Life Ain’t Easy: Train Anyway

By Pete Hitzeman, breakingmuscle.com

Most of us spent a huge portion of our childhood being told to do things we didn’t want to do. We had to be told every day to get out of bed, get ready for school, eat our vegetables, do our homework, brush our teeth. And on it went on for years, until we finally struck out on our own in the world, fully capable of doing it all for ourselves.

As adults, we continue to do all sorts of things we don’t want to do, because we know they’re for our own good. We pay our taxes, mow the grass, and change the oil in the car. We go to the dentist, to family gatherings we’d rather skip, and to jobs we don’t like.

So how is it that, when it comes to taking care of ourselves physically, people just can’t seem to muster up the gumption to do what’s necessary, even if it isn’t always enjoyable?

Honor Your Human Potential

We use a whole lot of words to describe the various concepts and nuances of health and fitness, but the essence of physical improvement is simple: don’t eat crap, move a lot, and get adequate sleep. But to hear many people describe it, there is an immense metaphysical chasm that separates those who bear the title “athlete” from those who watch them on TV.

Part of that fallacy is understandable. The athletes we see in the media are peak performers who have spent a lifetime honing their skill and physique. The distance between the average lite-beer-swilling couch potato and the Olympic sprinter he just watched set a world record isn’t vast. It’s inconceivable.

But in what other area of life do we set ourselves against such a standard? We don’t tell our first-graders they should stop writing stories because they’ll never be Kipling. We take our kids to piano lessons and soccer practice, with the full knowledge that we aren’t raising the next Rachmaninoff or Messi. We still go to our jobs every day, even if we have no realistic expectation of ever being the CEO.

When someone looks at an athlete and says “I could never do that,” what they’re really saying is “I don’t want to put in the work that you did to get where you are.” The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire. Michael Jordan might’ve made a fine accountant. But his desire was basketball, and so he mastered it as fully as anyone has before or since.

To be sure, not everyone has the level of athletic talent, desire, and determination displayed by the world’s elite athletes. So if someone doesn’t have the desire to be an athlete, isn’t that okay? Not really. The human body was undeniably built to walk, run, climb, lift, and jump. We have specific physiological adaptations, like enormous lungs and the ability to sweat, that are only relevant to athletic organisms. The human body is, by design and construction, an athletic machine. To neglect the required maintenance of that machine is to deny its nature.

Choose Your Path

In truth, everyone wants to be an athlete, because they don’t want to be the alternative. People don’t want to sit around, decaying prematurely, unable to challenge their meager physical capacity. People don’t want to be in pain or on a half-dozen medications for the myriad ailments that accompany a sedentary lifestyle. They want to be able to eat without gaining weight, sleep without a breathing apparatus, and go to the grocery store without a mobility scooter. People don’t want to be miserable.

So why do they do it? Because they perceive the chasm. That inverse mirage between where they are now and where they’d like to be. They are convinced of their own inability to undertake any sort of training at all. Or they believe if they did train, it would be so painful, and the progress so infinitesimal, as to not be worth the effort. So instead of sweating in some dungeon of a gymnasium, trying to chase down a physique they just weren’t meant to have, they go to great lengths to justify rotting away on the sofa.

But those of us who stand on the other side of that imagined chasm know it isn’t impassable, because we had to cross it ourselves. We had to do it of our own will and for our own reasons, but the same basic principles applied. We made changes to our diet, a little at a time. We found ways to move ourselves that challenged and stimulated us mentally as well as physically. We prioritized our sleep to make sure our bodies had time to repair and grow from the stimuli we threw at them during the day.

We didn’t give up when it was hard right away, or when results were slow to come. We sweated, sacrificed, and gritted our teeth through every manner of discomfort, inconvenience, and even embarrassment. We fell off the wagon, then got back on and started again. Through grim, consistent determination, we made our bodies subject to the will of our minds, rather than leaving our minds slaves to a rebellious and complaining body.

