Queen's University Karate Club

Where Have All the Sempai Gone?

Tim Richardson, professor at Seneca College, in Toronto, ON, Canada

by Tim Richardson

The following letter is in response to the article in the last newsletter "Where Have All the Sempai Gone?" by Shihan Tom Carmelengo.

Dear Editor

I was promoted to ni-dan directly by Hisataka Masayuki, in Tokyo, in 1984 after "participating with distinction" in the 3rd All-Japan Koshiki Championships in 1984.

I came back to my home dojo at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and served there as head Sensei until leaving for a job in international business in Ottawa.

I suspect that Some of the reasons for the departure of many 1kyu ~ 2nd dans is as follows :

Politics: Upon getting into the lower black belt ranks in the Shorinjiryu Kenkokan family one is struck by the incredibly fragmented federation and this is very discouraging. Previously, as a 2nd or 3rd kyu you only deal with your own dojo head Sensei - but then when you make the jump up to the next level, things get complicated and many people get pissed off and leave. I did. I moved to Judo, which has Olympic rules and international standards and enjoyed many years of participation.

Marriage and family. I received my first dan promotion at the end of my university years, the same month I proposed to my wife. Many people receive shodan in early or mid-20's, which is the same time you get married and have children. The next 5~8 years are a blur of small children, overworking at jobs etc. and budo took a back seat to the priorities of being a young father and husband. Many of my fellow budo-bums who I knew in Tokyo in the early 1980's did the same thing, as soon as they returned to Canada, Australia or USA, they taught for a year or 2 or 3, but then got bogged down with small families.

Other things. Karate is not my life (sorry Hisataka Masayuki). Karate is a strong interest and I'll always respect karateka, but I am also an accomplished photographer, soccer player, father, professor, business person etc. Karate does not dominate my life. Some of the things I learned in karate certainly contribute to my life e.g. perseverance, hard training etc. but you can also get those values if you are an accomplished athlete in any sport. I have never "used karate" in a street fight - but sometimes when I give a lecture I control my breathing so my speech is smooth and unhurried. I have never had to defend myself from an attacker, but when travelling in parts of South America I was a bit more relaxed than some nervous foreign businessmen about the ability to beat off a mugger. Karate in the kenkokan community is tough. (and it should be - let's keep the standards high) Kenkokan karate is tougher than most all other styles. Many people by the time they get to brown or shodan have sustained injuries to knees, wrists or knuckles which cause one to take time off - this often can turn out to be a month or more then it is hard to get back into it.

Karate is great - and it did a lot for me in the early 1980's by giving me a reason to go and live in Japan, and learn Japanese language and business practices - which I subsequently parlayed into a business career. But I could just have easily gone to Japan to study flower arranging and got the same cultural/business experience. I'm now 39, my children don't require so much time and I look forward to getting back in to regular dojo training. I welcome comments from other karateka in their 30's and 40's who want to again step back into the dojo after a period away.

I hope my comments are helpful and feel free to clip and paste any in your newsletter if you wish.

Tim Richardson

P.S. I have also worked with Japanese since 1983 and am former Executive Director of the Canada-Japan Trade Council and was on the Japan desk at Dept. of External Affairs - so dealing with the Japanese over a long period of time has seen good points and bad points.

A Submission from Tim Richardson
Nidan - Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo

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