Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]
|Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 1:30 pm Post subject: Martial Arts: Forever in One's Life
|Martial arts will be forever in my life, this I'm quite sure of, and nothing could ever change that. The martial arts are all that I've ever known and, because of that, I'll forever give my most sincere and appreciated thanks to my fellow martial artists.
The martial arts are everything to me, much more than the art of warfare or fighting, for that is just a portion of it. Hence, the warfare isn't the totality of the martial arts and it shouldn't be. In my life, God's always been first, my family is second and the martial arts are third. But, it hasn't always been like that. More times than I care to remember, the martial arts have been first and foremost in my life; even over God and my family. I'm not especially proud of this, but it is what it is. In retrospect, I sincerely believe that both God and my family understood that.
I've known many martial artists throughout my life. Some I've known up close and others I've only known from afar. Again, I say to each one of them a wholehearted thank you! Each of those martial artists has truly, one way or another, enriched my life, in that, my life has been touched, not only for my betterment, but for an unabridged dutifulness that is for the betterment of the martial arts. I can only hope that I've reciprocated their kindness as we've walked on our martial arts journeys, separately or together, as undeniable proponents of the martial arts.
I'm proud to deeply bow to those martial artists that never said enough is enough. To those who've had the intestinal fortitude to rise up each and every day with a renewed vigor. For they've, without any reservation, continuously sought perfection in their techniques. They eagerly received each new day with open arms and open hearts, not as an enemy, but more as a welcomed friend. To those who marched proudly to their own music, and not as a slave to the music of a system, but as equal partners, where one's not over another.
The beauty of hierarchy is not in its supposed absolute power, but when one knows that the throne must be shared by everyone, no matter ones position. They've never once waived or altered from their course; always keeping steered true towards what might be possible with each new discovery. They've defined their art and, in that, they've not allowed the martial arts to define them. Therefore, they know what defines themselves as martial artists. I bow, not because I have to, but because I want to and because they deserve that from me. The martial arts matters beyond the definition! These are not just idle words, for I mean them with all of my heart and soul. Please forgive me for my lacking; for words just can't be found that would adequately express my most sincere respect and admiration for my fellow martial artists.
There've been martial artists that have decided to teach and train and share their martial arts with others throughout their entire lives. Martial artists who've dedicated their entire existence to doing something that they've truly loved, without any doubts or regrets. Martial artists, to name just a few, like Morihei Ueshiba and Hidetaka Nishiyama, who've taught and trained and shared their beloved art right up until they shrugged off their mortal coil. It's a character that I admire. Now, as I approach my 46th year in the martial arts, I too have wanted to do just that. And for those who've done exactly that; this is truly commendable.
I love everything that there is about the martial arts. In all of its ups and downs, only great things have been begotten from the martial arts. It's been my life's ambition and my true love. It's been my passion and it's been my way of life. Throughout my martial arts life, I've always diligently sought out to honor and respect those who've trodden before me. For those who've come before me, so that their sacrifice of the ‘want' over the ‘need' would not be in vain. For those who've selflessly ushered in an unyielding and unbridled desire each and every day, to wit, they've allowed others to freely sip from their very own cups and, due to that, others are able to see for themselves that the martial arts are good. I've only wanted to honor my Soke and my Dai-Soke, not only in my comings, but in my goings throughout my martial arts journey. A journey that would've been incomplete and void, had I chosen to disregard any of the time honored tenets of the martial arts: Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and an indomitable spirit. These tenets, in my honest opinion, must be followed and obeyed, so that the path of one's martial arts journey is made upon pure rocks; true and solid.
Proof is on the floor! This isn't just some catch phrase that I'm always saying. I believe that it's more profound than that. Whether I'm in the dojo or not, I sincerely believe in it. However, when I speak those words, I'm not just speaking hypothetically. No! The "floor" is wherever it might be at that very moment and it constantly reveals the truth and it separates fact from fiction. Saying what you mean, and meaning what you say; this isn't easy at times, especially for those who've not the ability, nor the inclination to be truthful and honest with themselves first. This is immeasurably important because if one can't be blatantly honest with oneself first, then one can't be expected to be honest with others. The truth lends itself to become akin to an oxymoron, even more so, if one isn't steadfastly aware.