End the Excuses

The chasm is wide and deep, and it’s made entirely of your excuses. It is teeming with your busy schedule, your bad knees, the weight you’ve put on since high school. It is your distaste for sweating and breathing hard, your fear of looking stupid, your self-defeating low self-esteem. It is every rationalization you’ve ever made for not doing what needs to be done to properly care for the only body you’ll ever have. It is the misguided modern notion that anything uncomfortable isn’t worth doing.

Everybody has that chasm, and everybody should be training in spite of it, or even because of it. Find something you can do, and then do it. Then do a little more of it. And then do something else. Take up cycling, or yoga, or weightlifting. Take a spinning class. Go for a hike or take up rock climbing. Adapt your chosen activity to the skills and weaknesses you might have. Instead of sitting on your hands, paralyzed at the immensity of the chasm you’ve created, find ways to get over, or through, or around it. And then get going.

If you get off the couch tomorrow and work hard for a long time, will you ever become Rich Froning? Probably not, but I’d be willing to wager that’s not your real goal, anyway. Being a vastly improved you, on the other hand, is still on the table. It will not be easy, it will not be fast, and it will be decidedly uncomfortable. You will not be immediately impressed with yourself. Quite the opposite, you will probably be horrified and disgusted with yourself for some time.

Train anyway. Conquer the Abyss

Now it’s time to do your homework. Get out a blank sheet of notebook paper and your #2 pencil, and make three columns.

  • In the first, write down all the things you wish you could do, if you were fitter.
  • In the second, write the obstacles that are keeping you from getting there.
  • In the third, write down how you’re going to get around those obstacles.

It’s time to get across that chasm. Right now. If you get off the couch tomorrow, you will be better than yesterday. If you do it again the next day, you will be better still. If you keep doing it, consistently and intelligently, no one can tell you what you may achieve.

Maybe you’ll lose 100 pounds. Maybe you’ll rediscover the pure joy of riding a bicycle. Maybe you’ll be able to run a mile, or ten miles. Maybe you’ll regain the dignity and confidence you haven’t felt in too many years. But if you wait a week, you’ll wish you had started sooner. Just start today.

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Kyokushin Dojo Oath (English, Bulgarian and Japanese)

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The Kyokushin dojo kun was written by Mas Oyama with the help of Eiji Yoshikawa, the author of Musashi, a book about the life and times of Japan’s greatest warrior, Miyamoto Musashi. The book provided much of Mas Oyama’s inspiration during his mountain training days.

Saying the dojo kun can be difficult for those who don’t speak Japanese.

  • We will train our hearts and bodies, for a firm unshaken spirit.
  • Ние ще тренираме нашите сърца и тела за твърд, непобедим дух.
    Dojo Kun Line 1
  • We will pursue the true meaning of the Martial Way, so that in time our senses may be alert.
  • Ние ще преследваме истинския смисъл на Бойния път, така че след време нашите сетива да са нащрек.
    Dojo Kun Line 2
  • With true vigor, we will seek to cultivate a spirit of self-denial.
  • С истинска сила ние ще се стремим да възпитаваме духа на самоотверженост.
    Dojo Kun Line 3
  • We will observe the rules of courtesy, respect our superiors, and refrain from violence.
  • Ние ще съблюдаваме правилата на учтивостта, ще уважаваме нашите по-старши и ще се въздържаме от насилие.
    Dojo Kun Line 4
  • We will follow our religious principles, and never forget the true virtue of humility.
  • Ние ще следваме нашите традиции и никога няма да забравяме истинската добродетел на смирението.
    Dojo Kun Line 5
  • We will look upwards to wisdom and strength, not seeking other desires.
  • Ние ще се стремим към мъдрост и сила и няма да търсим други желания.
    Dojo Kun Line 6
  • All our lives, through the discipline of Karate, we will seek to fulfill the true meaning of the Kyokushin Way.
  • През целия наш живот, с дисциплината на карате, ние ще се стремим да изпълним пътя на Киокушин.
    Dojo Kun Line 7

12 Things Professional Martial Arts Instructors Don’t Do

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by Dave Kovar 

We often talk about all the things that we should do to be the best Professional Martial Arts Instructor possible.  There are, however, at least twelve things that we want to avoid doing. Here they are:

