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The Most Difficult Thing I Do

As most people know, in addition to teaching Karate, I am the head of the Hawaii Karate Museum. I should say the "head", hands, and feet.

I enjoy Karate research very much and find it personally rewarding. I also feel that it is important to collect and preserve old Karate books, articles, weapons, and artifacts so that future generations of Karate students will have access to these treasures.

However, there is one aspect of my "work" that is particularly difficult -- that so many of the elderly people I meet and become friends with die. Each year, people I know pass away. I am only 50, but I know many people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Year by year, the group of elders grows smaller.

A man I knew died a few years ago. I recently heard that his widow just passed away. They were such a warm and friendly couple. I miss them very much. Although I knew them only briefly, they feel like relatives.

A 90 year old man came to one of my exhibits a few years ago. It was hard for him, but he wanted to show respect to his father who was included in the exhibit. His father had learned from Itosu Sensei. Not long after that, the man died. I can still see his face, standing before his father's photo, a photo he himself had allowed me to copy to include in the exhibit. He was so proud that his father was receiving some recognition.

I used to speak to an elderly Sensei on the telephone. Actually, I spoke to his wife and she would relay the questions. I thought it was because he was not comfortable in English. Actually, it was because he was bedridden and almost deaf. He did not want anyone to see him in such a condition.

We all grow old. That is inevitable. But how we grow old is something we can work on. We cannot control it, but we can do our best to be healthy, to be in good shape, to keep mentally alert, and to have a positive attitude. We can do our best to help others. There are things we can do... while we have time.

Karate makes me very happy. The loss of so many people I meet, respect, and grow fond of is the most difficult aspect of my Karate "work". I can imagine that other Karate researchers must have felt this, particularly Sensei such as Shoshin Nagamine and Morio Higaonna. The people they interviewed were often not strangers. The lived in Okinawa and interviewed people that could have been their relatives, townmates, or classmates.

When a Karate Sensei passes away, we all lose something. The same is true when a son, grandson, or student of a Karate Sensei, who has carried on his memory and teachings, passes away. We all lose something.

If you know a fine Sensei who is still living, particularly one in his 70s, 80s, or 90s, please take the time to pay your respect and give your thanks to him. Do not miss this opportunity. Life is very short.

For all the relatives and students of Karate Sensei who read this Blog, my respect and thanks to your Sensei!


Charles C. Goodin