The title is a saying that Sensei always used to have. He’s always been a firm advocate of maintaining only one style and never branching out to anything else. Although I’ve always been prepared to agree that one needs to study consistently in one style in order to properly learn, I’ve always been of the opinion that one needs to allow oneself to at least TOUCH on other styles, other techniques and other training methods, in order to add some variety to one’s overall martial arts toolbox.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to train with a variety of schools and dojos, learning what i could from different styles. After all, if the techniques you’ve practiced for decades don’t work in a specific situation, what would do? Give up? Let yourself be injured or killed? Doesn’t sound too ideal, to me. With that thought in mind, I’ve always been quite open to studying and training with other styles.
With that in mind, one of the biggest sore points in my training, especially in the past ten years, is the fact that I moved out to the Prairies for my job, which took me away from Sensei and his dojo. Although I’ve had some opportunities to train in other schools since then, I’ve been sitting at my current level for a very long time. Rank has never meant all that much to me. I believe that some white belts can have wisdom and skill that some black belts never achieve. Especially if you’re in a style/dojo that graduates black belts in two or three years.
But my thirst for knowledge never ends, and my ambition to climb stems not from wanting another gold bar on my black belt, but from wanting to learn new techniques and methods and to know the answer to that ultimate question that all dedicated students ask, at some point in their martial arts career: What’s next? It was the driving curiosity behind that question that had me set out to try and find a solution to promoting to my next level.
In 2019, I had a comprehensive conversation with Sensei about my training and how the flow of my life and career had gone. We agreed that it was unfortunate that I had spent the last decade out west, as I might have climbed a couple of ranks within that time. But he agreed that if I was willing to put in the time, money and frequent trips to New Brunswick to train, I could see my next rank within the next year or two. Then, we had a second child. Alexander was the unexpected blessing to our lives that would require an increased presence within my home and wouldn’t make it appropriate for me to be running across the country four or five times a year for the next two years. I had to adjust my plans.
In 2020, I started calculating ways to stabilize things so that I could make my continued learning possible. Just when I felt there might be a glimpse of hope in my efforts, COVID-19 struck and locked the world down in a way that hadn’t been seen since before my lifetime. I was once again at a standstill. I wanted to continue my training, but only if I could do so without having it be at the cost of my familial obligations and finances.
I recently found a school of Uechi Ryu karate in Alberta. Although it would be several hours’ drive, that would be far better than a few thousand dollars for a flight to New Brunswick and being away from my family for extended periods of time. I reached out to this dojo and asked what the thought might be on helping someone promote to their next degree. I’ve been in open exchange with the dojo since last week, and it will be interesting to see if this is the path that allows me to continue my black belt path in this style.
I often say that life rarely cares about one’s plans. I don’t really need to prove that statement. A look at how my life has turned out in the past three years is a documented testament to that very fact. Although Sensei may likely disapprove and believe that stepping into another dojo in this fashion may dilute the teachings that were imparted on me, I need to be realistic of the facts. Sensei has closed his dojo. He no longer teaches. Continuing on my journey with him would be contingent on conditions I may not be able to meet. But you can’t keep a good karateka down. It’ll be interesting to see where life takes me, in this respect. ☯