Monday, 27 October 2014

心得 (Kokoro E) 'Information' or 'Knowledge', What do you think?

The Five Dojo Teachings listed in my previous post are well known in the International Chito-Ryu Kareate Do Federation (ICKF) Curriculum. Attention should also be paid to the 千唐流空手道心得 Chito-Ryu Karate Do Kokoro E, the Directives of the study of Chito-Ryu Karate Do. There are ten in total and they are directly related to the five Dojo teachings presented earlier. Upholding these directives in our appraoch to training and in our daily lives is the responsibility of every serious Karate Ka.
千唐流空手道心得 Directives (Regulations) of the Study of Chito-Ryu Karate Do
Students are obligated to know the following:
a) When you start karate you must comply with the teachings with an open mind and submissive (humble) feeling, and not make bad habits.

b) Of course, you must respect your Sensei, Senpai, and fellow training partners. Kohai must also respect each other. We must have virtue of modesty and humility. “Bravery without respect is violence” (Confucius, 552 - 479 BCE).

c) You develop a healthy body through unyielding dedication to training and perseverance.

d) Training brings forth the cultivation of spirit, personality development is strived for and we are mindful of building peace and freedom for society.

e) Always have correct behaviour and absolutely don’t lose rationality.

f) When you study, it must move from easy to difficult, simple to complicated through repetition. Don’t mindlessly do hard training from the start, and never hurry.

g) Always have an intimacy with Makiwara, Chishi, Sashi, Kame, and Iron Geta and the fist, and don’t hurry the effects of these. Research Kata and Kumite with enthusiasm and train both equally.

h) A long time ago, it took three years to completely master one Kata. If you become a little good at one you must not become conceited. If you become conceited it will stop the progress of your natural moral virtue, and later you will become a useless person to society.

i) You must be careful to be well balanced in all your training and knowledge of theory.

j) If you do not have a clear understanding of these points, do not hesitate to ask your Sensei and Senpai. You must try to correctly understand.

Courtesy in the Karate Do Context

The ongoing theme of manners and respect are and will continue to be prevalent throughout this blog as good manners are of the utmost importance in Japanese martial arts. Ginchin Funakoshi Sensei (founder of 松濤館Shoto-kan Karate Do) stated that, “Karate Do begins and ends with courtesy.” This statement is very profound and in fact courtesy can be found in every aspect of most traditional styles of Karate Do. From the way one enters and leaves the 道場 Dojo, Training Hall, to the way a 空手家 Karate Ka, Practitioner of Karate Do conducts themselves in the course of their daily life, ‘Courtesy’ can be found in every breath and every action of intent. 
It is believed by many that acting in such a way brings honour to the individual. However, during my time in Japan, it seems to me that people don’t perform this kind of genuine courtesy in order to bring honour to themselves, but rather because it is natural for them to act in that specific manner in the given situation. This may bring honour to their community, Dojo, and their Snesei but, make no mistake, their courteous actions are not, in any way, performed to draw attention to themselves.
Furthermore, In my experience, showing proper manners through specific etiquette is a requirement for effective communication in Japan. So much so in fact, that different speech patterns were developed in the language to demonstrate this in everyday dealings with each other (see previous blog on Keigo). This concept of courtesy in daily life is known as 礼儀作法 Reigi Sahou, The Application of Courtesy. More accurately, the first two kanji mean Courtesy and the last two kanji mean Manners or Etiquette. When placed together they mean the practice of 'good' manners through courteous actions. In his book, ‘Bushido the Soul of Japan; An Exposition of Japanese Thought’ (1909) Nitobe Inazo discusses the many aspects of Japanese courtesy in the Budo context. It is a bit of a difficult read but I highly recommend it to any serious Karate Ka. In fact, over half of the book is dedicated to things such as Politeness, Sincerity, Honour and Self-control all of which are connected to Courtesy. Through out the text which is a collection of letters and essays Nitobe compares Eastern and Western philosophies on these subjects and reflects on them in detail.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