  1. Don’t Argue. Logic and emotion are like oil and water; they don’t mix. Generally speaking, when we argue we become emotional and don’t think clearly. As our emotions become heightened, the likelihood of us saying or doing something that we might regret later increases dramatically. Also remember, winning an argument does little to win respect or friendship.
  2. Don’t Blame. When you point a finger at someone else, three fingers point back at you. Blaming others generally means that you are a reactive person; someone who is unwilling to be held accountable for their actions. Blaming others puts your emphasis and thought-process on problems, not solutions.
  3. Don’t Criticize. It is one thing to be constructively helpful and another to be unconstructively critical.  The quickest way to kill morale is to criticize those on your team.
  4. Don’t Prejudge. Unfortunately, it is natural and very easy to get in the habit of prejudging people. However, it is a terrible habit to have. First off, it is a waste of energy. Every moment spent judging others is a moment not spent on believing yourself. Secondly, when you prejudge others, you’re probably wrong as often as you are right. Therefore, you are going to miss out on a lot of potentially great relationships.
  5. Don’t Be Sarcastic. Although being cleverly sarcastic is often a sign of intelligence, it rarely serves any positive function. More often, sarcasm only demoralizes and belittles the person it was directed towards. Remember, “Please,” “Thank You,” and “May I,” said sarcastically, are no longer the magic words.
  6. Don’t Be Too Friendly. The Instructor/Student relationship is a special thing. Of course an Instructor should be friendly with their students. Becoming a friend, however, can very easily corrupt the relationship. There is a certain distance that should be kept which will serve the interest of sides.
  7. Don’t Be Too Physical. There are several different aspects of being physical that a Professional Martial Artist wants to avoid. First off, make sure that your classes aren’t too physically demanding, especially at the beginner level. Secondly, make sure that students are paired off appropriately with physicality in mind (size, skill, intensity, etc.). Finally, no pats on the bum, inappropriate hugs, etc. Body contact between instructor and students should be kept to a minimum (such as high fives and handshakes).
  8. Don’t Humiliate. The absolute quickest way to create resentment and friction is to humiliate someone, especially if it is done in public. Usually the only person that you should make the brunt of your jokes is yourself. People that enjoy humiliating others usually have a low self-image and try to make themselves feel bigger by knocking others down.
  9. Don’t Be Condescending. A condescending person speaks down to those around them. It is as if their worth is greater than others. The only function it serves it to alienate those around you. Watch your tonality and try to keep yourself from appearing “holier than thou.”
  10. Don’t Hold A Grudge. Everybody makes mistakes; some people make them more often than others. But when you hold a grudge toward others, you give them power over you. You are still letting them control you emotionally. Remember, “small minds hold grudges, big minds forgive and move on.”
  11. Don’t Be Easily Offended. How easily offended someone gets is in direct relation with their level of emotional intelligence. Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that whatever questionable thing they said was not meant to be taken in a negative way. When it is clearly apparent that an insult has been directed your way, just don’t accept it. Remember the phrase most of us learned as kids, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”
  12. Don’t Take All The Credit. Nothing is more frustrating that when a team works hard and has some great success, only to have one person say, “I did it.” Build your team by giving as much credit as possible to those around you.

“Because it’s 2015″*

Please do not take this as a feminist speech! Read words as they are.

Recent months have been filled with so much emotion around large international tournaments. The Kyokushin Women page paid attention to a difference in the size of the trophy for men and women. This has been the way for a long time, but recently the new *Canadian Prime Minister said: “Because it’s 2015” so I do not want to remain silent. No matter if you like women when they fight or not, or you approve of women training karate, please, respect each one of us, respect the work that we do.

I can write a lot about it, but I do not want to sound too feminist, because there is no question about it, it’s about RESPECT. @nadin4ep

The 11th World karate championship 2015
WKO – The 11th World karate championship 2015
IKO The 11th World open championship 2015
IKO – The 11th World open championship 2015

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Samantha Williams

Autumn time has come upon us and my favourite part of the year, the start of the Kyokushin Knockdown tournament season. This year like every 4 years was special, as the KWU world tournament, ShinKyokyushin world championships and the IKO world championships were all being held in the space of a few short weeks.

