SOKE's MESSAGE TO STUDENTS:
“THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR; THE WAY OF THE PEACEMAKER”
A young student standing before me in a promotion ceremony more than Thirty-FiveYears ago, caused me to reflect on a question I had been asked many times, and for a moment in my thoughts -- I heard the often asked question of the sempai (senior student)
"Sensei, by becoming your student, would you teach me a philosophy of Karate, a special thought, a conviction which I can learn from and carry through life?"
Surely, I was moved and honored by the students request, it was apparent that he had great respect for me and looked to me for guidance. I pondered his request for some time as I realized the gravity, responsibility and obligation of my response.
"Young student, -- I can recommend some books for you to read about Founders and past Grand Masters of Martial Arts and their personal views of the Natural Force, a Higher Power if you will, if that is part of your desire -- with me however, my motivations are modest and uncomplicated.”
“My focus is PEOPLE, young people! Young people, have a quest to learn, to seek new questions; to discover new answers, not only to our beginnings, but to our future as well!" OPPORTUNITY---DISCOVERY--- LEARNING!, all of these areas are to be found in great abundance in the World we live on; the World we live in however, is oftentimes quite different. For many young people, they seem to have a sense of direction and purpose, while others flounder and encounter difficulty in growing up. I believe in a personal conviction which addresses a unique and different concept of our Nations most important "national resources."
“The "resources" are not to be found in our gold depositories, museums, or national archives, but rather, they are to be found in every household across this Land, and the "resources" are in the form of our people, young people in specific, into whose hands, one day, we will give the stewardship and the helm of our Ship of State. In our lifetime, young people of the present will become the adults of tomorrow; young people will become heads of households and homeowners. Young people will become parents and leaders in both the public and private sectors. Young people will become our tradesman, educators, scientists, and industrial leaders.”
“We have entered a new Century, a Millennium; the 21st Century, the year 2005! Your future, our future, one might say, is no longer tomorrow, but NOW! Surely it is exciting to be alive at this time, a witness to discovery!”
“The basic sciences and technological advancements which will occur during your life-time, as well as your own capability to better understand and coexist with other diverse people will realize a phenomenological growth, and in the first generation of the 21st Century, our existing body of knowledge will double.”
“How sad it would be for Karate if students came to the DoJo and all they would learn is physical Karate; "move here,-- move there", and not have any idea as to reasons why! To open the mind; to learn to free oneself of the weight of things which can distract one from learning ( I believe ) is the very "CORE of KARATE!" A child, a young person beginning to learn -- to experiment, -- to make discoveries as to their new abilities as the result of their own efforts ( I believe ) is an "ESSENCE of KARATE!”How immensely thrilling to hear an excited young voice on the threshold of discovery proudly exclaim,
Sensei, look what I learned, -- look what I can do!"
“The creative mind!, - opportunity!, - discovery!, - free exchange of ideas between people, -- guiding and encouraging the student to rise to a higher potential, and so, there was a point in your training young student(s) when you were given the assignment to assume the role of assisting me with instruction, and while the physical aspects of a Martial Art are relatively easy to convey from one person to another, the designation of "TEACHER" (SENSEI) carries with it responsibilities of a magnitude second only to that of a parent; -- it carries with it highest honors, respect and esteem.”
“SENSEI - TEACHER -- since the dawn of civilization, the responsibility of preserving a collected body of knowledge was given only to those adult men and women who had been entrusted by the community to keep, preserve and pass to each new generation the collected history and traditions, and to help prepare youth for their future as well. You are young and your life (lives)(is) are ahead of you. You will learn much in your Martial Arts education, but I advise you that there is an infinite amount more to learn. A beauty of Martial Arts is that it is an Art! It is disciplined and traditional, and yet, it can be free to individual interpretation and expression While I am reminded of the young student of more than Thirty-Years ago who asked me to share a “philosophy” with him, --- I am deeply saddened when reminded of another youth, who, with eyes down cast, forlorn and dejected would say,
“I am bored, and I am not learning anything new!
Besides, others are being promoted before me!”
