I grew up in the 80s in a remote logging camp called Sewell Inlet on the northern coast of British Columbia, now known as Haida Gwaii. When I was 5 years old, my family – my parents and younger brother – moved to Duncan, BC where I spent all of my childhood and adolescence.
My first introduction to martial training wasn’t karate or tai chi but boxing.
I was asthmatic as a kid, in and out of hospitals, so at 13 years old when a bully picked a fight with a friend of my brother’s and I stood up to him, I wasn’t exactly in the greatest fighting shape and as a result, I took a beating. The damage I sustained on the outside was insignificant compared to how much the experience rattled me on the inside.
My dad, who at various times in my life worked as a logging camp mechanic, a union head and millwright at an industrial animal feed mill, recognized this as a pivotal point in my life. He told me I had to learn how to fight. And he was right.
Boxing changed my life. When word on the street was that I’d learned how to box and defend myself and most importantly, that I wasn’t afraid to do so, the bullying stopped. Not only that, my intense cardio workouts in the boxing gym had the added benefit of conditioning my asthmatic lungs to the point where I started feeling healthier and stronger than ever.
As a child and into my teens, though I dabbled in karate here and there, it wasn’t until I was 17 years old when my friend took me to his karate class and I was immediately hooked. The training spoke to me personally, spiritually. I knew I understood only a fraction of what the training had to offer, yet I held a conviction from this day forward that I would follow this path.
As a young adult, I trained with various teachers on Vancouver Island. By this time, years of martial art training afforded me a set of strong, healthy lungs and when I was in my 20s, I picked up and left for Toronto to follow my other great passion in life: Music.
While in Toronto, I worked up to a gruelling twelve hours per day in construction with sometimes just a day off. Three nights a week I’d make my way to William Hind Sensei’s dojo east of Toronto in the Danforth area. I knew of Hind Sensei through a connection on the island. He was a 9th Dan and the Head of the Canada Goju Association and oversaw dojos from coast to coast.
It was here where my karate training started in earnest.
Training back at home wasn’t nearly as intensive. Hind Sensei incorporated a lot of kumite into his training, and Friday nights the students sparred for hours, save for the occasional stretch here and there. I was struggling to keep up. I was “losing” consistently and getting frustrated with my lack of progress. On top of that, I was having a rough time, personally. My friends in the music scene fell into some nasty drug-induced habits, I was struggling to find work and feeling as if nothing was working out.
After class, some students would hang back and chat with Hind Sensei about training and life. Without fail, I was one of those students. One night after everyone left, I spontaneously voiced my frustration to Hind Sensei – surprising even myself – about not being able to keep up with the intensity of his training.
He listened patiently and when I was done, he looked at me and said, “You’re doing fine. Keep training.” It was a simple message. Almost too simple. But it’s one that has sustained me throughout the years and one that I continue to pass on to my own students.
The Toronto music scene was fun but I was involved in a serious accident on highway 410, just north of Toronto, and it changed the course of my life and my priorities.
Hind Sensei was also a Reiki Master and my last memory of Toronto was limping into his dojo for a treatment and final goodbye.
I moved back to Vancouver Island where I trained with Douglas Mortley Sensei, head of the Shorinji Ryu Association, where I studied Shorinji Ryu karate, kobudo, Old Yang style tai chi chuan and kobudo. Mortley Sensei introduced me to more advanced martial arts techniques and it was this training that laid the foundation for all of my later studies.
“Budo is the Japanese word for the “martial way” or put another way, the “way of war”.
There is a saying in the martial art tradition, “In life and death, budo”.
Embodied in the “martial way” is the knowledge of how to skillfully navigate through the world, to capitalize on opportunities, avoid pitfalls, create meaningful connections, and to fully grasp the significance of letting go.
I am always working on learning and evolving my abilities whether that be in Karate,, playing music, or maintaining honest and meaningful relationships. In the end it means each moment is appreciated as vividly and clearly as can be allowed.
Training in the martial arts has been instrumental in the development of my values, discipline and work ethic and once I become proficient enough to teach others, I felt I’d truly found my calling. Now, life without this training is a life I can no longer imagine.