the Teacher / Student Relationship

As an educator and Instructor of Karate Do I feel it is important to consider the teacher / student relationship in order to better understand Karate Do on an even deeper level.  At the heart of every style of Karate Do lays the common philosophy of 文武両道 Bun Bu Ryou Do, the importance of excelling in both literary and military art (This is a concept that deserves its own post. Therefore, I will not discuss it in great detail in this post). I just want to point out that the majority of the martial arts in Japan place a unique emphasis on the development of the mind and the body, this is true of Karate Do as well.
Every experience in our lives is an extension of a relationship. Even when we experience something alone it is still an extension of our relationship with nature or with the event itself. Therefore, we must consider the fact that our relationships with others greatly affect our experiences. This is especially true in Karate Do. The teacher student relationship in the Karate Do context is a very unique relationship that can sometimes become very complicated but, when all of the conditions are right and the level of understanding among those in the relationship is mutual this can be a very fulfilling relationship where both the student and the teacher enjoy physical, mental, and spiritual growth as a direct result of their unique relationship.
Forgive me for stating the obvious but, in order to develop a good relationship on any level with anyone else it is very important to begin with listening and continuing to listen as the relationship develops (See my previous post ‘Listening is the Key’). We are capable of listening and not hearing and at the same time we often hear things even when we are not listening. But, the key is to “listen with the intent to hear.”

There is a famous saying that is well-known world-wide, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I wish to suggest here that this statement should not be taken literally. That is to say, the 'teacher' who will 'appear' is not always a person dressed in a suit and tie who will, like an advice genie, magically appear suddenly, when you are ready and in need, to tell you what to do and guide you through the rough patches or by becoming your mentor after you have fulfilled the basic requirements. Although this is sometimes true, some times the teacher is not a person at all. Rather, the teacher could be an experience or an event that opens our eyes to new possibilities or expands our awareness. Growth like this in an individual thing that can only occur when that person is ‘ready’. Perhaps, it is someone or maybe even something that has always been there but we just couldn’t see it until we recognized it. We couldn't see it because we couldn’t comprehend the importance of that presence and how it could influence our life until. Once it is in plain sight, it we can learn from it or them. I think we have all felt this at one point or another in our lives.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Karate Do Ranks and Titles

In this post I will introduce the various ranks and titles recognized in the Chito-Ryu style of Karate Do. Many of these are commonly used in many of the Okinawan and Japanese styles but there are subtle difference among them regarding some of the specifics. I will attempt to clarify these points.
A great source of accurate information regarding similar topics can be found on the "KARATE by Jesse" blog. I will reference some of the Ranks and Titles that he presented in his "Short Guide" post
In his post he sates, "in Karate... there exists a strong concept of ranks and titles." The ranks and titles used in the Okinawan and Japanese martial arts are fairly common across the board but, as with anything, some do vary.
Brief History
Before Karate Do was introduced to mainland Japan there were no ranks or titles only an instructor and his pupils (a teacher and the students) At this time the self defence art that people were practicing in Okinawa wasn't even called Karate, it was known as 手 Te, hand or 唐手 Toude, Chinese hand because the system came directly from China. I know this is over simplified but the point of this particular post is not to cover the entire history and development of Karate Do. But, it is important to provide a brief history to understand that this is a self defence system that came from China to Okinawa before it was introduced to mainland Japan. After it came to Japan a different name needed to be chosen, one that did not identify any ties to China. Because this system used no weapons 空 Kara, Empty was chosen and the name 空手 Karate, Empty Hand stuck. After this it developed quickly and became very regimented. As the system developed it became necessary to indicate the progress of the practitioners. This is when ranks and titles were introduced. The ranks and titles of Karate Do were initially based on those of Judo.
The 段 Dan system, better known as the 'black belt' rank, was developed sometime in the 17th Century. Dan as well as 級 Kyu simply means grade in Japanese however, the kyu system was developed later than the Dan system. the common belief on how the ranks and titles of Karate Do were defined is that Dr. Kano Jigoro, the founder of Kodokan Judo, invented the both the Dan and Kyu system. Jesse points out that this is not true. He states, "as we now know, he didn’t. Instead, in 1883, Kano adapted the swimming ranking-system used in Japanese schools. By using that as the foundation, he developed the dan/kyu system for Judo which we are using today in Karate. Clever!"
These days, especially in North America there are numerous Kyu levels with a wide range of coloured belts to identify them and generally 9 to 10 Dan levels in any given style. Some more traditional Dojo use only three belt colours to indicate the Kyu ranks; white, green, and brown. Generally all of the levels of the Dan rank are represented by the 'Black Belt'.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Approaching Respect, Honorifics, Titles, and Rnaks in Karate Do (Part 3)