How would time speak about my martial arts journey? Would time speak kindly? Would time speak favorably? Would time speak in half truths? Would time conduct incongruous with principle? Would time be candid? Would time be slothful? Would time be merciful? Would time be compassionate? However time would choose to portray me, I only can hope that time would be blatantly truthful at all times. It's completely up to me to say, but only to a point. I have only one voice and any unbiased story requires many voices, for and against. It's up to those whom I've touched, personally and professionally, one way and/or another, to be not only accurate in the telling of their tales concerning me, but honest at all times. I can only paint myself with vivid and bright colors if I'm to be dishonest with myself and with others. Therefore, to paint myself honestly, I must not only use vivid and bright colors from my palette, but I must also use the sullen and dark colors while all at the same time being careful to not mix the paint in a dubious manner, but in a frank and non-evasive way. As time writes my martial arts journey, I find myself sometimes being nothing more than a willing observer, and over the years, I've discovered that it's not only needed, but it's required from me as well.
Every journey must have an end or at least a pronounced pause! Mine is at hand.
I spoke from my heart, three weeks ago, to those that were in attendance at our Hombu's monthly open meeting. What was it that I spoke from my heart? It was this.
I'm retiring from teaching a full-time schedule at the Hombu. I'm stepping down, just as soon as replacements have been selected and elected and assumed in the following positions, according to our by-laws:
1) Kaicho (President)
2) Chief Instructor of the Shindokan Hombu
It's been both an extreme honor and a privilege to have held these positions. I can only hope that I've performed my duties and responsibilities without any fanfare and/or reservation. I hope that I've brought honor to these positions, as well as to my Soke and my Dai-Soke. Hopefully, I've served the Hombu and the entire Shindokan student body with great distinction, but always in a humble and grateful manner. I will be forever thankful to those who have entrusted me with things that I'm not worthy of.
My announcement was received with a deafening silence and a hushed shock because it had not been foreseen. At the conclusion of this open meeting, I immediately submitted my formal resignation to our Kancho (Vice President) in private and in person. Since my announcement, I've had several meetings with the Executive, Administration and Instruction departments, as well as with the Board of Regents about a plethora of subjects. As of late, I was being prepared to assume the San Dai-Soke, as this was the expressed wishes of our Dai-Soke, once when he was in the hospital and once when he addressed the Hombu for his very last time, both times in front of many witnesses. Our Dai-Soke retired from the Hombu earlier this year because of complications related to the stroke he suffered on August 25, 2009. I've respectfully declined this honor many, many times because I'm not worthy of that. That's all I have to say about it!
I've submitted names to be considered by the Hombu for the positions of Kaicho, Chief Instructor of the Shindokan Hombu and the San Dai-Soke. Hopefully the Hombu will entertain my nominations with an open heart, as well as with a sincere heart. The Hombu has since then offered me the title/position appointment of Kaiso (Senior Advisor), which I've accepted, for the time being. Kaiso is a part-time position, and I feel extremely honored to have been selected for this appointment.
My reason(s) for my retiring from the Shindokan Hombu are private; therefore, they're personal at the moment. I've given retirement a lot of thought. I've had many sleepless nights trying to see the pros and cons that eventually lead me to my decision. I thought about the entire student body, I thought about the Hombu, I thought of my Soke and my Dai-Soke, I thought about my family and, most of all, I prayed to God for His guidance.
Still, I'm troubled over my decision at times. Do I doubt myself? Do I have regrets? Yes and no! Is this natural? I just don't know because I've nothing to compare it to. Is it because of ego? No! I've no ego to be bruised. I simply don't tolerate it to taint or tarnish my life. I sincerely believe that whenever I decided to retire, and I came to accept my decision, I let go of any ego that might still be hiding within my inner most being.
