My training in karate started in the mid 70's in the small town of Prince Albert. Today, after 44 years of a martial arts journey, I find myself surrounded by great memories and wonderful people.
I remember as a white belt attending my first tournament, it was the most exhilarating and scary experience I ever felt. When the judge yelled "Hajime" for me to start sparring, I felt the world trembling under my feet but I was determined to fight with whatever strength I had and so I did. I will never forget that day and the respect that taught me to have for the white belts. In the journey of learning martial arts, the first steps are the hardest and the guidance of a good sensei is well respected.
In 1976 after being graded for my orange belt, I started travelling three times a week to Ryerson in Toronto. They were long trips but it was great to train under sensei Manara; the classes were intense and strenuous but the feeling of accomplishment was great. There were those scary moments when sensei Manara would walk during break time looking for a partner to spar; it was called "half time entertainment" (I guess for those who watched) and then there were those wonderful moments like the day we went to visit sensei Shintani.
I was a blue belt when sensei Manara took us to an old bowling alley in Hamilton to meet and workout with sensei Masaru Shintani; I was very excited. It was my naive and rookie blindness that misjudged sensei Shintani when we first got introduced to him thinking this older looking man was not going to be able to teach us anything. I was a blue belt and thought I knew everything; well, was I ever wrong and I was going to have a taste of humble pie. The class started with a warm up lead by sensei Manara and then sensei Shintani took over; he called me up as volunteer to demonstrate a technique and when he asked me to throw him a double punch; one to the middle section and one to the face; Yeah right, I thought to myself, if I do that I will break this guy up. What the heck. I thought to myself, he is a high ranked black belt and he should be able to take it; well.. humble pie time!, after I threw my two fast punches, he continue saying "..and this is how you apply the double hip." And there I was, holding right fist up in the air and my left fist down to the ground. That day sensei Shintani got my attention and my deepest respect and I was fortunate enough to know him better in years that followed.
After being encouraged by sensei Manara, in 1981 I opened the Oshawa Wado-Kai Club in Durham College. On September 1981, we started the first class with 16 students and today the club has successfully grown to over 3000 students with over 100 black belts with five different programs running in four different locations within Oshawa and the Whitby area.
In 1983 Toronto Wado-Kai ran the first junior's ring at a tournament in Ryerson with only students from the Oshawa Juniors classes.
It was an exciting event because for the first time juniors were competing in Toronto and they were students that I trained, what made me excited and nervous at the same time.
I remember how happy I was to was Jeff, Jeffrey and James received their 1st, 2nd and 3rd place medals.
Performing well and getting a trophy in a tournament is exciting but nothing compares to the thrill you experience when you see your students achieving that goal.
My training under sensei Manara never stopped and through the following years I continued attending classes at Ryerson. My first karate camp was in 1978 (The Karate Spirit) at the Ryerson Farm followed by many others. I also continued competing successfully in several tournaments, including the first place in team kata (Bai Sai Dai) in 1985 with John Gallauger and the 1st place in breaking techniques in 1990 at the Thornhill tournament.
While continuing my Wado training, I had the chance to visit other clubs and run some clinics as well. Sensei Oliva (Madrid, Spain), sensei Saito (Madrid, Spain), sensei Geovany (Boston, US), sensei Harlock (Comox, Vancouver), sensei Geovany (Dominican Republic)
My interest in the Martial Arts grew through the years and while never stopping my training in Wado, I also trained in Tae Kwon Do achieving the Shodan-ho rank (red belt with black strip) as well as today, I am continuing my training in Aikido (since 2007), Iaido (3rd Dan) and Tai Chi (over 5 years).
While training in these four Martial Arts forms, I participated in the 1st Mu Mon Kai Iaido tournament (2013) and in the Canadian National Iaido Championship (2013) where I received both times, the bronze medal in my divisions. I also participated in various Aikido and Tai Chi demonstrations.
Martials Arts seems to be a non-stop journey that I continue to enjoy.