Sensei Mason’s 2005 Tournament

Following on from our 25th Anniversary Open House and “Shiai” in school tournament, we are looking forward to the 19th Annual Florida Gold Coast Classic on May 14th. Tournaments are an opportunity for students who are yellow belt and up to practice their skills in a more realistic environment, without having to actually get in a fight with anybody. It is obvious to everyone that being able to take care of yourself needs to be a major priority these days.

While tournament competition is never required of our students, it is strongly recommended for several reasons, not the least of which is that regardless of the outcome, competition teaches life lessons that all students can benefit from. Being able to hold your own in a threatening and unpredictable situation is a necessary skill which is not usually taught in the school system, in the home, or in other educational environments. You may enter a chess tournament or be on a debate team, but that will not give you the same opportunity to deal with the adrenaline a martial arts competition will inspire. After all, no one in a chess match or a debate is trying to strike you. Even contact sports like football do not offer the same opportunity as the one on one competition at a karate tournament.

When seen as an extension of our weekly sparring practice, tournament fighting is a real opportunity to upgrade your skills. In class we spar cooperatively, while the competitive nature of tournaments makes the action more lively. This year’s Florida Gold Coast Classic is scheduled for Saturday May 14th at the Coral Springs Gymnasium. Flyers will soon be available at the Front Desk.

While most students may not want to pursue a championship title, using tournaments to improve your ability to perform under stress is a very useful training step. I hope that many of our members from all of the color belt ranks will enter for weapons kata, traditional kata or sparring.

Volunteers will be needed in all kinds of jobs for the tournament. Please fill out an application to help so that we know what you can do and when you will be available.

© Sensei Robert H Mason 2005

Chopping Wood and Other Daily Pleasures

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in the mountains of Northern California. I had not visited since 1973 and during that time much has changed. My friend Heather lives alone on 700 acres that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is a remote and isolated woodland mountaintop that includes pasture on some steep slopes that lead to the valley below. On a clear night it is so dark that the stars literally light up the heavens. On earth flashlights are essential for navigation along the dirt tracks that lead from one dwelling to another on the property. There are eight dwellings in all, although Heather has lived mostly alone, with just her son and her animals for company over the last twenty years. Her son is now an “A” student in his second year on a full scholarship at Stamford University.

Heather obviously loves the remoteness and isolation that others may not easily tolerate. Historically it has been a common practice for seers, mystics and assorted prophets to seek isolation of this kind for the purpose of deep reflection. I asked Heather what she had learned about herself, and life, as a consequence of her lifestyle. She seemed genuinely surprised by the question, as she makes no special claims to have any particular purpose in living the way that she does apart from the fact that she really enjoys the solitude. After a moment’s reflection she said that she really enjoys chopping wood. This is a daily chore that provides her with fuel for cooking and heat, and has to be done continuously in order to maintain reserves for those days when inclement weather makes chopping impossible. For most of us, me included, menial tasks of this kind tend to be delegated or ignored where possible, and resented when we have no choice but to do them. Heather long ago accepted the essential nature of this particular chore and has developed not only her physical skills at the art of wood chopping, but has framed the chore in her own awareness so that she finds the task itself satisfying and even exhilarating.

As with many things in life, it is our attitude that makes the difference. I could relate to Heather’s perspective because it is similar to my own. As she chops wood, I practice my basics, as she stacks wood, I practice my Kata, as she hauls and burns the wood, I practice my sparring. Both of us enjoy the lifestyle we have chosen, not in spite of the constant repetition of the daily tasks involved in its maintenance, but because of them. We revel in these exercises as daily pleasures to be savored, rather than as mere chores to be endured. This is the Way of the Martial Arts.

Sensei Robert H. Mason © April 2005