Just before the class ended, Sensei mentioned that there was a karate seminar that weekend in Hamilton. His sensei's sensei, from California, would be teaching. Anyone interested in attending could talk to Sensei about it after class.
I was surprised that I was the only person in the dojo who was interested. Sensei and I discussed it. He decided that I would meet him in a parking lot at the university. I would leave my car there and he would drive us both. I was grateful for that because I'd never been to Hamilton before.
I met Sensei early on Saturday morning. The car ride felt a little awkward at first because I'd never had a long conversation with him. Before that, any dialogue we had consisted of my asking a question at the dojo, and his answering it. As the drive continued, conversations flowed.
I asked a lot of questions about the man who would be teaching, and if there was anything I needed to know before we arrived. I'm curious by nature, and I like to be prepared for new situations. The sensei's name was Richard Kim. He was the founder of the organization we belonged to. The protocols and procedures would be the same as in our dojo.
It was almost forty years ago, so I don't remember the specific techniques or kata that were taught. What does stand out in my mind was the teaching style of Sensei Kim. It was different from anything I had experienced in a dojo.
Rather than standing at the front of the class to demonstrate, he would say 'come around'. The students would form a circle around him. Those at the front would sit, while others stood behind. That made it easier for everyone to see what he was doing.
He not only demonstrated techniques, but he also explained them clearly. He showed the how and gave the why. He also said what not to do, and the reason for it. This required more than just practicing the physical techniques. It required thinking. I liked that.
After the training session, we changed into our regular clothes and went back into the room. There were chairs set up in rows. We sat and listened while Sensei Kim gave a lecture. That was the first time I'd experienced that in the martial arts.
I was intrigued by the topics he talked about. I didn't understand everything because it was new information. He talked about the history and philosophy of the martial arts. And this man was lecturing at the level of a university professor.
One thing I remember was his saying that karate was 70% physical, and 30% mental and emotional. That caught my attention. The degree I was working on was in psychology. When I heard those words, two important areas in my life converged, my university studies and my martial arts training.
I had hoped to attend future seminars and lectures taught by Sensei Kim, but my sensei never made mention of them again. My focus was on my studies. I continued to train at the dojo throughout my time at the university. It gave me the physical and mental stress release I needed. Over time, I forgot about the man I thought of as 'The Professor'.
I had no way of knowing then that, in the years to come, I would become one of Sensei Kim's students. He was the most influential martial arts teacher in my life, and the last.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.