I realize that I promised some examples of practical Keigo in my previous posts and didn't deliver. To be honest with you, this topic is nowhere near a simple one  and while writing it, it has become even more clear to me that there is no simple and easy way to present the information to you. I am afraid that this will take a lot more than 3 short posts to explain fully. More likely, I foresee this this being an ongoing theme of this blog. I will however, try to provide you with an outline of Keigo in this post and go into more detail regarding the Teacher Student relationship in the next post.
Any of you who have studied any language formally will know that it is not fun at all. Using language however, can be a great deal of fun. I often tell my students that language should never be limited to paper because on paper language is boring. It is how people use language that makes it exciting. In this way language comes alive through us. In this post I will outline the three kinds of keigo and give some generic examples to illustrate how each form is used. I will also try to explain the intent with which we should use them. If our intent is pure and honest our mistakes will be taken for what they are and we will be given opportunities to learn from them. Remember, it is not just the words themselves but how we use them that affects those around us the deepest.
With this in mind I would like to introduce the three kinds of keigo to you. But, I do have to warn you, on paper this is very boring!
Introducing the Levels of Keigo
The Japanese language accommodates several levels of politeness through different verb endings as well as using alternative words and expressions. It should be noted that there are three general levels of politeness, which are expressed through different kinds of speech. “The levels correspond to colloquial, polite, and honorific situations" (Rozek, 2010).
Outlining the Kinds of Keigo
Rozek (2010) discusses three types of keigo and how they are used specifically. An out line of this is provided below:
1. Referring to others politely is called 尊敬語  Sonkeigo, this is respectful language used to refer to actions by people of a higher social class than you. Common examples of this would be expressions used in the customer service industry. This can also be seen in the Dojo when juniors are talking with seniors and students to Sensei.
2. Speaking about yourself; referring to you and those close to you such as family members and co-workers (inner-circle members) in a humble way is called 丁寧語 Teineigo, this is polite language that is not limited by the ‘lateral up / down relationships’. In Japan, there is a concept known as the 家 Ie or 内 Uchi which refers to any body's family, company including co-workers, or close circle of friends; the 'inner-circle'.
3. The third type of keigo is called 謙譲語  Kenjyogo. This is humble language used when referring to your own actions. It has two parts and is probably the most difficult one for North Americans to understand and or accept. It involves degrading yourself and those close to you (listed in number 2) and putting others and those close to them on a kind of metaphoric ‘pedestal’ effectively, intentionally lowering your 'social status' and elevating theirs.

Approaching Respect, Honorifics, Titles, and Rank in Karate Do (Part 2)

Keigo in the Karate Do Context
I have found in my personal experience that no matter how highly you are ranked, you should always treat those around and especially those senior to you in age with the utmost respect. More often than not, this is expressed in many ways that not verbal. These subtleties can often either go unnoticed or can be misinterpreted if we don’t have the basic cultural understanding that I discussed in my previous posts. As with anything, there are always exceptions to this rule and showing one’s respect for and or toward another is no different. However, a good rule of thumb would be to remember that age seniority trumps all other ranks in almost every case.
The Image (Sensei and Professor)
Let’s take a common example and put it into a Karate Do context: A university/college student would address his/her professor(s) in a respectful way whether that respect is has been earned or not. They may call them "Sir." or "Dr.~" as a sign of this respect. However, the professor wouldn't have to be as formally polite when talking to the student (Rozek, 2010).

