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Guest Post: For Who, and Why?

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

Mark is the author of Karate Ni Sente Nashi: What the Masters Had to Say and Japanese Ego Negation and the Achievement of Self, which are hosted at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. He has also published English translations of Japanese Karate articles, including Practice Kata Correctly, by Kenwa Mabuni.

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For Who, and Why?

As I discussed in "One Reason Why I Train," even though I have lived in Japan for quite a long time, I have continued to choose for my teacher a man who lives in the US. Because of this, I have no karate dojo that I belong to here in Japan. I simply train on my own (on the riverbank) most of the time.

After I left my home dojo in the States, I did no karate teaching whatsoever, until quite recently. Despite my teacher encouraging me to teach others here in Japan, I always (somewhat selfishly, I admit) felt that I would rather spend any time that I had on my own training.

Recently, however, a young man of 15 or so approached me and asked me to teach him. He was someone that I knew fairly well, and it was clear to me that he might not be a very good candidate for karate training. He is rather timid, not particularly athletic, and pretty easily frightened. "Would it really be wise to invest my limited time in a young man like this?" I wondered. "Will he be able to stick with it? Will he become skilled at all?" One other consideration that I also thought about was that his parents told me that he was having trouble dealing with the stresses of his (very competitive) junior high school.

In the end, I decided to accept the young man as my first student ever in Japan. Why? Well, first of all, I generally like this boy; he is a good kid. Secondly, not having any kids of my own, I thought it would be nice to have regular contact with him. But what really made up my mind for me was that I kept thinking, "This is the kind of person that karate can help most. Strong, athletic, fearless kids don't need karate; this kid does. If karate isn't for the weaker members of society, then who is it for?"

I have been teaching my student now for about a month or so. He is very enthusiastic about his training, and is making pretty good progress.

As I've taught this young man, I've been reminded of something that I first realized more than a decade ago, when I, myself, was struggling with some problems in life. I'm not sure that I can express it very clearly, but I have been reminded of my sense that karate training gives me (and others, I believe) hope. Hope that I can become a stronger person; not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. Hope that, with work, I can learn more about -- and improve -- myself. Hope that I can become more in control of my own destiny. In short, hope that, with work, I can improve my life.

Now, I certainly don't think my new student is thinking about all this intellectual gobbledygook. But I do believe that his karate training has begun to give him a little bit of extra hope about his future.

Mark Tankosich