Ray Wetzel ( 1957 - 2007)
Sensei Ray began his Martial Arts training in 1975 under my assistant Mitsuoshi Saura, Nidan, Shorinji Kenpo, and Associate Sensei of Taishindoh, and earned his Shodan in Taishindoh in 1980.
Ray continued to train in Taishindoh over the years and because of his dedication and love for the Martial Arts in general, and Taishindoh in specific, he rose through the ranks to eventually earn his Godan Rank. Ray was a conscientious and dedicated student of the Martial Arts, and he was faithful and dedicated to me as his teacher and mentor. His Martial Arts skills and dedication to Taishindoh eventually brought out the Teacher in him and thus he became my Assistant for nearly Twenty Years. We traveled as a team! We attended seminars as a team! We attended the Banquets together! We supported the Tournament as a team! For nearly Twenty years we were a team, and then Illness struck him down!
In my dual career in Martial Arts of more than fifty years, and in Human Services as a Family and Child Advocate and Counselor of more than thirty years, I have met hundreds of folks who for one reason or another felt that their lot in life was either cruel or not to the best of their liking, and that they had made all of the excuses of why they could not perform life’s tasks, but Raymond Wetzel was an Inspiration! You see, Ray was afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis, MS, the onset of which came in his early Twenty’s. He endured throughout his life with suffering and pain, but not once to my recollection did I hear him complain or fail to perform his obligations whether his job or Taishindoh!
Over the years, he continued to train, teach and help prepare students for Rank advancement and Tournament competition as well as other necessary tasks pertaining to the successful operation of a Dojo. We were together for many years! From time to time the disease which robbed him of his strength and manhood would flair, and while evidently in great pain, he would endure, smile and not complain as he tried to be as a role model for the young people in our classes! Karate, Taishindoh was his life!
My Hero’s have always been Hero’s and they reflect a wide range of people, personalities and accomplishments, but Ray was special! He went about his daily tasks no doubt in excruciating pain, but never complained. He did not take time off from his Martial Arts obligations because of his disease; he made no excuses, rather he showed up on time and with a cheerful demeanor brought the classes to attention and began the spirited warm up! He looked forward to some simple pleasures as going to dinner after class. For years, we would meet at one of his favorite restaurants each Friday evening along with his older brother Ed (also Taishindoh) and just have a good time talking.
His awards were many and the accolades many more and they included Induction
into the Eastern USA International Black Belt Hall of Fame where he received
many accolades over the years, and later, a special recognition as a Martial
Artist from The World Head of Family Sokeship Council. His greatest reward
however was the trust of the parents whose sons and daughters he helped
to train, but above all, it was the accomplishments of the students that
was the most rewarding! When his disease became more progressive and profound,
he realized that his activities in Martial Arts and active teaching days
were near an end and the possibility of total disability was at hand, we
had a private lunch together and he shared the following thoughts with
“Ron, I have had a good life in so many ways. I have met so many
great people through the Martial Arts and Taishindoh. I have been honored
by some of the greatest Karate Hall’s of Fame and have had a chance
to travel all because of you and Karate! I have learned in my life, yes,
even through my “Illness” of the things that are really important!
I remember Ron the lessons you taught us over the years about “Character
and Honor! I remember what you said about Rank and Diplomas” which
can be purchased for money, but everything I have in Karate I earned, I
did it by myself! My family, my friends and my Karate, this is my life!
I was never married and have no children of my own, but the kids that were
in our classes was like another family to me, and it felt so good to see
them grow, and when they succeeded, so did I! This was my “diploma,
this was my rank!” My character is my Rank , and while my Diploma
is only a piece of paper, it’s what you have in your heart that counts,
because this is what you taught us!”
I’m a Lucky Guy!
I will always remember the serious eager young dark hair teenager who referred to Sensei Mitsuosi Saura as Sensei “Mitz,” and together with his older brother and two friends from high school, he started to train in Taishindoh and continued to train, study and be involved in every way for more than Twenty Five Years until the disease took it’s toll and caused him to be physically disabled.
Rest in Peace Ray.
Your stewardship on Earth
was well done and well received!
You have done yourself proud!
The disease that robbed you
as a thief in the night, only
stole the physical but not
your Character and your Honor.
As the Poet wrote so long ago,
“To be a friend indeed
Is to help a friend in need!”
You never hesitated to answer that call! This was you!
Therefore, be it known that the name Raymond Wetzel, Godan, Taishindoh
will be carried on the rolls Black Belts of Taishindoh as an honored Sensei,
and when the rolls are called, his name shall be called by the Soke Dai
of Taishindoh as:
“Present, in Spirit!”
Soke Ronald F. Balas