What are natural are the things that I will miss. I'll deeply miss every student, the Hombu, the daily activities of the Hombu offices, the noises of the Hombu and, yes, the smells and the closeness of it all on a daily basis. I'll miss fighting with every door in the Hombu because I'd, without fail, forget which way the doors swing, even though some thoughtful students placed "Push/Pull" signs on every door for me. Still, I'd open whatever door it might be incorrectly despite the signs, and everyone would get a laugh out of it... each and every time.
I freely admit that I wonder from time to time; how have those who know me intimately, as well as those who only know me from afar, would truly perceive my retiring? Would they consider what I've done as an unforgivable thing? Would they say that I've slapped the face of every single martial artist? Would they say that I'm a quitter? Would they say that I've dishonored my Soke and my Dai-Soke? Would they say that I've debased the code of Bushido? Would they say that I've embarrassed my students? Would they say that I'm a disgrace? Just what would they say?
I don't know because I'm not them and they're not me. I hope that whoever they might be, they'd forgive me if I've done them wrong through my decision to retire. I hope that they can remain my friends, now and forever. I hope that they can remember me for the good that I've tried to do, not only as a martial artist, but as a person. For when they describe me to others, I can only hope that they will say that I'm flawed, human, decent, kind, totally authentic and one heck of a martial artist.
I'm not walking away from the martial arts. NO! On the contrary!
I will continue on my journey. I will continue to be a student of the martial arts. I will continue to seek and explore, and in that, I will continue to discover the untold and unfounded possibilities that are still within the martial arts. I will continue to be what I've always been - a martial artist! I will continue to seek perfection in my techniques, but I know that I will never find that perfection. Why? Perfection, in my honest opinion, is an illusion that evades us all because we're not perfect and we will never be. It doesn't mean that we have to stop trying! And I won't! I'm proud to wear the badge proudly and I'm not ashamed to wear the badge. What badge? The badge that says I'm a martial artist forever!
The martial arts will forever be in my life - always! I can no more remove the martial arts from my life, than I can remove the air that I breathe; they both sustain me! To deny me of either, denies me of life.
As of late, my life's been surrounded by more and more empty chairs. Chairs, that were once filled and now, they're just memories and/or echoes that I selfishly cherish and I suppose that I always will!
Postscript: The article above was initially submitted on May 4, 2010. That was then... this is now.
While this article was written a couple of years ago, I sincerely believe that the core heart of what it was that I wrote then still rings loud and clear. That was the state of my martial arts life then, and everything written above happened.
I did retire from teaching Shindokan full time; I still teach, but only whenever it's appropriate. I did retire from being the Kaicho, even though it was quite brief. I'm back as the current Kaicho. I did retire from being the Chief Instructor of the Shindokan Hombu, and that remains. Greg Forsythe is currently Kancho and Chief Instructor of the Shindokan Hombu. I'm no longer the Kaiso because I'm the current Kaicho; a position that I'll never retire from again! I didn't become, nor do I want to be the San Dai-Soke, or any Soke type. That's not me in any shape, way or form. Iwao Takahashi, eldest son of Dai-Soke Yoshinobu Takahashi, was selected as our San Dai-Soke.
Many things have happened at the Hombu since this article was written, and I've written about those many things here at KarateForums.com in one forum/topic or another. Things are so much better across the board at, and for, the Shindokan Hombu and, in that, the Hombu's betterment continues.
I'm approaching my 48th year in the martial arts this October 18th, and these many years are precious to me, now and forever. I've everything to be proud of, and nothing to regret. The entire student body of Shindokan sustains me and rejuvenates me each and every day. My duties and responsibilities as Kaicho keep me extremely busy, and I wouldn't have it any other way because the entire Shindokan student body deserves it.
Is this article outdated? That I'll leave that to the reader(s) to answer, yet for me, I believe that its words can still be felt and, in that, I believe that the words are current and relevant for every martial artist one way or another because martial artists struggle from time to time, however, every martial artist finds a way to fight the good fight.
I thank each and every one of you, martial artist/non martial artists, from the bottom of my heart!
**Proof is on the floor!!!