From White To Black – A Journey

Five and a half years have passed since I first walked into the dojo on Queen St east in Toronto, looking for a place to learn karate. Now I find myself close to that all important milestone, the Shodan test. As I sit here composing this essay, many thoughts race through my mind. When I first started, it was a cumulation of a desire I had since high school, to learn Karate. When I finally took my first class, what I knew about Karate would not fill one page. Since then I have learned about different styles, history and customs, philosophies and many other aspects of the martial arts. I have experienced the pros and cons of these aspects and have begun to see where my views on the martial arts lie.

As mentioned, I did not know much about Karate as there was no such presence in my home town except for the odd book in the local library. For the first two years, I gained knowledge about the art through training, tournaments, books and visits to other dojos. Each new was a new lesson and I began to formulate my views on where I fit into this world which was vastly different from the one I was used to. without a doubt, the most lasting impressions were from the historical perspective. Because this subject is a hobby of mine, the origin and development of Karate became a real interest of mine. The lives and times of Karate masters past and present were a major influence on shaping my views. By this time I was convinced that the traditional approach to Karate with it’s emphasis on kihon, kata and kumite as well as a consistent training regime was the way to go. Karate training is now a regular part of my life along with work and other activities, missing a class for whatever reason usually means something is missing.

Around 1989 when I had reached the brown belt level, I was fairly certain of the path I wanted to follow. After some searching, I discovered Shotokan Karate Seiku-Kai and the rest as they say is history.

How has Karate influenced my life up to now, I have learned that Karate is a lifetime pursuit. I will always strive to improve my technique, realizing it will be a long process and at the same time, develop the character perfection that is a part of the art. The physical part will be a challenge especially when I reach middle age and beyond but hopefully wisdom and knowledge will counter balance this. Integrating the philosophies of Karate such as respect, humility and courtesy into other aspects of my life has also been challenging but I am confident that progress is being made. I am still collecting anything I can find on the martial arts in order to expand my knowledge.

In this area, the stories of Karate’s past, present and future will always be of interest to me. When applied to Karate, I have learned the value of simplicity over complexity, serenity over flamboyancy and action over words. Perhaps the most important ideal I have is to view the distant mountain, in short this means that although one practices on a regular basis and learns one or two things at a time, one should keep in mind the long term objective that one hopes to achieve. Even though it may seem to be unattainable, perseverance will get one there.

What will the future bring? A continuation of the present. Technique and character will have to be perfected because the shodan stage is not the end, rather an extension of the past with added responsibilities to be an example to those who will follow and not to disgrace the art. My hope is that I will be able to.

Ben d’Avernas, October 1991