This is a pretty straight forward and easy to understand example but, I have a question for you. As you read that example what kind of mental picture did you create? Did you get a mental picture of the University Professor? What about the student? What is the common image of the ‘Professor’? Did you picture an older man, possibly with a beard or a moustache, wearing a tweed jacket? How about the typical image of a university/collage student? Was the student you pictured younger than the Professor? If we ask enough people this question we will be able to judge the common answer but, it may be assumed that the common image of the Professor is older than the student(s), would you agree? Assuming this to be the norm we can begin relating this example to Karate Do.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Approaching Respect, Honorifics, Titles, and Rank in Karate Do

How is respect shown in Karate Do? What do the ranks and titles really mean? These are questions that are often asked separately but in fact are bound together, in order to answer one we need to understand the other. With this in mind, this will either be a very long post or I will have to break up the posts into multiple sections to effectively answer the above questions.
Introduction & Background Information
In Japan, the social classes have always been sharply divided. This is still fairly evident  in  Japanese society even today and is particularly evident in the 道場 Dojo, Training halls of traditional martial arts. Signs of such social class divisions can be seen in the ideology of 敬語 Keigo which can be described as “an unwritten rule or code of conduct that stresses people must speak with each other differently, depending on their level or position in society.” Some of the things that determine the differences in social class are: age, employment position, experience, social standing, etc. For the most part this is easily recognized when the deciding factor is based exclusively on something like age difference. However, it can be difficult to keep these divisions so cut and dry in some cases. Take the work place for example, sometimes a younger employee may have a senior position. In this case, how should the younger but higher ranking employee address his senior but lower ranking co-workers? This particular example translates to the Karate Do context as well when a young person attains a high rank and assumes a teaching position in the Dojo teaching others who are older in age but of lower rank.
I have some experience with this example. Compared to some of the people that I have trained with over the years, it may be said that I have advanced through the ranks of Chito-Ryu Karate Do fairly quickly. I began practicing Chito-Ryu Karate Do when I was 10 years old. I attained my 初段 Shodan, First Degree Black Belt at the age of 17 in Nova Scotia, Canada under the guidance of Michael S. Delaney (He held the rank of 五段 Godan, Fifth Degree Black Belt and the title of 師範 Shihan, Master Instructor at the time but his title and rank were not the reasons we respected him). Before coming to Japan to work and live in 2001 I had attained the rank of 二段 Nidan, Second Degree Black Belt. I was 20 years old.
Even though, I had only trained exclusively in Canada before the year 1999, I had a very strong sense of the positions and responsibilities of 先輩 Senpai, Senior Student and 後輩 Kouhai, Junior Student. As I mentioned in my introductory post, I trained at the Atlantic Karate Club (AKC), located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While I was training at the AKC, I could only advance in rank and position in correlation with the position of my Senpai. That is to say that, it would generally be unacceptable for a junior to overtake a senior who was training regularly in either rank or title. Therefore, in the AKC at that time, the top ranking practitioners’ positions were pretty much set and we all advanced together or not at all. As far as I know, this was the common practice regarding grading and advancement in the style across Canada.
(The Author sitting in front of the left-hand side mirror in the group of young students listening to Higashi Sensei teaching at the AKC, 1989)
I only knew the way things were run in my Dojo so this naturally defined the parameters of what I thought were common grading practices in Karate Do in general. I was somewhat surprised when I began training in Japan and found that this is not the case; students were not assessed according to the level their peers or those senior to them. At the 総本部道場 Sohonbu Dojo those who were eligible to be tested and met the preliminary requirements of being the appropriate age and had adequate training time booked we were all assessed individually. All of the assessments were made by the 二代目宗家 2nd generation Soke, Head of the Family Style of Karate Do. As a result I advanced much quicker through the ranks and titles of Chito-Ryu Karate Do while training as a young man at the Sohonbu Dojo. There is no question in my mind that I would not have advanced at the rate I did if I had continued to practice exclusively in Canada.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Listening is the Key!

