Today’s volume of the Uechi Chronicles is near and dear to me, because it involves someone that’s been an important influence and shoulder to lean on throughout my youth. Guillaume is my Sensei’s son and having basically been raised and grown up around Sensei’s home, Guillaume and I had the opportunity to develop a life-long friendship that’s endured despite years of time and distance. He and I have been friends through all of the important firsts in our lives and I’ve forgotten more stories about us than I can remember.
I first starting spending time with Guillaume when I was around 10-years old. I went over to Sensei’s house and Guillaume thought it would be a good idea to use his home chemistry set to create an explosive. You know how those kids’ sets always say the chemicals are basically harmless? Guillaume proved them wrong! As we grew older, we started to get into all sorts of bad pastimes , such as gun fights with pellet guns, sparring and beating the shit out of each other in public places and being an all-around bad influence on each other.
What’s interesting about Guillaume’s story is that unlike most others, he didn’t join karate by choice. As Sensei’s first-born son, he was basically pushed into it. Although Guillaume is significantly skilled and capable in the martial arts, the forced obligation to be in karate soured him on continuing on into his adult years. As a result, he rarely practices anymore. This is to the detriment of the martial arts world as well as himself and other students who could benefit from his potential teachings.
He now lives in a small city called Bathurst, which is roughly an hour’s drive away from our home town. We still chat on the rare occasion but like most people, life and familial obligations have made it so that we don’t have as much contact as we used to. I last saw in him in late 2019, when I was travelling through New Brunswick on work-related matters. He currently operates as a self-employed acupuncturist and has been building his own house for some time. Despite this busy schedule, he took the time to answer my questions. Here’s what he had to say:
- Why did you join karate?
“I was forced by my father to do karate.”
- When did you join karate?
“I was about 3 years old.”
- How many years have you been training and are you still doing so?
“I trained for about 16 years. No, the odd time I might do a kata… But I can say I spar on a daily basis. So something stuck with it.”
- What have you gained/hope to gain from karate?
“It was the listening part that you had to follow. Made your ears work and not your tongue. To follow orders and commands…my father still, to this day comes to see me and I hear him say my name from a distance, doesn’t matter where I am, and as soon as I hear it, I yell back ‘yes, dad!’ The response to years of having a split second to react.”
It’s an interesting perspective and as some of you may recall, I’ve written and posted videos on the perils of forcing one’s children into the martial arts. Karate is an important journey; one that needs to be made based on one’s choice. This is why despite my preference, I’ve never forced Nathan into karate. He doesn’t seem particularly interested in anything other than wrestling in general, as a game. There’s hope for Alex, though. So who knows? Guillaume has the honour of having been Sensei’s first graduated black belt. Despite the reasons behind, I believe that leaving karate behind is an impossibility. Aspects of it still permeate his soul. ☯️