As I have grownn older, and my priorities have changed I have focussed more on my immediate family. Especially my Wife and Kids.
Consequently, it is often the case that I only see some family and friends at important events such as Weddings and Funerals.
When I was growing up, I often remember the adults as these events commenting that they only saw each other on special occasions. I didn’t really appreciate it then, but now I realise that if we aren’t careful, we can all focus on immediate priorities and forget to make time for others that were important to us in our lives.
Last week I was privileged to attend the wedding of Sam and Michaela in Cornwall. I can clearly remember Sam starting karate at the Lovedean dojo around twenty(ish) years ago alongside a young George Oliver.
Sam grew up to be an excellent and capable Karate man and met Michaela at our SEKU squad training. He then plucked up the courage to ask her out on one of our foreign competition trips.
I remember speaking to Michaela’s Dad when she first started training at Squad. She had wonderful movement and she clearly had a tonne of potential.
When they got together it was clear to us all that they were a great match. Lovely people with lots in common and bright futures ahead.
When Michaela competed, she was a member of Sensei Hollister’s very successful Saltash dojo. So-to was her cousin Brooke who was very young at the time. Consequently, their Nan used to chaperone them when we went abroad on competition duty. I quickly nicknamed her SEKU Nan and the whole squad called her this when we were away.
It was lovely to be at the wedding and see Sam and Michaela’s parents, Sams brothers and hug SEKU Nan again. Especially after the last two years of lockdown weirdness and social isolation.
Six days after the wedding I attended the funeral of a dear karate friend Malcolm Bradley Sensei on the Isle-of-Wight. Along with my colleagues Chris Carr, Matt Smith and Anthony Asquith we boarded the ferry to travel over and pay our respects.
Malcolm was an absolute Gentleman, and the news of his unexpected passing was extremely Sad.
Many years ago, I nicknamed Malcolm 'Sensei Ave-it’ when we were working together at SEKU Intsructor training.
Malcolm had a ferocious ‘Old-School’ attitude to training which was contrast by his beaming smile, awesome year-round tan and wonderful Isle-of-Wight accent.
‘Helllllooooo Maaaaaarthhheww’ 😊
I was due to teach for him back in December but the class had to be postponed due to rising COVID levels. I was gutted we couldn’t meet up but had some fun conversations over the phone that I will remain grateful for.
On the ferry we bumped into our SEKU Sensei’s that had been so important to us all in our karate careers.
People often say that a strong karate association is like a family. That was certainly the case for us growing up. We were sad to leave the association in 2015 and when we first saw our mentors it was uncomfortable for everyone. But like it is for all families, time is a great healer and as we have met over the past few years our mutual fondness for each other has helped us heal.
I consider some of my instructors akin to Karate-Parents and some instructors and referees like Uncles and Aunties. Former training partners are like cousins or siblings. We all share some amazing memories and history. We are family!
The funeral service had an amazing attendance. There were rows of people who had to stand outside. But all did so in a respectful and appropriate way.
As I listened to the service, I was privileged to hear a side of Malcolm Sensei I did not know personally. His children and grandchildren spoke of him and his zest for life and family. If I had to summarise, I would say that Sensei was indeed a man of Principle and Family.
What an inspiring example!
So, in the course of a week I was fortunate to reconnect with many members of my wider karate family but for very different reasons.
I was thrilled to see two karate colleagues officially confirm their love and start their lives together.
I was gutted to say goodbye to a wonderful character whose beaming smile and consistent example will be so widely missed.
So, whether considering your actual family members or your friends and colleagues in the karate world. Why not reach out, get together or train together once more?
As always karate mirrors life. Things change, people move on and priorities shift. But you never forget a good teacher or the friendship and support of a mentor.
The time to reconnect (as always) is NOW!
Nothing lasts for ever and nothing is guaranteed.
Family is family! In good times and bad.