I’m releasing my essay for which I was tasked to write for my shodan…
Someone asked me why it took me so long (7 years) to get my shodan? I said to them, just because someone becomes a black belt doesn’t mean jack shit. I was slightly forced, and picked the path to be a better martial artist, and find my heart, because that was more important then any belt.
"Seido seeks to develop in each student a ‘non-quitting’ spirit. No matter what the obstacle or difficulty — emotional, physical or financial". Please explain how such spirit has guided you to this point in your Seido journey and your life and the correlation between the two.
A few years back I was gifted the book ‘Technique & Spirit’. One of the first passages I read was ‘Nana Korobi Ya Oki’ which translates to ‘If you fall down seven times, get up eight times’.
When I left Seido I truly didn’t know if I would ever return, let alone do martial arts again. Deciding to leave was one of the most difficult decisions I had made for myself, but it lead me on a journey of discovery. I learnt more about myself and how Seido had, and continues to influence my life more than ever before.
There were many reasons why I left but one of them was because I think I gave up on my Karate - on everyone else’s Karate too. I was exhausted. You almost have to give up or quit to learn how not to. It’s one of those crappy paradoxes people need to live through, which sucks at the time, but is highly beneficial in the end.
I had used the teachings from Seido in some of the difficult times of my life. The passing of my grandmother when I was a blue belt was one. I didn’t think I would cope but I did, and I was able to be there for other family members who weren’t coping during that difficult time. Another was when I was a 1st kyu. I was out of work for 6 months which was incredibly stressful. I reverted back onto Seido Karate teachings, didn’t give up looking for work, and made right decisions, because in times of difficulty it’s often too easy to make bad or hastily decisions.
Learning to cope in times of struggle comes from listening to your instructor. For example, when he or she reminds you that the pain of perhaps being in kiba dachi for a while will end, and to work through it, while keeping good technique. In class you may not understand, but during a grading all their teachings come to mind, and that’s the same in life. It was painful to lose my grandmother. I think everyone banked on me being the one to fall apart, yet through my training by my instructor I knew to accept what had happened, to stay calm and to think through the situation with a clear and open mind.
When I was 20, I was offered a management role at a national retail company, a job I had failed in gaining when I was younger, so I accepted this position. I had no idea how badly this company was treating their retail staff and how miserable everyone was, so I set out to change my store and double all the incentives they had been offered if they did a good job. This lasted a week before I was called into head management’s office and given a dressing-down. I continued at this job implementing protocols that were against my own morals. After a year and suffering some deterioration to my health, I took advice from my instructor and resigned thinking I would be able to find work easily. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. I spent 6 months looking for work and nearly dried up all my savings, which looking back on it was little compared to what many people are going through today. After applying for many jobs and not being successful, I left Wellington and returned to the East Coast - back to family for some time to reflect on my next course of action. Again gaining that calm mind.
There were times I had contemplated leaving Wellington, but I couldn’t because I didn’t want to leave Lower Hutt Dojo. When I returned to Wellington I was refreshed and had a new outlook. Within 4 weeks of returning I had secured a new job in an exciting and unique industry, and have been there ever since.
Seido taught me not only to continue through tough times in class, grading or even life but to also show good composure and form throughout any ordeal, and it’s the experiences and those little life lessons you learn that can only be found in times of struggle that are the true gifts in disguise.
Deciding to leave Seido was a slow and emotional process. I didn’t feel as if I had my ‘head in the game’ as some might say and the passion had left me. The hardest part was deciding to leave the people because that’s what Seido is, the people. But I felt it was time for me to take a break or to perhaps never return, if that’s what was to be my destiny. I set a date for my departure and I was going to leave quietly - a bit like how I started. I remember my last day at the dojo. I walked into the dojo quietly and joined, but this time I was walking out. Only a handful of people knew and I wanted to see the spirit of Seido Lower Hutt one final time, so I was there to watch a grading. I got to see that unique Lower Hutt Dojo spirit and got to have a final beer with some of the wonderful students before bowing out for the last time. It was tough, especially when one of the parents came up to me, hugged me and thanked me for helping her son over the years, that’s when I may have shed a tear. I didn’t question myself leaving, because the only reason I would’ve stayed was to train other people, when I was the one that needed the training.
I took 6 months off karate but I was still training at the gym thinking I could somehow get motivation to maybe return lighter, faster, and stronger by running and doing weights. It wasn’t until I bumped into a Sensei from another style I knew and had trained with, and he asked if I was still training at Seido, I explained my situation and told him I was training at the gym and may return one day. He told me a swimmer doesn’t go running to know how to swim. I didn’t understand that at the time.
After 6 months off, a lot of McDonalds and huge list of other junk food, I got the urge to return to Karate. I was so excited to have that urge back, that ‘non-quitting’ spirit, so I picked a small dojo in Petone, Kyokushin Hutt Valley, to slip into quietly and start my journey again from white belt. At just under 90 kgs, which wasn’t all muscle, I picked what is arguably the top fighting style in the world to hopefully and quietly make a good return to Karate without anyone noticing. I was wrong of course.
Through some tough training, having to drop nearly 10 kgs, and getting thrown into their National Tournament, it not only excited me but it was nice to have that fire back in my stomach. Every training session I would think about something I learnt from Seido. It made me unique and see karate from a different angle. Senpai Tania had asked me a few times if I had the urge to return to Seido. Maybe it was her way of trying to get rid of me, because I was very mischievous at Hutt Valley Dojo (she’s very fond of me, though she’ll never admit it) reliving my white belt days. I guess though she got to know me better than I knew myself because she perhaps could see that ‘Seidoness’ in my eyes.
Just before the Kyokushin 2013 National Tournament something in me felt I needed to return to Seido. I perhaps quit when I had left, and like I mentioned, you sometimes need to quit to know how not to. So I spoke to a couple of friends before approaching Senpai Tania to inform her of my decision to return to Seido. The support from Hutt Valley Dojo was overwhelming and so a new journey on an old path began.
I returned to Seido at Upper Hutt Dojo and was welcomed with open arms by Senpai Graham and the other students, and then welcomed back into Seido by Sai Shihan Ben, which has brought me to this day.
A non-quitting spirit brings with it a lot of good fortune and many lessons to be learnt, but sometimes you need to quit to learn how not to quit. As long as you keep good form and make honest and right decisions during tough times, then everything will be okay. I surrounded myself with people that I trusted and inspired me during times of difficulties which lead me to persevere and overcome struggles in life and in karate. My accomplishments aren’t only mine, but theirs too.