This gives me an opportunity to watch some of my favourite exciting fighters in action such as Valeri Dimitrov, Artem Nazaratyean, Goderzi Kapanadze, Aelita Alekseeva, Maria Lepina, Emi Shoguchi, Csenge Szesepi, Uliana Grebenschikova and Elena Gulko to name a few.

I was extremely disappointed to see the Ladies not being treated the same in some of these competitions, with less prize money and smaller trophies compared to the male competitors. I was glad to see the KWU world championships treating both males and females the same with same size trophies but I am sad to see this not the case for one or two other competitions this season.

I see Kyokushin Women as equal to the Male Karateka as we fight under the same rules, fight the same rounds and complete the same training. There are incredible female fighters who have paved the way for all current and aspiring fighters to look up to. These include Margarita Ciuplyte, Misaki Sato and Veronica Szvotes who’s accolades and talent are something to be aspired too by both genders.

As a competitor and a fan. I know how hard both men and women work and there is no difference. We put in the same hours, work the same in training and work just as hard as the male competitors.

I am just asking the question why are we not treated as equal? A simple question to which I do not know the answer

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Emma Markwell 

Hits like a girl? I think you mean, ‘hits like anyone else!’

Whilst away last weekend fighting in France, I was stunned to find myself in a position where the trophies for the winners of the women’s categories were smaller than the men’s. A first place ladies trophy was actually smaller than a third place men’s one. “What’s this about?” I asked myself. Ladies fighting in karate competitions has been the norm for years now. How could one person take away a smaller trophy for a higher achievement than another simply because one is female and one is male?

I’ve been really lucky in my fighting career not to have come across too many scenarios like this. Of course, I’ve previously overheard comments akin to ‘oh the women are fighting now, lets go and get a drink.’ And now I come to think of it, why did I let those comments wash over me, rather than making my point?

After this weekend I felt compelled to spend a little time thinking about where we are in terms of sexism in sport, and also sexism in the health and fitness sector in general.

A simple Google search of ‘sexism in health and fitness’ returns so many pages that I didn’t know where to start.

Why would I ever expect less of my female clients than male ones? I wouldn’t. But similarly – I wouldn’t expect more of them either. I’d expect the same. Physical strength has little to do with it. Yes, as we all know, there are biological differences between men and women. But the traits that make up a fit, healthy individual, things like determination, desire, focus, finding pleasure in healthy foods and working out, are traits that everyone can find and nurture across the board.

Afterall, I’m a personal trainer and I like to train men and women. I’m a karateka and I like to train with men and women. I’m also a fighter and I like to watch men and women fight. It’s that simple. People are people, end of story.

French Open 2015
French Open 2015

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Here is some tournaments with the same trophies

The 2nd KWU World championship 2015
The 2nd KWU World championship 2015
WKO - The 5th World cup
WKO – The 5th World cup 2013

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The 1st KWU World championship 2013
The 1st KWU World championship 2013

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And many many more….

If you read this, thank you for that 🙂 Osu!

*Asked why he went with gender equality in his cabinet, Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau said: “Because it’s 2015.”   (November 4, 2015)

Tameshiwari

TAMESHIWARI (breaking) cannot be separated from Karate as a whole. When speaking of Karate, people generally associate Karate with Tameshiwari, believing that the value of Karate exists in Tameshi­wari skill and expertise. However, actually Karate’s true value exists in technique, the arts, and spirit, not in Tameshiwari. Breaking is only a part of Karate and the biggest error is to set a high value on it. In keeping with this, Karate-Ka must not give a wrong impression of Kara­te by centering too much on it.

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I have travelled extensively throughout the world and many times I have felt quite strongly that there is too much emphasis place on Tameshiwari, and that therefore the misconceptions that Karate skill is in breaking things is too widely accepted. This is particularly so in USA where the word “Karate” immediately conjures up the now famous “Karate Chop”.

I cannot stress strongly enough that Tameshiwari is merely a part of Karate, not the whole of it. The essential idea and spirit of Karate is to develop and complete ones personality, ones body, skill, mind and spirit. Tameshiwari is only one element used in seeking and completing the perfecting of these skills.