“However, I continue to be inspired and heartened however, even in a World of quick gratification; of symbolism over substance; of time tables and schedules, by another student at another time who would say to me,
“WOW! You know every time I do Heian Shodan I learn something new about myself!” “Of all the Kata’s I know, this one is my favorite because it was my first one”
“ do you think if I create a Kata, I can name it after me?”
(I might ad, that the age of these two students examples was 12 years old).
“Kata, the soul of Karate! Of the countless technical applications and movements involved in Martial Arts, Kata is the foundation! Kata is symmetry, it is proportion and grace. Kata teaches us economy of movement, it helps us to develop harmony with mind and body. Kata is like a fine musical instrument, the woods and metal fashioned in meticulous and exquisite detail from the hands of the “Master;” but by itself may be truly a work of art, but only holds the promise of brilliant and glorious harmonics yet to come. The Karate student is like the instrumentalist, learning to play this grand work of art, learning to bring forth the promise of melodious excellence. In another analogy, Kata is likened to a Heroic story of the “Grand Chronicle”, and the student is learning to become a “story teller;” to learn to tell a story with all of the shades of nuance, inflection and intonation; of mystery and suspense of a Master story teller, and, it is dedicated practice, attention to detail, breath of movement and resolute determination to aspire to a higher potential which helps to develop harmony of mind and body.”
“In your continued Martial Arts education you will become steadfast in your knowledge that this education is unique, there is no set time table for learning or achieving, and while we are a Class and train in a group setting, we are in fact many individuals, and we learn as individuals! The study of Martial Arts should be done because it pleases us, because it gives us joy, it gives us a sense of well being and a sense of personal accomplishment and pride, and it offers us a personal challenge to aspire to a higher potential! Martial Arts requires dedication, learning to set and achieve goals for oneself, not time tables or the color of the belt, but most of all, it requires hard work!”
“A young Brown Belt student of mine once told me that he chose not to enter the “Black Belt” tract at a particular time because he felt that he needed to know more about his basics before undertaking a more advanced course of training. He knew he wanted to earn the Black Belt, but he also knew how much more he had to learn in order to achieve his goal. I am pleased to say that the young man finally earned his Black Belt, and today he is known as Grandmaster John Spinks, 8 th Dan, Tai Shin Doh,from Seminole, Florida, Veteran of the United States Air Force, Vietnam, my student and successor to theSokeship of Tai Shin Doh!”
“Young students, you have come far since your entry into a World of Martial Arts and you have earned the privilege to be promoted to the rank of Black Belt. You have been faithful and dedicated; you have oftentimes given up other activities and events in order to come to class to learn and improve upon your skills. I have watched you grow from late childhood, to early and middle teen, and have seen you grow and develop in personality and character. I am thrilled and delighted beyond more than I can say, knowing that you are part of the human population of which I spoke, who will lead us well into the 21st Century!”
“As a new Black Belt, you have not yet earned the title of Sensei (Teacher), that will come with time, experience and maturity. The titleof Sensei - Teacher! - is not sold nor decreed by proclamation, nor bestowed by grant -- rather the designation is earnedby the development of knowledge and leadership skills through years of dedicated studyand maturity, by deed and by council, by the development of character, of forbearing, sacrifice, patience and honor; it is earned as respect is earned; it is given to you by others as a honored trust! It is my fondest hope that today is just a new beginning and that you will continue with your Martial Arts education as a means of opportunity, discovery and learning.”
“BLACK BELT! In the physical sense, a Martial Art! -- In the philosophical sense; Karate, the open hand, the open mind! In the Martial Art, The "Way of the Warrior, the Samurai, the Dutiful Soldier!”. In my lifetime, I have been blessed many fold; with the birth of my sons; with highest academic and occupational achievement; with opportunity to be engaged in meaningful work, to rise to the highest level in a World of Martial Arts, and to be of Public Service. In my life's journey, I have been privileged to witness many things -- wonderful things -- as well as the dreadful and horrendous!”
THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR!