In my last post I talked about the importance of making a good impression and explained what I feel are the three most important areas to which we need to focus our training and study in order to make a good impression when meeting Japanese Sensei for the first time; Technical knowledge (deep understanding of the basic waza), Cultural knowledge (deep understanding of Japanese culture and social norms), and Linguistic knowledge (proficiency with Japanese language to communicate effectively).

I would like to continue in this post by providing you with one piece of advice that I think could facilitate growth in all of these areas. It is simple but in its simplicity lays the difficulty. If I could only give one piece of advice, it would have to be this, Listen. Just stop and listen. I know this sounds easy but in North America we like to talk. In fact we like to talk so much that we have developed a ‘need to be heard’ mentality. If we can develop our self-control to the point where we can stop and listen to what is going on around us we can grow in ways we would otherwise never even be aware of. While we are talking, we are missing the chance to listen, to hear and reducing our opportunities to learn and understand.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Trinity of Proficiency in Karate Do: Technical, Cultural, and Linguistic Ability

I was once asked by a young and eager student who was thinking about coming to Japan how much Japanese he should study before he came. I answered him with a pretty forceful “none!” I had good reasons for my answer at that time but have since reconsidered my ‘stance’ on the subject. First, let me try to explain how I felt on this subject when that student asked me.
In my experience, when someone comes to Japan and they are honest in their approach to learning the martial arts, be it Karate Do, Kendo, Judo, or any other Japanese martial art, they will be taken in and given an opportunity to prove their dedication almost every time and in pretty much any organization. It is what happens during this first encounter that determines the course of stay and indeed the relationship that will be formed or not formed. This is the 第一印象 Daiichiinsho, the First Impression and this is probably one of the most important yet seldom advertised social norms in Japan. The impression that you make on Japanese Sensei and others in the Dojo will stick and, for the most part, determine future opportunities to train and learn in Japan there and or elsewhere.
With this in mind, the amount of Japanese language one has learned prior to coming to Japan could be a benefit or a hindrance. However, if one has no language ability this changes the equation. If this is the case then there are no expectations and the visitor falls into the category of 客さん Kyaku San, Guest. People in this category are not judged on how much they know or how well they can speak, in my experience, they are only judged on sincerity of purpose and dedication to training, in short they are judged on their character. The rest of the communication will take care of itself. Yes, it will be difficult and laboured but, it will all work itself out. The only draw back to being a visitor comes if you wish to be more because, honestly access will be limited. But, the stay will be amazing and the experience will still have the potential to be life changing. For these reasons I suggested that the young student not learn any language and come as a 'guest' and learn as he went. I don’t know if this was good or bad advice but I meant well.
If I had the opportunity to answer him again knowing what I do now, I think my answer would be slightly different. I would make a distinction between Japanese language and culture and definitely urge him to learn about culture and customs before coming to Japan.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Emptying Your Cup and Filling it with Greatness

(Jim Rohn, ) 
A name that you might not expect to see in a book or blog on Karate Do is Jim Rohn (1930 ~ 2009) but, he posed the question in his many lectures, seminars and in his books on self-development that I feel is very relevant to the study of Karate Do, “if a cup is full can it hold any more?” The answer he gave was a simple but powerful “yes. But, only if what is in it is first poured out.” He went on to ask, “Why should we empty our cup?” One thing I learned from reading many books and watching seminars on the subject of success is that the answer to a question like this is always basic and to the point like Karate Do Waza. Rohn’s answer to this question was no different; it was simply “to hold more of the next experience.” I have also noticed in my studies that there are more similarities than differences in the Eastern and Western philosophies on such things. The similarities are there if we know where to look and how to recognize them.

