Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Concluding a Year – 2011
The nights are long and the cold finally arrives, but the solstice has passed and 2012 approaches. It’s a good time for some introspection.
2011 was a pivotal year in my training. First I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes. I had to come to grips with the effects I had been assigning to age were something I could fight. So I regained control of my diet, increased my exercise by walking and used my karate training to rebuild my life. I lost a lot of weight, my karate got stronger to the point I even competed in a tournament. Then the second act found me diagnosed with colon cancer and surgery required. If anything the regulation of my training made things much easier for me because I was healthier. Recovering from the surgery I started walking even more and turned to my tai chi and karate to rebuild myself, stronger than I’ve been for decades. But the third act required a combination of radiation and chemo therapy to the current fourth act of ongoing chemo therapy, all to help my body eliminate any further cancer possibility.
I’m now lighter than I’ve been in 30 years. Age has had an effect on my life, but my continuing training has been of incredible value. I was forced to set aside much of my kobudo training until recently, almost a six month stand down, and now find how much goes too quickly as I return to those disciplines.
On the Isshinryu front my major focus in 2011 has been SunNuSu and Sanchin kata but there are innumerable Isshinryu challenges ahead. Tai Chi and Silat Tjimande drills have become my major method of warming up for practice. I’m using the softer drills to prepare my body for practice. Tai Chi continues to provide depth for my karate studies, but not from similarity of technique, but in the way the entire body is used in technique execution and the relevance to what good karate execution requires.
For a most personal push I’ve used private study of Tomari No Rohai and Aragaki No Sochin. Both forms use a hip shift during striking that I now recognize as a method in Yang study these 34 years, but the transition from the Yang technique to karate striking is not a simple transition. It will be interesting to see what this study yields in future years.
As an instructor of two very small programs the year has been challenging.
For the youth program Mr. Cassidy is well transitioned as the main instructor and works at innovative ways to develop the Boys and Girls Club youth. Such a program has it’s ebbs and flows as students pass through but this year it’s again developed into a most robust group. Being able to step back and watch has been insightful always learning much about how students learn and allowing me to focus on the small details because I’m not running the class. We’ve moved the program to include youth black belts, though not changing the overall content and the true fun begins when you guide someone to taking more serious steps in their training.
The adult program has been a different experience. Keeping to an older standard of small instruction, you learn how your students are affected by the world and it’s economic pressures. Basically they’ve had to make choices requiring intense hours of work to keep their positions and that has had a effect on the time they can train. They remain dedicated students when they have the time, but the underlying lesson for the instructor remains what you can accomplish in your own studies is restricted to what your students can do. Among the causalities my ongoing study in application analysis, I’ve had to learn to set aside what I want to study to always focus on what the students need to study for the time they have. The student needs are far more important than the instructors.
Each student in the end defines how far their studies will go. The instructor is but a guide that continues to point the way but the student defines their path. That is how it should be, they should be developed to make such critical decisions and what their karate will become is among the important ones.
Among the more fascinating studies in 2011 has been my historical research into Nakasone Genwa’s “Karate Do Taikan”, especially as I see how much of it parallels the many subsidiary studies from my friends. Essentially much which was published in 1938 has been part of my students studies for decades. When friends shared with me I was able to pick the unique and worked to include it in my studies, now I see those drills explain a lot about what earlier studies in karate represented. I have plans to work to use Nakanone’s book in our instructor development program. I find I’ve shared so much I forget what I’ve already touched. One of my current projects is to amend an earlier post with some additional material to make a more complete suggested understanding.
During 2011 I was most fortunate to spend some time will all of my primary instructors and other friends. I traveled to West Virginia and spent time with Tom Lewis, reminiscing on Isshinryu and friends. I spent time with Ernest Rothrock, received needed corrections on my tai chi and shared some insight with his students on the application potential of one technique. Tristan Sutrisno dropped by and shared some insight on knife studies clarifying older studies for me. Charles Murray had some old Super8 movies transferred to a dvd and shared many precious moments in his training, my instructors before my time training, a glimpse of the Agena dojo in 1972 when he was training there and some of his chinkuchi training on Okinawa. Later during a visit he shared the oral history of his time in Agena studying chinkuchi under Shimabuku Shinso.
I was also able to attend a few hours of John Kerker’s annual Isshinryu seminar at Mr. Whitley’s dojo in Springfieldm Massachusetts. Every time I see him I’m both graced to learn more of his art and blessed to gain further understanding of his instructor Sherman Harrill. This year was no exception and I had many, “Wow I can’t believe I didn’t see this before,” moments.
There is no way to include everything that made the year special. I spent time with other special friends too, including first meetings. Among the more frivolous things were other journeys. Superman finally took flight, Harry Potter kicked ass, Comic book movies remained fun, Sherlock and Watson danced most beautifully and Atlas Shrugged. It helps to keep the mind young.
Walking has become more than mere exercise, it is time to step away from the day’s events and spend time with oneself.
Now it’s time to start another day, new adventures, new studies, many projects on the burner to bring to market. Where does it go? I have no idea, but I long ago learned each year I’ve doubled everything I learned the previous year and I expect that’s not going to stop for a long time, if I can help it.