“When I was inducted into the EUSA International Karate Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1992, I was reminded at that time, that during my teaching career, I had touched the lives of more than 15,000 people through my classes, and as part of my acceptance speech my thoughts went back to another time, to another place, in a far off distant land, where there raged a War called Korea!”
“It has been Fifty Four years, since as a young Soldier standing on the Parade Ground at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo, waiting to “pass in review” to that old Cavalry refrain of “Gerry Owen!” --- and now in the Evening of my life, shadows begin to lengthen, and events long past oftentimes appear; -- images of scenes of the Battlefield and the mortal strife frequent my memory, and to the end of my days, I will always see that young soldier - forever youthful - forever faithful - in harms way - attempting to survive for that day, for that moment, and not thinking of any tomorrow’s.”
“Standing with me today are Men who you know as part of our Karate class, but at another time, as young men, they were true Warriors of a different kind. For this occasion, some of us wear the symbol of yesterday’s Warrior. Master Mark Siwinski, United States Marine Corps, Khe San, Vietnam, who’s young son now serves in harms way with the United States Army on duty in Iraq; Sensei Ken Messina, United States Army, Desert Storm,Mr. Harvey Rosenblum United States Army, South Korea, Mr. Buddy Cohn, United States Navy (Cold War), Mr. Dion Howells, Ohio Police Officer, and myself, United States Army, North Korea. Today, in memory of the “Way of the Warrior,” the men beside me wear the symbol representing the way of the Warrior of their time, as I wear the frayed Wool Lined Cap which I wore in North Korea during the Winter of 1951-52, – 54years ago, in the “Way of the Warrior!”
“Physically absent today, but present in spirit is Sgt. Raphael Lancry who is an embodiment of the way of the Warrior. After serving a as a Soldier in the Army of the Sovereign State of Israel he returned to the United States and now serves in the United States Army. Sgt Raphy, has been called to special training needed for the possibility of being deployed to duty in Iraq. We wish him safe journey and GOD SPEED! Standing in for Sgt. Raphy, will be Sensei Kenny Messina.”
“Our World has turned over many times in five decades past, (a half Century) but my memories of events are undiminished by time, and as a young soldier in harms way, I quickly learned that in some ways, life can be but a fleeting moment in time - and survival is most often measured in those moments, - to see, - to taste, - to smell, - to feel, - to live in the incredible wages of WAR;
“On Memorial Days’s past and present, -- solemnly and alone I walk through the “Gardens of Stone,” and there, my eyes search for the names and the dates of the fallen Hero’s of my War. The voice of my inner soul speaks out to me as I gaze upon the rows of “ White Marble Markers” - a name -- a date-- a flag by each -- --- fluttering gently in a soft breeze, as a Silent Sentinel placed by a reverent hand to guard and honor the Young Soldier whose mortal remains rest in the protective bosom of Hallowed Ground!”
“Sleep well young Soldier, -- I too was there!; -- I saw you fall! And while at times I didn’t know your name, I surely knew your Valor!” I recall other names and familiar faces -- frozen in Time, even to Eternity, who by fate would remain forever young! Standing there, -- with memories of Winter unforgiving -- I recall the faces of young men engaged in the mortal strife.-- The sharp crack of Rifle Fire and Machine Gun echo from the hillside, and the crash of Mortar and sound of Cannon remain as a haunting memory, -- Now, in my minds eye, I hear the faint tap of the drum sounding out the "Long Roll;" -- and in the distance, -- as a whisper,-- softly, -- I hear the "Call for Final Muster"
I pause to reflect that I have lived to my age; I have graduated from the Universities; I married, I had children, and even, grandchildren! I have lived a rich and rewarding life; --- but THEY!, THEY gave their last full measure of devotion; -- having given up all of their TOMORROW’S so that WE might have TODAY!”
“Opportunity, Discovery, Learning! To be given the opportunity to learn to understand a part of life not only from a philosophical and academic sense, but from a "hands-on" -- experiential frame of reference, that knowledge is not whole until the “WAY OF THE PEACEMAKER" is learned! Young people, by the virtue of your existence -- "here and now," will be part of a human population who will be witness and attestants to wonderful discoveries in your lifetime, and you will lead us well into the 21st Century, and one of the questions we ought to asking ourselves at this time is, "will you be ready?"