While training and teaching in Japan I have often heard this expression of ‘filling and emptying ones cup’ as a reference to the learning process. The ‘cup’ in this context is called () Utsuwa. A container by definition but in this case it can also refer to someone’s ability to be of great calibre. The greatness of an individual is determined by the size of their Utsuwa and their ability to fill it with good and important things that will help them to pursue and achieve continued success in their endeavours. Another concept that is closely related to this is (素直さ) Sunaosa One’s willingness to be obedient, not so much toward another person but rather, to the lesson. A student with a large utsuwa takes longer to become complacent with their studies and therefore able to listen and learn ‘obediently’ longer than someone with a smaller utsuwa. It is the correct combination of a sunao manner and the size of the utsuwa that help students develop their greatness. Sensei often reference these things when disciplining students but also and more importantly, when motivating them.

Monday, 13 October 2014

立ち方 Basic Stances

I know it is not a very good idea when starting a blog to take a 3 day break especially after only 2 posts but I am happy to be back at it with another instalment to the Karate no Michi. Thank you for all of the support so far I am looking forward to building this blog to provide readers with information that will help deepen understanding of the (Do) part of Karate Do. Therefore, all of the feedback and advice is very helpful!
It has come to my attention that including more photos and illustrations would be helpful in creating a mental image of the things that I discuss in my posts. My last post talked about an experience that I had when I was 16 that had a huge impact on my training and me as a person. I was not only being tested on my proficiency of the (空手道技) Karate Do Waza, Techniques but rather (性格) Seikaku my character and (取り組む姿勢) Torikumu Shisei, Training Intent. I introduced the concept of (諦めない) Akiramenai, Never Give up and to follow things through to completion. This is a very important concept in the martial arts and essential to the understanding of (武士道精神) Bushido Seishin, the Spirit of Bushido.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

2nd Post 諦めない Never Give Up & Follow Through

Since writing my first post, ‘自己紹介 Self-Introduction’ I have been wondering where to start my story and in what order to present the information that I have gathered over the years. What I really want to do in this blog is shed some light on the difficult concepts of Japanese culture that are deeply rooted in Karate Do and have strong ties to Confucius teachings from Chinese classic texts. But, I know I can’t just jump right into all of that. We need to build up to it. So, I would like to try to accomplish a few things in this follow up blog. Of course, I want to get and keep your attention as I introduce one Japanese term that I feel is very important in Karate Do training. Therefore I have decided to tell you about an experience that had a profound impact on my life. It happened, as many important life lessons do, at the 道場 Dojo, Tarditional Japanese Training Hall.
I was about 15 or 16 years old and ready to test for my 一級 Ikky 1st Kyu (Brown Belt). This is, as many of you reading know well, the rank just before 初段 Shodan 1st Degree Black Belt and in Dojo like ours it is a very important step. Delaney Sensei took this phase in a Karate Ka (practitioners) training very seriously. I still remember him saying to me, as well as others at the time that “you cannot pass your brown belt test if they (the grading committee) can’t already see you as a black belt someday.” I took this to mean that one must be serious about their future commitment to training in order to even attempt testing for 1st Kuy but this was not a problem for me because by this time I was very eager to learn all that I could. To me, about 5 years into my training I couldn’t picture my life without Karate Do in it.
I still talk about this experience with my students because I feel that it is an important lesson that can give us some valuable hints on what perseverance really is, really the one core and common lesson in all Karate Do training…

