I am a big fan of the Rock Band the Foo Fighters. I have written before of my admiration for Dave Grohl and his artistic ability, skill, and desire to collaborate. I think he serves as an excellent role model. He is a leader with a generous spirit, a compassionate approach and yet he still demands and maintains the highest of standards.
Like millions of others around the world I recently watched snippets of the Foo Fighters September tribute concert in honour of their recently deceased drummer Taylor Hawkins.
The concert was an amazing spectacle, yet the sadness was heart-breaking.
Dave (as always) did an incredible job of leading the musicians through the tribute. My personal highlight was the look of support and pride present on Dave’s face when Shane Hawkins (Taylors 16-year-old son) smashed out the final drum solo during his performance with the Foo’s to ‘My Hero’…… Amazing!
While I watched a wave of selfish sadness swept through me.
I wish I’d seen the Foo fighters live with Taylor at the drums.
I had meant to (many times) but I always seemed to have other priorities.
I simply thought; ‘No problem, I’ll go to their next concert’ …… (What a doughnut!)
I have grown to realise that I am not unique in my malaise. When I was growing up, I clearly remember the Live Aid concert being on Television in 1985. I also remember my Mum’s desire to see Queen, especially Freddie Mercury (My Mum had a bit of a crush) live on tour.
I also remember the sadness of watching the Freddie Mercury Tribute in the early 1990’s and hearing my Mum reflect on her regret on having never seen Queen with Freddie perform.
When I started karate aged eight, I had no concept or appreciation that my Sensei’s themselves had teachers, role models and heroes. It was only as a young adult that I started to appreciate the impact of their own Sensei and started asking questions.
My teachers and indeed my karate hero shared the same instructor.
Japanese Master of Shotokan Karate
The famed Japanese master resident in London who was once rumoured to have the hardest punch in the whole of Japan.
As a young first kyu (Brown and double white belt) I daydreamed of what it must have been like to train the 1960’s with Sensei in his prime. Feeding on his knowledge and the electric atmosphere in the dojo.
Back around 2001 my friends from the Portsmouth dojo including Hannah Day, Keith Williams and Dave Galloway were heading up to Marshall Street to train with Enoeda Sensei. I was invited but decided not to go. I felt (stupidly) that I should wait until I was better. I wanted to be good enough (in my mind) to best represent my instructors and myself.
Sadly, Sensei passed away in 2003 and I had missed my opportunity of experiencing his work and presence first hand.
And for what?
Stupid pride and self-importance!
I now realise that Sensei would have not been massively focused on me. He would have been working and teaching the whole class.
I should have gone …… I should have been there………. I missed my chance!
A Lesson in Perseverance
Last weekend I was teaching for my friend Mark Elliott at his dojo in Newport on the Isle of Wight.
For approaching twenty years visiting the Island had been amongst the highpoints of my karate calendar. I regularly visited the island two or three times a year to train with my heroes on ‘special’ courses.
In hindsight these were great and special times. They were extremely formative for me.
When Sensei Hazard resigned from SEKU in 2003 I continued to travel to Newport twice yearly to support Mark's courses but mainly to absorb as much as I could from Sensei. I love the Island, its people, and the karate memories it holds for me.
During 2020 and amongst the mess of the pandemic Mark suffered a horrific stroke. His mobility and health were compromised just at the point his dojo needed him the most. Somehow, he managed to rally himself, and with the support of his wife Lisa and Senior Students he pioneered Zoom based teaching in its infancy and kept his dojo alive.
On Sunday I was pleased to meet Mark and Lisa in Costa for a catch up before my course and it was great to see Mark walking without a stick. He has incredible determination but in his own words ‘he still can’t do what he would like to do’. I think his resolve is amazing….. or perhaps he is just stubborn (what do you reckon Lisa?)….. either way, his attitude to recovery is impressive.
I have learnt a lot about the ability to lead a dojo from Mark's example. He proves that it is not exclusively about physical capacity. Mark is recovering, he cannot do what he would like to do in a gi.
But he is there. He is present. And his students respect, value and need his insights!
If Mark had adopted the limited mindset I had in 2001 when I let my own perceptions and pride stop me from training with Enoeda Sensei, his classes would have stopped. Yet since 2020, Mark has continued to develop and push his students and open opportunities to new people of all ages wishing to learn karate.
I like that ….. A LOT!
A Lesson Learned
I taught three hours on the Sunday. The first was a fundamentals class focusing on the often underused Mawashi-Tsuki (Hook Punch) and my drills for defending against it as an attack.
The second two hours were then devoted to a study of the kata Unsu.
Back in June I dislocated my knee whilst training on a course with Police Officers and Mixed Martial Artists. Consequently, I knew that performing the elaborate 360 degree jump in the kata would be a …… challenge.
Part of me wanted to call Mark and discuss changing the content or theme of the course. But then I pondered Mark's example and my previous failures with Ego and Pride.
I resolved myself that I would just commit to doing the best work I could. Be honest about my injury and offer as much value as I could in our explorations of the various other techniques and applications.
After all ……. The course wasn’t for or about me …… it was for the students!
In addition to many of Mark's Students my good friends Mick Lambert and Andy Shorkey from the Newport SEKU dojo were at the course. I really appreciate their support, not least as they are both my Seniors in karate, but equally as they had been at Petersfield with us the week before. (We became friends training together inline on the courses I mentioned earlier).
The three hours flew by and I am sure everyone enjoyed the training and I hope found it of value. One student sticks in my mind. He was a gentleman with an exquisite white beard and a friendly face similar to that of Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street. He was training with his Grandson and having a wonderful time.
I have a Grandad (Clive) who trains at our Petersfield dojo with his Grandson. He is also lovely, although he struggles with and is learning dojo etiquette. 😊 Having been introduced to karate by my Dad I truly love seeing families train together. Witnessing grandparents alongside grandchildren seems extra special. (I love karate).
I kept finding myself drawn to the friendly grandad and watching his training. I think it reminded me of the precious nature of the moment and the need to take and enjoy opportunities.
After all, we won’t be here forever. Neither will our teachers, heroes, or the bands we want to see live.
I wish I had a time machine.
If I did, I’d train with Enoeda Sensei, book tickets for the Foo’s and take my Mum to see Queen.
But for now….. to follow Mark's example….
The Show must go on!