Physical Training Nov 2013
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From the Teacher's Corner 32:

copyright © 2013 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved.


People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When someone is in your life for a REASON. . . It is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end, or they may just move or pass away. Sometimes they just walk away or they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered. Now it is time to move on.

Then people come into your life for a SEASON. . . Because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you never knew. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, it is only for a season and then the time with them has also past.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons: These are ones you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. When you figure this one out, it has been a lifetime.

So whether you are a reason, a season or a lifetime, you are a part of my life, so I have passed this knowledge to you. Maybe it will help you with someone you were not sure about, or it will help you understand where someone in your past fit in. I hope that either way that someone will benefit from it, now or later, my friend.

This is one of those strange but interesting, and perhaps enlightening, quotes that one finds floating around on the Internet these days. It showed up on the Facebook page of one of my friends but we don’t know who it comes from. So, whoever owns this beautiful piece of writing, our apologies for not quoting your name since we don’t know who it’s from but rest assured that I assume no ownership of it. And hopefully, you will also realize from our use of it here that it is admired and loved by others.

Anyway, when I read this powerful piece of poetry, I was awestruck. It made quite an impact on me. It made me think back on things that happened in my life. It helped to put some things into better perspective. Even negative things that have happened in my budo career, I see them in a different light now and can accept them better.

All things happen for a reason. I strongly believe this. Some people do not believe in destiny or fate, but I do.

It is also a story about fate or destiny and the hand it plays in our lives.

“I believe in miracles. At the age of 13, I was on holiday in Moscow with my mother. It was the only trip I took in my whole childhood. We stepped off a metro train and were approached by a talent scout who told me that she wanted to sign me to her modelling agency.

That was the start of everything for me. If I hadn’t been a model, I couldn’t have become a movie actress. If I’d stepped off the train a minute later, maybe none of this would have happened. To me, that chance meeting was a miracle, like something from a fairytale.”

Former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko

How did you meet your teacher? This is a question I sometimes ask other martial artists whom I meet. Did you actively seek them out in a methodical way or did it happen by chance?

When I read Olga’s interview in the newspaper, I found myself drawn into her story because it mirrored my story in many ways. Here is an excerpt from an interview I gave:

“My journey into the world of kenjutsu began quite by accident about a month after I had arrived in Japan. It was a warm summer day and I was waiting for my train at Fujisawa Station to go to work. Along comes a gaijin which means in Japanese a foreigner or in this case, a Westerner. Anyway, along comes this big gaijin strolling down the platform and he stops by me. He looks me up and down and asks me quite directly, “You aren’t Japanese, are you?” I was astounded. I am of Chinese descent and was dressed in a business suit so I thought I looked like all the other Japanese businessmen on that platform that day. I said, “No, I’m from Canada.” And from then on, we struck up a long conversation. As it turned out, this gaijin was Pat McCarthy, a fellow Canadian and famous karateka. He asked me later if I would like to see a really old sword art and I said sure, why not. The following Sunday, we arrived at Sugino dojo and as I stepped into the dojo, I was met by a little man with white hair and white beard (Yoshio Sugino Sensei actually). He was very polite and invited me in and showed me a chair. I really didn’t know what to expect but once the practice started, I was in awe. I felt as if I was in another time and place. It was exhilarating and awe-inspiring all at the same time. At times, I feel that it was a bit of destiny for this to have happened. Had I not been standing there on that platform at that precise moment when Pat walked by, I would never have met him and my life would have unfolded in a completely different way.”

In very much the same way as Olga experienced, my meeting with Pat was a random chance encounter. It was not pre-planned in any way. If the timing was off, we would never have crossed paths. Miracle? I guess. Or some might call it destiny, if you believe in that kind of thing.

If we apply it to that piece of poetry, I guess you could say that Pat’s connection to my life was for a REASON. He introduced me to life in Japan, to Japanese kobudo, and of course, to Yoshio Sugino Sensei. From Sugino Sensei (Katori Shinto Ryu), I was to meet Mutoh Sensei (Yagyu Shinkage Ryu), and eventually to Kajitsuka Sensei (Yagyu Shinkage Ryu).

IFNB party

At an IFNB (International Federation of Nippon Budo) bonenkai with Master Yoshio Sugino (second from the left), Master Hisashi Nakamura (in hakama, middle), and Sensei Patrick McCarthy (Tokyo, 1991) *

Pat could have just said some pleasantries to me on the train and went on his separate way. But for some reason, he decided to take an interest in me and invite me to Sugino Sensei’s dojo. I mean, there was nothing extraordinary in my appearance to indicate to him that I could even do martial arts. I was dressed for work and looked pretty much like any young man going to work. I never did find out why he decided to ask me to go with him to the dojo. He didn’t have to. It was probably better for him not to, rather than take a chance on bringing a stranger to such a prestigious dojo and having that stranger make him look bad, being fresh in-country and lacking any knowledge of Japanese customs or social etiquette. But I must say that I am eternally grateful to him for taking that chance. Pat changed my life.

I wanted to share this piece of poetry with you all because it really is a great piece of work. And it is so true.

There are people that come into your life for a reason. We know that. There are also things or events that happen for a reason. I firmly believe that too. Things like: headmaster changes, style changes, groups breaking away, groups forming, ranking issues, changing affiliations, politics within a dojo, politics between dojos/groups, etc…

There are also people that you meet who stay with you for a season, for a part of your life. Maybe they are role models like your sempai, there to teach you some things. In my case, it was Sozen (see interview) who shared an important time with me in my Japan days and who taught me a lot about Katori Shinto Ryu. Or that professor of mine in university who taught me about the power of story (see article). Or influential people you work with or practice with who have some profound experiences to share, like my associate Ms. Matsuhashi (see interview).

So, why did I write this article? Let’s go back to my original question:

How did you meet your teacher? Did you actively seek them out in a methodical way or did it happen by chance?

As a teacher or a sempai, you might want to think about Olga’s story or my story. You might be that special person in someone’s life or possibly will be, to a future student whom you haven’t met yet. You may change their life, profoundly. But you won’t if you don’t take that chance on them. Something to think about.

Even though Pat and I have gone our separate ways, as is natural in life, I have never forgotten him. I have never forgotten his kindness and generosity in helping me out in those early days in Japan. He was the catalyst for everything that has happened in my life since. If I had to choose one event that literally changed my life and the path that I was on, it was that fateful meeting with him on the train platform at Fujisawa Station that one day in June of 1990. That was destiny.

Loraine: Marty, will we ever see you again?

Marty: I guarantee it.

George: Well, Marty, I want to thank you for all your good advice, I'll never forget it.

Marty: Right, George. Well, good luck you guys. Oh, one other thing, if you guys ever have kids and one of them when he's eight years old, accidentally sets fire to the living room rug, go easy on him…

Back to the Future (1985)

Author’s Footnotes:

Nakamura Hisashi Sensei is the soke of Takeda Ryu – Nakamura-ha, a complete martial system (sobudo) involving study in aikido, iaido, shurikenjutsu, and jodo, among others. For more information, see the listing in Wikipedia: Takeda Ryu – Nakamura-ha

Patrick McCarthy Sensei (karate, 9th dan, hanshi) is the director of his own martial arts organization, the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society. Website: International Ryukyu Karate Research Society

Mr. Tong has a Master’s in Education in Curriculum Studies.

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