It is interesting to see young Karateka progress and come to certain realizations, and when it is easy to tell whether or not they are simply paying lip service to something they have heard or when they are really talking about something they have learned from their own experience and insight.
Back in the day it was easy to agree with Dascenzo Sensei, but did I really understand anything? Not in the slightest I would say and quite a bit of what I did back then was nothing more than emulation, repeating movements, repeating teachings, none of it was my own, none of it was insight.
Insight comes slowly and, sometimes, feels like a bag of bricks smacking you upside the head saying, 'Pay attention to this dumbass, there is more to it than you know.'
I was very good at paying attention, still am, and I was very good at picking things up, but again, it was easy to agree with Sensei and not to question because Sensei was there, although he did not give answers directly all the time, he would often give you a piece of the puzzle and expect you to find the rest on your own.
Still, even with only a piece, coupled with a good attention span, it was easy to agree with Sensei, to emulate, which is a natural part of the learning process in the beginning (the beginning being the first ten to fifteen years... This meaning there is only a hint of even superficial understanding on the part of the Student).
It is easy to say 'Yes Sensei, I understand,' perform the principle a couple of times in training, but only a couple of times as you start to wear out and give in to the little voice in your head that says, 'Okay, now I want to just give up, you can slouch and have semi-bad form for the last fifteen minutes,' of course Sensei always noticed and made it obvious without even saying a word.
Keeping One Point, Keeping Weight Underside, and Extending Ki all seem like simplistic, even outdated principles at first glance, and one might even think they understand them, but it has been twenty five years and these principles are the deepest, encapsulating every other aspect of Karate, indeed, beyond Karate itself... If a person has eyes to see, and half a brain... Which at the time, I did not (sometimes I wonder even now).
Sensei said that the Teacher never truly leaves the Student, the Student always leaves the Teacher, and this is necessary for the growth process.
I have had the opportunity to train with many great Teachers who come from many varied backgrounds who have graciously offered up what they have come to understand, from IOGKF USA Chief Instructor Gene Villa to Author and West Seattle Karate Instructor, Kris Wilder, and a brief, yet deep, encounter with Hiroo Ito Sensei, each offering up something different, yet something relevant, from which I continue to learn to this day.
When I say learn it is no longer about emulation, it is about thinking deeply, applying, testing these things out, adjusting, and testing again, seeing how it fits for me as an individual and, from there, carrying forward with said insights to contribute as much as possible to the art a s a whole... Not that I truly get any of it, but I have had my moments and I am sure Sensei would still stop me and shake his head just to keep me on the straight and narrow.
When I began Karate I had come fresh from an after school Tae Kwon Do Program that had been closed down along with my Soccer Program, which I liked better, but decided I liked training in Martial Arts too because it kept my Soccer skills sharp.
I was a competitor and I got involved with competitive Karate almost from day one, my first tournament I performed Hookiyu Kata Dai Ichi as a 10th Kyu in front of this bald Asian Guy who was center judge that I would later find out was Teruo Chinen from Spokane.
That same tournament I had cut my foot on a stray piece of metal just before my division was to begin Kumite, I had it taped up and went in anyway.
I blasted through the ranks, learning each Kata, each set of drills, but one thing I really relished were the two person Kiso Kumite drills, and my goal was to learn my favorite Kata, Seiyunchin, before my thirteenth birthday... I achieved this at two and a half years at 4th Kyu and then slowed down.
I was awarded my 2nd Kyu by Charles Todd Sensei, a Student of Dascenzo Sensei who would constantly visit the Bremerton Dojo in his free time from EWU.
I had moved to Spokane with my family and gotten in touch with Todd Sensei who was teaching a small group out of the rec-room at his dorm and there I became his Dai Sempai and helped out with a seminar.
Did I really know anything? I was really into the positions, the titles, the belts, collecting Kata, but always practicing the highest Kata I knew, but eventually Todd Sensei had to move, so I was on my own, I kept training as a 2nd Kyu, I even received Sensei's blessing to maintain my own small group, so I began teaching out of my basement.
It was all well and fine, but eventually everything started to seem less important and I stopped wearing my belt and my Gi, I simply trained, and the more I trained I would focus more on Kihon and the more basic Kata and, eventually spent several weeks on end training a single Kata, one Kata for each month.
I eventually moved back and actually stayed at Dascenzo Sensei's house for a time in Olympia, I was about fifteen or sixteen, and the Bremerton Dojo had closed, but Sensei was now teaching out of the Evergreen Learning Center.
I had no inkling to test or to even achieve my Black Belt because I felt I still had a long way to go, which is probably why Sensei made me test.
Did I understand anything? Do I understand anything even now? I know what I know and I know that it will probably be wrong in a few days, a week, a month, a year, but I press on, I continue to train and learn from what I have, knowing full well I may never achieve any sort of importance within any kind of Karate hierarchy, but is that really important and does that really mean anything? Does it even equate to understanding on any level? In some cases, yes, it certainly does, but in other cases it certainly does not.
Keeping one point is more than just a principle, it is a way of life that says you continue on regardless of the situation, and even then, forget about the unimportant things, cut things down to the bare essentials and let others think about the other things until they realize for themselves what it is really all about.