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However, when considering the Karate boom around the world, I am forced to admit that Tameshiwari has played a large part in making Karate popular, as Tameshiwari generally seems very attractive to people. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, a Karate exhibition was held to which many foreign personal of the Armed Forces were invited. They were not at all interested in Kata and Kumite demonstrations but when Tameshiwari was performed, the hall became as quite as still water. They were fascinated by the per­formances, and thunder this applause arose over the hall.

There was a similar reaction in USA when I visi­ted 32 of that country’s States between the March and November of 1952. Kata, Kumite and Kihon, were also not welcomed. But, as soon as Tameshiwari began, even a noisy crowd of thousands were silenced in amazement, and later gave a thunderous applause.

However, regardless of Tameshiwari popularity, true Karate has not progressed greatly because of the impossibility of holding satisfactory fighting matches. No Martial Arts can properly develop without fight­ing matches. In the past all Martial Arts have develo­ped and progressed by means of fighting, whether in true battle or merely by competition. However, Karate has no true match and has thus been slow to truly develop in a unified way. Kata and Kumite without true battle or merely by competitions. However, Ka­rate has no true match and has thus been slow to truly developing in a unified way. Kata and Kumite without true fighting conditions is merely a sort of dance or physical exercise; it loses its Martial aspect styles that do not advocate full contact, it must be nearly impossible.

A Karate-Ka with speed does not always have strong power and grip, the Karate-Ka with strength does not always have speed, and the Karate-Ka with both is a rarity indeed.

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For this reason, it is difficult to judge matches without contact. Judo can be judged by a fall, and Boxing by a knockout, but non-contact Karate has no such exact standard of judgment, matches usually being decided on superiority or inferiority. I believe this obscure judgment prevents Karate from develop­ment.

This is why contact and Tameshiwari have been entered in Kyokushinkaikan tournaments as a mea­sure of ability. It is true that tameshiwari  is a part of Karate, it is a barometer for Karate-Ka to judge abi­lity. A true Karate-Ka-should have three things; spirit, body and arts perfectly harmonious, and I look up to any Karate-Ka with such abilities.

Of course man is not God. However, I consider it man’s duty to engage in Martial Arts in order to make an effort to approach God. It is true indeed that man has sordid habits, but I think the value of man’s exis­tence is in the efforts and studies he makes to accom­plish his “way”.

Recently there have been many Championships in Karate, however, if a Champion could not break three 2 inch boards I would laugh at him. I claim that any Champion must have enough ability to kill a bull with a single blow. If he cannot do so, it would be doubt­ful if his punch is effective regardless of what ability he has to perform Kata and Kumite beautifully. A Karate-Ka must have more than just beautiful Kata and Kumite – he must have power.

Of course it isn’t the purpose of Karate to fight wild animals, but it is one way to develop Karate ability and test it, if there are no adequate matches

Speaking of Tameshiwari, there are more than 30 kinds, divided roughly into several divisions. Kumite and Tameshiwari are two sides of a coin, or the front and back covers of a book. Supposing that Kihon, Kumite and Kata are the parents, then Tameshiwari is the child.

It is as incorrect for a Karate-Ka to get caught in Kumite, Kihon and Kata and to neglect Tameshiwari as it is to neglect all in favour of Tameshiwari.

People equate Karate with Tameshiwari, and to, be sure, Tameshiwari is the greatest interest in Karate. Without Tameshiwari, Karate would not have progres­sed throughout the world. –

I should like to tell our readers that, Kihon, Ku- mite and Kata make 7 points out of a possible ten, Tameshiwari make ‘up the remaining three, and that all Karate-Ka should have all 4 abilities, plus spirit.

By Sosai Mas Oyama

Original posted on geelongkarate.com.au by Rod | September 20, 2008

Mas Oyama

Quotes of the Month

Usually I post my collages as “Quotes of the Week”, but not today! Today I want to share with you the words of Sensei Harris Wallmen – If you have never read his words, you are really missing something.

If I call him “Wise”, he replies: “No, I’m stupid”. If I call him Sensei, he replies: “No, Harris, please”.

