been hoping to be training in that small, humble room for the last 5 years. The first day I expected to be put through the paces and have a good workout. However, I was surprised when our sensei said we didn’t need to put on our do-gi (the white karate uniform). Instead we had two days of very interesting and insightful private lectures about what martial arts truly are, and how does traditional karate separate itself from other styles. Our sensei is a very strong advocate of non-violence and believes that karate is a way to transcend or rise above violence.  Karate in its truest form is a way to understand what violence is and at some level makes the practitioner abhor it. Because of its development in Okinawa, Karate is different than many other martial arts such as kendo or jujuitsu. The term martial arts is derived from Latin meaning the “arts of Mars”, from the god of war. Karate developed in response to the Japanese occupation and the subsequent ban of weapons. Because no physical weapons could be owned by the populous, Okinawans developed karate as a means of self defense. With no weapons there was little intent of using it for war, but instead the art was developed from day-one for defense.

After the first couple days, I did put my do-gi on. Sweating on the dojo floor while working through the kata (forms) and tuning up my basics made me feel like I had never left. My nervousness evaporated. The last day of training sensei invited me to come back towards the end of June to test for a new rank, a truly humbling offer. After 5 days in San Fransisco (and a lot of me being a nervous wreck), our training came to a close and I traveled back to Miami. A little wiser, a little stronger, and very sore.


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