I think among Westerners there's a bit of stereo-type regarding martial arts masters. In movies at least, they always seem to be stern, serious and maybe even slightly sadistic old men. Jaded, harsh and unforgiving.
Sensei is a hard man to capture in words, but he's definitely none of the above. He's kind of taken on a larger-than-life character for me and many others. If I were to describe him, I'd have to say he definitely has a certain ‘energy’ about him – calmness? simplicity? humility? zen? It's also hard describing the feeling of having him ‘demonstrate’ a technique – such frightening power and speed, yet always with such gentleness and control. You know you're in safe hands (so to speak).
Perhaps more than these things, when I think of Sensei, I see his cheery grin – a warm and childish smile that's contagious. When he steps into the dojo each night he takes the time to share this smile with each of us – like a father looking proudly at each of his children.
In appearance, the short and stocky 70-year-old, sports a thick torso and hobbits feet (with toes like fingers) well beyond Japanese sizing. His gentle hands and forearms have grown thick and calloused over the years. The photo above really doesn’t capture the current gnarled state of Sensei’s hands, which now resemble the very rock he strikes daily in the dojo.
Paradoxically, while Sensei’s hands have come to look more and more like his rock, the rock itself has grown smooth and oiled from years of use – qualities of each seeming to rub off on the other. Above the rock also sits a ‘Sensei-level’ patch of concrete (once white) that’s grown dark and smooth and almost invites you test out your back-fist (or at least your pain threshold). These quirky parts of the Honbu dojo seem to be as much a part of Sensei as his hands and feet. They're the simple objects that have shared more time with him than any of his students or close friends.
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