So, dear blog readers, let me present to you “my stupid friend Harris” and his thoughts and words about Tsukamoto sensei, Valeri sensei, Budo, kyokushin, life … enjoy @nadin4e

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  • About the beauty of Kyokushin, illusion and meditation

I was always intrigued why all the great masters said that this world is an illusion. What are they talking about? How could all the objects, all my feelings, my thoughts, my body, myself, all be an illusion? They must be crazy! And then I started practicing the Kyokushin way. And the words of the masters became so real!

Starting more than 15 years ago, I shave my head. In the beginning people asked me why I did this, because I really had nice hair, and I always replied that it is more convenient for me because of the training. My real motive was something else. The moment I realized, mostly through Kyokushin, through meditation and reading, how superficial, how asleep and lost almost everybody around me was, I decided that I must do something. Like a reminder to go on the middle way, to walk between this material, instinct dominated and petty world, and the spiritual world. Actually the only real one. I refuse to go to a monastery, I refuse to hide myself, but in the same time, I refuse to become this world of agony and ecstasy. So I choose to meditate in the middle of the market. I want to continue to live among all the people, enjoying every moment, every blessing, because when you start to understand the illusion, everything becomes bliss, even the things that you considered “bad” in the past.

The beginning of understanding for me was the moment when I realized that I can perceive the same situation in different ways just by a simple decision. After experimenting some time with this technique I discovered a new one, the most important of all, for me. When you start meditating, one of the things the master is asking you to do is to try to contemplate, to observe your mind, the way thoughts come and go, how they grow if you feed them, how they fade when you change your focus. Funny thing is, that thoughts and emotions, feelings, wishes, they start to become so much less vital for yourself just by observing them. Just by becoming a witness. This is the most important technique that I know, and I use it lately all the time.

Have you noticed how, after one good Kyokushin training, all the problems you were thinking prior have become smaller? I am absolutely sure that all who train in Kyokushin have experienced this. How come? Because, during training, during kihon, kata, kumite, the mind becomes still, it must become so, if not, you are not doing it correctly, and because of this, problems shrink. So a question appears: If a problem can become smaller just by not paying attention to it for a while, how real can it be? It makes me smile even now, after so much time.

Things have not stopped here. Not only did I discover that the mind is “guilty” for all my misery, but by trying to contemplate my thoughts, my emotions, my cravings, my fears, by deciding not to get identified with them, I stopped judging situations and I started discovering perfection in all things, even in those considered really bad by most of the people. And seeing perfection has never left me since. Contemplation helps you not to get identified with situations, with emotions, with clothes, wishes, with who you “think” you are. This is so great! It is such a feeling of relief! After understanding, after becoming conscious, you become light like a feather. Even if you are sick, poor or in pain. There are so much more things to say, but in brief: observe, contemplate, meditate, do not get identified, laugh all the time, stop in the middle of the day to watch a child playing, a bird singing, do your duty, but do not forget who you are and what this world is made of. This is the middle way. This is why I shave my head. This is why I train Kyokushin. Osu!

  • Funny thing is that in Kyokushin people still think you have to beat or knock your opponent down in order to win. No. You just have to be better than him at this game. Competition is a sport not a street fight.
  • About Valeri Dimitrov sensei

Valeri
From my point of view, writing about Valeri is writing about Budo. Regarding every aspect that I understand of the way of the warrior. So, this short text is easy to write in a way, because I am not actually talking about Valeri, but about Budo. On the other hand, it is very difficult, because Budo (the martial way) is so deep, and so is Valeri.

I first met him in 2000, in Spain, when he became the first time European champion. He was kind of a mystery, very quiet, easy to pass, almost invisible. On the tatami you had to take notice. He was doing almost nothing, but he was winning in a very convincing manner. He was taking everything what was thrown on him, almost absorbing kicks and punching, and he was always going forward. Probably Sosai would have loved him dearly. I had to look at him from the second round of the competition because he fought with a very strong Romanian member of our team. Our fighter was doing everything, but with almost no effect. He lost in the second round because he was exhausted and it looked like Valeri was just waking up. So since then I have always watched him with interest and I was never disappointed. I don’t want to talk here about his countless titles, others have done it better, I want to talk about the man, the character, about his inner beauty as much as I can understand.