As the lyricist wrote in a certain song so poignant and reflecting,
"There is a road which leads to tomorrow,--
and the pathways are to be found in the recesses of our mind",
“It is what we teach our children today,--- helping to shape and form their minds,--- helping them to be able to dream,-- to think, and grow,-- to take them on many roads,-- to many places,-- to see and experience a World around them that will ultimately prepare them to accept the challenges and to be able to live in those Tomorrow’s, --- and so young student(s),
the "Way of the Warrior! -- The"Way of the Peacemaker!
To understand the difference!”
“Throughout my life, the virtues in humankind which I most highly cherish are those of DUTY, HONOR AND CHARACTER, and while at times these attributes were unclear to me, I began to learn that one the most venerated and cherished is that of PEACEMAKER. In my youth, I would ask,
"who is this that would be the PEACEMAKER?
Who is this in Humankind?
Let me know the thoughts!
Let me see the face!
Who is the PEACEMAKER?"
“And so, as part of my life's journey, I have sought to find an answer; I have surly and truly lived in the Way of the Warrior; and as I speak, I continue to study, to learn, to grow, to improve upon my soul, (my spirit) as a human being. It is good to study Martial Arts, for it teaches us discipline and respect for one another; it teaches us to find beauty in the World around us, and in the final analysis, it teaches us that life is hallowed!”
THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR!THE WAY OF THE PEACEMAKER!
“To be able to understand the difference,-- a balance in life! To be able to treat people kindly and gently, with dignity and consideration, - but also, - to be ever mindful of those who would challenge the peace and tranquility of civilized people; -- to be ever vigilant -- and be of firm resolve!”
“And so, through my life's experience, through my travels and travails in search of that whom in my youth I sought to touch, to feel, to see the face, (THE PEACEMAKER) has been given to me; and now, as if through a portal of time I can clearly see,
--- BEHOLD! --- IT WAS ME!”
“The definition of Samurai translates “to serve” In his senior years, Funakoshi, Sensei wore a plain greyish Gi with an unusual character displayed on his left breast. When questioned as to the meaning of the character, --- was it a secret of sorts, did it have a mystical properties, did the strange character give him his strength, the strange character so unobtrusively displayed by this distinguished Grandmaster?, he softly replied,
“Helper!”“I am here to serve and to help!”
“To Serve, to Help was the uncompromising philosophy of this World Grand Master, contrary to the picture of Martial Arts so often portrayed by the Media. My challenge to you is to keep the concepts of “to Serve”and to” help” in the forefront of your consciousness in your future endeavors.”
“Honor, Duty, Integrity, are mere words in a language, but on your road to seek a TRUTH, a purpose in your life, these simple words will be as the compass which will guide you in the development of your True Character!”
“The relationships that you will encounter in your lifetime will be developed by your Character; true friendships you will develop in your life will be fostered by your honor and integrity, and those friendships will become solid and enduring because of mutual respect and trust!”
“You will travel many roads and see many places and experience many things during your life's adventure, and you will come to many cross roads where at times choosing the correct direction would be confusing; - you will chance to encounter those who will say to you, "take this road for it is easier! or, to take that road for you will find your reward with less effort!" Take heed young student(s), my advise is uncomplicated; your faith shall be as the rudder of your ship to guide and steer you in a TRUE direction to discover a meaning and purpose in your life!”
And so, my final counsel to you;
TRUST IN GOD!
LISTEN TO THE ADVICE OF YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER!
TO THY OWN SELF BE TRUE!
And now, (young Student(s) I congratulate you on the start of your journey to seek opportunity, to discover, to learn, and to wish you well and long life in your sojourn to seek your WAY!;
I bid you welcome to the ranks of age old, respected and honored traditions as found in Karate!
GOD BLESS THIS GATHERING and GOD BLESS AMERICA!
Grandmaster Ronald F. Balas, Soke