One of the greatest experiences in my adolescence was my involvement with the Boy Scouts. A number of years ago, I was invited to receive the Troop 103 Hall of Fame Award at their annual banquet. When Bill Johnson asked me to say a few words after handing me the plaque, I was a little caught a little off guard. What I told the young men and their families was that Scouting reinforces high self expectation.
As I recited the Scout Law (A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful…, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.), I reminded the scouts that no one executes any of these ideals halfway. You live them as completely as you can throughout your life.
Gibu O’Sensei named his style Butokukan using Butoku (martial character) as the center ideal for himself and his students. In one of my private training sessions with him in 2007, we were taking a break and sat on the makiwara platform to chat. I asked him to explain what it is about Butoku that he wants us all to understand and demonstrate in our lives. The following is his response:
“When an animal dies, it leaves behind skin and bones. When a man dies, he leaves behind his name. What kind of person he was, what did others think about him. No one will remember what awards or medals he received; they will only remember what kind of person he was. Just like the school students you teach, you will not remember what grades they made on tests, but you will remember what kind of child they were. Were they respectful, did they try their best? Butoku is the most important thing that all karate students must have in the dojo and outside. It is how I want to live my life. Strong karate is important but it is worthless if you are not a kind person.”
On my trips to Okinawa, Gibu O’Sensei always encouraged me to meet some of his karate peers when the opportunity presented itself and would often personally arrange for me to visit their dojo. One of things that I always appreciated was how highly his friends spoke of him. I cannot remember a conversation with one of his fellow senior teachers where they did not reference O’Sensei a couple of times in conversation instead of just talking about themselves. They rarely spoke about his karate, they spoke about his character.
I think the greatest gift a teacher gives us is not what they physically teach us in the dojo but how they teach us to live. When we stop worrying about belts, titles in front of our names, etc, then I think we can focus on not carrying on just karate, but the character of the Sensei who gave it to us.