Yes, I decided a little introduction was necessary to set the stage. Sorry for the interruption.
Many of you may now be wondering about my psyche after being bullied for a number of years. Every now and then I get fired me up when I hear of a child being bullied. What makes it worse are parents who don’t do anything to protect their children.
Enough about this now, let’s get back to my martial arts 'introduction'.
In reflection, the early to mid-80’s were really good to me. I got to meet some wonderful people who understood where I had been, bullied-wise.
One of those people was my first Sensei, John Koga, whom I met in 1982. Mr. Koga and his wife lived a half-mile from my house. I first met him while riding my bike, through our neighborhood in Chicago, while on my way to a summer job. Mr. Koga, or Sensei Koga as I called him, was from Kyoto, Japan. He was here in the States, while working for IBM, and to study business economics.
I don’t exactly recall how he noticed me, but he stopped me one day, while I was riding home, just to say, “Hello” and introduced himself. I immediately noticed his thick accent. He went on to say that they were new in the neighborhood and how much they loved the area.
Now to a 13-year old, you are either amazed someone stopped you, just to introduce themselves, or you think someone’s trying to waste your time. At that time, I was a shy, yet respectful kid and my ears were open to Mr. Koga. After chatting for few minutes, he offered me to stop by their home in the future and talk.
As I rode home, all I could think about was this nice couple and the positive attitude they projected. They were humble and full of life. After all, this was their first time living in a different country and not used to ‘American’ customs.
About a week later, as I was riding home again, I saw Mr. Koga in front of his home doing yard work. His wife was trimming rose bushes while he was cutting the grass. He fervently waved at me and I stopped to greet him. We were both sweating from the heat and he invited me inside.
Note: I don’t recommend anyone doing this as we are all taught to be wary of strangers. Since I was not a street-smart kid, and didn’t have the confidence to kill an ant, I figured it was okay.
What I walked into, from that day, was a new world. Imagine walking into a home decorated, from top to bottom, with Japanese art and furniture. I thought I was in a museum and afraid to touch anything. I kept hearing my mother’s voice saying, “Keep your hands to yourself so nothing gets broken.”
Mr. Koga asked that I remove my shoes before stepping inside. He gave me a glass of unsweetened ice tea, with no sweetener. As a diabetic, I was glad it wasn’t sweetened, but the bitter drink made my lips purse. He didn’t offer a lemon either.
Amidst many silk screens and scrolls, I observed a few black and white pictures, on their family room wall, of what appeared to be men in long black skirts with white shirts on. To many of you already familiar with the Japanese martial arts, you’ll immediately tell that these men were wearing gis with hakamas. Well, I didn’t know that! Who knew?
Mr. Koga keenly noticed my interest. That’s when I received my first dissertation on budo, or, The Way of War. I learned such terms as bushido, bujutsu, samurai, and Miyamoto Mushashi. Mr. Koga told me stories of studying the arts, as an adolescent, and the training he experienced.
As our time wound down together, he offered his training to me in a gesture of friendship and trust. As I left the Koga’s home that day, with a head full of knowledge and amazement, I knew I had been blessed with something great.
From that day on, I began studying bujutsu. Bujutsu is a culmination of ancient Japanese martial arts. Such arts that fall into this category are: Kenjutsu (sword), Jujutsu (grappling), and Taijutsu (body). With each category having it’s own sub-forms.
More modern Japanese arts, such as Karate, Judo, and Aikido, are sometimes mentioned as budo as well. This is another debate for another time. Personally, I don’t believe Aikido is a warring art. It’s predecessor, Daito ryu, is.
Okay, enough for now. Yes, this is all true and no, Mr. Miyagi won’t be making any appearances in this story.
Next, Part 3: The Training Begins.