With time we became a little closer, exchanging thoughts, joking (mostly me, I am a joker), watching fights together and making bets about who was going to win. I always had a good time with him, and I think everyone who knows him considers him a very good company. But he is more than that. I always got the feeling that he understands more than he says and much more than he shows. He is very smart, but quiet, like the Budo way should be. He has a good word for everybody, he does not avoid anyone, his patience sometimes annoys me and makes me want to shake him.

I have never seen him angry. This worries me sometimes. I am joking. It was only once, at the last World Tournament, when he looked tired and worried. He was under so much pressure from everybody that I think he forgot for a moment about his true nature. But it was love that made him react like this. He did not want to disappoint his teachers, his teammates, his friends, and his fans. But reality has sometimes a funny way of waking you up. And it did exactly this with Valeri. After not winning the World Tournament, he changed. He become so much stronger, and I don’t mean physically, but mentally. He become one, he closed the circle. At the next competition when we talked, the World Cup from Lithuania, I asked him before the tournament if he was nervous. His answer was so good: “It’s just a competition.” He won first place. He finally understood the value of being in the present, to enjoy everything without judgment, without expectations.

Although he is a fantastic fighter, his entrance on the tatami is almost invisible, very humble, like he does not want to disturb something or someone. When he wins, he reacts in the same way like he lost. No reaction. This is understanding. Understanding of duality, of the nature of this universe of illusion in which we live. Enough suffering is produced by winning a fight against someone, you don’t need to make a spectacle out of this. And he doesn’t make it out of compassion, another characteristic of Budo.
When he came in Romania to teach in our summer camp, I told him that in my twisted mind, I see him like that beautiful character out of the cartoon movie Kung-Fu Panda, Master Oogway, the ancient wise turtle. He laughed, but he did not get mad. He has a very good sense of humor.

I was always fighting and contesting my teachers. I still do it now sometimes, but not so often. I have never seen him do something like that. He is the perfect student that any teacher would love to have, never protesting, always listening, always saying Osu! This is what will make him such a great master.

Some teachers, when they come to teach in camps, they know perfectly what they want to teach. Some of them are like an ocean that brings you waves of knowledge, technique and if you are lucky enough, fun. Valeri is not like that. He is like an ocean without waves. More like a mountain lake. Transparent and deep. He was always asking me before every training: “Harris, what do you want me to teach?” If you were intelligent enough to ask the right questions, he would answer any of them in the wisest manner, profound. Whatever you wanted he was giving with altruism and passion. But you had to have the right questions. No waves here.

He is one of the loveliest family men that I know, an ancient soul, taking care of his amazing children and his beautiful and intelligent wife. He is the embodiment of Budo in my view. I hate him sometimes for being good in every aspect of his life. I could write a novel about him, but we are in a time when people don’t have patience anymore.

Going over what I wrote I realize two things: I could only touch the surface in trying to describe Valeri, my friend, but, like Budo, it takes lots of practice and dedication to understand and to feel more. And secondly, it looks like a love letter.  Osu!

  • “The way of the samurai is found in death”

Nowadays everything we are being taught is about life and how we should deal with it, how to become successful, how to behave etc. All education follows this path. In the past, things were a little different, and for me Kyokushin and all the philosophy behind it, the samurai code, the old warrior way offered a different perspective, a more healthy one, in my vision.

“Hagakure”, a spiritual guide for the warrior, written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo starts like this: “The Way of the Samurai is found in death”. And it continues with this advice: “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.” For most this kind of technic is very disturbing, it is a thing of the past. This is not something new. More than 1500 years before Tsunetomo, Seneca, a Roman philosopher, advices one to do a daily calm meditation on all things that could go wrong, disease, illness, accidents, death. What is wrong with this people, why can we just go on living our lives in peace focusing on more positive things? Of course we can, and most of the people actually live like this. The word death is tabu for them, even hearing this word makes them uncomfortable. In my opinion this leads only to unconsciousness.

