Black Belt Reflections: Finding My Way

Finding My Way

Eric Garcia

          I found my way to the Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo of Williamsburg in the fall of 2004.  My life was full of frustration and going in the wrong direction.  I needed to change this for myself and my kids. When I expressed interest in karate my friend Massey Sensei told me about the dojo and the difference of it compared to other dojo.  I have always liked martial arts but never found myself in a position to pursue it.  So I joined the Dojo and my journey began.

          One of my first tests came about a month into my training.  This was not a test for rank but what would turn out to be a normal training session.  I had been taught the stances and was learning blocks and punches. Orthner Sempai had us stand in shiko dachi and go through all the basic blocks and punches.  I am not sure how long this went on but it felt like hours.  It turned out to be a whole lot shorter than that.  This was my first lesson in pushing myself to endure (gaman is the Japanese word for this).

          We have a calligraphy in the dojo that reads get knocked down seven times get back up eight times.  This lesson was taught in an early kumite session where we all got to spare Vlad Sensei.  We were all lined up one on one and were doing kumite.  Spence Sensei would call us one at a time to spar Vlad Sensei.  As we all spared waiting to be called I feel we all were watching Vlad Sensei out of the corner of our eyes.  When my name was called a sense of panic came over me.  No matter what I tried Vlad Sensei was ten steps (or more) ahead of me.  I got swept a few times then came the big one.  I took a hit to the solar plexus and got swept at the same time. I don’t remember falling, my world went dark.  It was eerily quite to me.  My wind was gone.  When my vision cleared I was, somehow, back to my feet wondering how could I take another one of those????   Spence Sensei brought us to attention and bowed to one another.  I got moved to a new spot and the next karateka was moved to Vlad Sensei.  I was back to watching out of the corner of my eye wondering what had happened.  It wasn’t until two and a half years later, while I was being taught this calligraphy, that I realized the lesson we were taught.

          One of my favorite moments was being invited on the Okinawa trip by Spence Sensei.  This was a time of great excitement for me and great fear.  Visiting Okinawa is one thing, visiting and training is a whole other thing.  I was also lucky enough to be told I would be testing in front of Gibu Hanshi for my 3rd kyu brown belt.  This trip was one of the hardest things and one of the best things I have every done.  It is a life changing experience and taught me many things. 

          Karate-do has given me great joy in many different areas.  I love to teach and be taught by people of all ages.   I love to see the light bulbs go off, when teaching and they get it.   I enjoy that feeling in myself, also.  I enjoy the fact that we can all take karate but it is up to us to make it our own. I have the honor of training with a great group of karateka, from the kohai to the sensei, all of who I call my friend.  This whole experience has made me a better person, father, son and friend.  May this journey last a lifetime.