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.
Jumping a head a few years...
After graduating from high school I decided to take a year off of school (1996 ~1997). I got a part-time job at a call center in Halifax and started something that, in retrospect could have been a dangerously comfortable 9 to 5 existence. But, the whole time my inner voice was screaming out to me advising me not to give up my dream. In 1998 I quit my job and enrolled at Saint Mary's University (SMU) in the faculty of Asian Studies (ASN). Not only did the school offer courses in all of the things that interested me related to Japanese language and culture, it also offered an opportunity to go and study in Japan at Hakodate University of Education in Hokkaido for one year.
In the end of my second year at SMU, I applied for the one year scholarship and was accepted. The scholarship provided me with airfare to and from Japan, tuition for the year and a Monthly income for living expenses. But, more importantly for me I WAS GOING TO JAPAN!!! It was a dream come true, this was my ‘ticket’, the opportunity that I had been dreaming about since I was 15 years old and I was psyched to make the most of it!
It was in the academic year of 1999~2000 when I first came to Japan. I was 21 years old and ready to soak up as much as I could. I made a lot of mistakes but, was fortunate enough to also make a lot of great friends who saw the purity of my intention and the honesty in my willingness to learn. If nothing else, these were the two qualities that helped me the most during my early and awkward years in Japan. In this blog I would like to tell you about the various experiences and moments of growth that affected my life in profound ways. All of these were either directly or indirectly related to my study and practice of Karate Do as well as personal growth and my level of understanding of the Japanese social values in general. 15 years later, I am still in Japan following my dreams and making new ones. I would like to share with you the experiences that facilitated a deeper understanding of Karate Do and the lessons that I have learned while studying Japanese language and important cultural aspects because these things are deeply rooted in this martial art.
The Purpose of this Blog
In this blog I will share with you various experiences as well as some of the relevant terminology such as 先生 Sensei, 先輩 Senpai, 後輩 Kohai, and some important philosophical concepts of Karate Do. Therefore, the purpose of this blog is to help us all better understand some difficult cultural concepts and develop our language skills that so that we can use in this knowledge in and out of the Dojo. I really hope this blog will help you to appreciate all of the subtle things that are deeply woven into the art of Karate Do as these are the things that make it so much more than just practicing how to kick and punch.
The reason I want to share with you my story and the experiences I have had in Japan is two-fold. First, a couple of years ago friends of mine from Australia suggested that I write a book on this very topic. I was interested and intrigued by the idea but, at the same time, I felt a little guarded of my experiences and, to be honest, a little afraid of what people would think. I didn’t want to offend or come across pompous in any way. I also considered the possibility of the project being a complete failure, even though I hadn’t even written one word yet.
Again, the reasons ‘why not’ to do something that could potentially be very fulfilling, that we are all burdened with, came flooding into my mind. I did what anyone in this kind of situation would do, I put it off. I procrastinated, but thought frequently of what I should write. Then on one summer evening after a training session with the high school team that I was coaching for a major competition, while on my way to pick up my daughter from daycare, I was hit from behind and everything changed.
I would like to tell you more about this accident and how it profoundly impacted my life in a future blog. Right now, I just want to say that this incident set me in motion to begin the book project. Now, after a year of writing, I have the second reason for starting this blog. I am well aware of the size of the project that I am trying to pursue. I am hoping that this blog will help me to get pieces of the book out to the public earlier, inspire me to keep writing and provide me with feedback from my potential audience.
(Car Accident, Kumamoto, Japan, 2012)
This my first attempt at blogging and I am still trying to find my way around and get my bearings. But, I am looking forward to this new and exciting opportunity to share ideas and experiences in this way.