What does daily meditation on death and illness do, on things that could go wrong? It makes us conscious. One day, not very far from now, this events will eventually happen anyway. Problem is not this, this is only natural. Problem is that until then we live like we are immortals (and in a way we are ), and that means we do not appreciate people, events and things the proper way. We do not appreciate our meal, our neighbor, our daily training, our student, our master. Have you noticed how much we start missing lovers, friends and parents when they are far away? Have you noticed how much we miss our training when we cannot train because of an injury? This are only signs that we do not live in a proper way. And life should be about daily cherishing and loving your friends, your family, nature, our training, everything, even the “bad” things that happen only to make us more conscious.

Training in a dojo makes us conscious about many things. We discover how vulnerable we are, that life can sometime end with a single blow. We discover that we are not the body, but something else, more beautiful, that makes the body go on even after we think it can no longer function. We train how to end a life in order to appreciate it more and to protect it. What a beautiful paradox! So, I encourage you to do this meditation daily. This is a very old method, but we must make it new again, so we don’t start living as walking deaths. Meditation on inevitable death leads to life, a more beautiful and more conscious one.

More than 20 years ago, shihan Howard Collins asked me before a competition if I was prepared. I answered yes, of course. And then he told me something strange for me back then: “Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy everything!” Now I finally understand. Osu!

  • About Norichika Tsukamoto sensei

Tsukamoto’s secret
For about three days I had the chance to spend some time with sensei Norichika Tsukamoto in our summer camp. For me, he was always a kind of a mystery. Sometimes I was truly amazed at his innovations, sometimes he made me laugh and sometimes he was confusing.

Towards the end of the camp I was about to receive one of the biggest physical, cultural and spiritual shocks of my life. I guess that watching his career from a distance, everybody wondered about his secret. How does he execute his amazing techniques, how can he be so efficient with very little effort seemingly? So we started with technical questions. And he answered with the greatest kindness and benevolence. And we trained, and it was really great. But this was not nearly enough. Somehow we felt that we are only scratching the surface of a huge volcano. So we tried more.

We asked about his special stretching and body adjustment program. And with his generosity he never hesitated to show us everything, his daily routine. And we had the feeling that we went a step further, a step deeper. We realized that the capacity of the body to perform efficiently without much use of energy was greater than we thought. We discovered lines of energy, circles and points. For some it was sufficient, maybe more than what they hoped for. I was still not satisfied. Still I felt this man is more than what we understood at this time. Where did his inspiration come from, his creativity?

So we started asking more questions. And we found out he emerges from a line of artists, his mother teaches katana, his grandfather was a sculptor. Himself, when he was a child, he never wanted to become a karateka, but a painter. And it came like a thunder: he became a painter, but his paintbrush was his karate techniques and his canvas was the tatami, his force inspiration and improvisation. But this was still not enough to explain his strength, his endurance, and his will.

And then, like sensing that somehow we were still a little baffled, on the last training sensei Tsukamoto shared his story with us. And so we found out that maybe the most important thing is to be part of a system. Of a cultural system that gave birth to the samurai and the Budo code and to Sosai.

His life was not perfect, this man was very familiar not only with the glory of the heavens, but also with the dark shadows of hell. His journey was not all flowers and celebration, but also many encounters with depressing times and demons. The will to know more about himself and the health of the system he was part of saved him in the end. Great teachers, great students, his masters, Shinkyokushin. They all saved him from himself, from who he thought he was and he was not, from an egocentric life to a life of altruism and dedication. A life of understanding that doing something for the others is finally doing for yourself, for the completion of your personality.

And so, a formidable young world champion, with skills that come into manifestation once in a century, became a mature world champion with the same skills, but this time accompanied by understanding, empathy and a deep sense of belonging to something greater than himself, his family, his dojo, his Senseis, his students, his organization, his country, his world, his universe.

Sensei, thank you very much for letting us take a glimpse into a wonderful human being, and one of the most inspiring and fascinating fighters of all times.

Osu!

Harris Wallmen

Photos and text are taken from FRKK  www.fb.com/federatiaromanadekaratekyokushin

Thanks to editor Scott Heaney http://the-martial-way.com