When teaching my students about potential and possibilities I often show them a blank page in a book and an empty cup. I ask them what they see and then ask them what these two things have in common. The answer is that they both possess unlimited and unique potential and possibilities. Their potential and the possibilities for their use are only limited by us. Understanding this changes everything. This is how we must be when we come to Japan empty of pride and ego and full of potential and possibilities.
 As you can see, and, if you have trained for any length of time I am sure you already know, that Karate Do training develops more than just a strong fighting body that can take and give a hit. It also fosters something I like to call a ‘silent strength’ some people have referred to this as a ‘relentless’ spirit; relentless in the fact that one who truly understands the way of Karate, the Mitchi / Do in the title of this blog and not just the Jutsu, will never quit, never give up no matter what the task may be. The concept of continuing something whether it is a challenge, a personal matter, or work related, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual in nature, it may be said that a longtime practitioner of Karate Do has an advantage over someone who has not practiced Karate Do if they are given the same task because the Karate Ka has developed this ‘relentless spirit’. At the same time it is not a display or a call for attention. It comes down to just simply doing the work until it is completed. Because of our countless hours of training and the repetitive practice of basics a Karate Ka is able to understand the true power of this silent strength. Furthermore, understanding the ‘code’ of (和と忍) Wa to Nin “peace through perseverance” we are less likely to quit half way through any endeavor that we devout ourselves to.
 I believe that this is the definition of the term (諦めない) Akiramenai (諦め) Akirame means abandonment or renunciation adding the (ない) which is a negative meaning ‘don’t’ or ‘not to’ in this case changes the meaning to a positive one ‘Don’t give up’ or ‘Don’t abandon the task at hand’.
 I often hear Japanese Sensei saying this to their students and I often use this phrase myself. Every time I hear these words I am reminded of a situation that I found myself in as a young student at the Atlantic Karate Club in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada. I was 16 years old and going to test for my 1st kyu (brown belt). It was the middle of August and very hot in the dojo that night. Delaney Sensei intentionally kept all of the windows shut for the duration of the training. There were literally puddles of sweat on the floor.

空手の道 (Karate no Michi) 紹介 Introduction

Getting Started
Hello everyone, my name is Marc Waterfield. I am originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada. I first came to Japan in 1999 and have been in Kumamoto, Japan since 2001.
 (The Author teaching his small Saturday afternoon children's class at the Chito-Ryu Honbu Dojo, Kumamoto, Japan 2013)
Let me start by telling you a little about myself and my journey to Japan
I began practicing Chito-Ryu Karate Do in 1988 in Halifax, NS under the guidance of Michael S. Delaney Sensei.I feel very fortunate and grateful to have met and learn from many amazing Sensei during my 26 years of practicing Chito-Ryu Karate Do. Recently I have become more involved with the Senior High School Division of the Japan Karate Do Federation (JKF) and have learned many things about how Karate Do is taught in schools across Japan.
At the age of 15 I had a dream to go to Japan and learn from the Japanese Sensei there. As a young boy I wanted to be the best 空手家 Karateka, that I could be and paid close attention whenever anyone was willing to share their knowledge or experience on the subject of Martial Arts and most especially Karate Do. I paid very close attention and listened with excitement, joy、 and wonder the way only a child can when my Senpai returned from Japan and told stories of their experiences training there. I know that this sounds a little over the top, but I can't think of any other way to describe the feelings that I felt bubbling up inside me when they spoke of Japan. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. Ask anyone who knew me then and they will tell you just how interested I was in anything and everything Japanese. There was never any doubt that there was a strong desire in me to one day travel to Japan and experience it for myself. But, Japan is the farthest place a boy from Halifax, Nova Scotia can go in this world. It is ccompletely on the other side of the planet and Western and Eastern Cultural views are also wolds apart. Geographically, to go any farther than Japan would actually bring me closer to Halifax again. In short, this was a huge undertaking for me physically, financially, and emotionally.
 Even at that young age, something inside me told me that I needed to learn the language and understand more about the culture if I really wanted to learn from the Sensei whom my Senpai and Sensei spoke of in their stories of their experiences.
As I mentioned earlier, financially this was a huge undertaking for me as well. It was a reality that my family was not wealthy enough to foot the bill, which in the late 1990s was a lot higher than it is today. I could have taken this as a reason why I couldn't go to Japan, and given into the setbacks and excuses to keep me from realizing my dream. But, for one reason or another, my drive or passion for Karate Do and the sense of fulfillment that came with learning this art kept me focused on going to Japan. I didn't want to visit Japan honestly, a part of me always knew that I would go to Japan to live and work there, this reconfirmed within me the need for language skills and some level of cultural understanding before I made the first trip. The study wasn't easy, but it never felt like work to me.