(The following article originally appeared exclusively for backers for Patreon.)
This is an odd article to write, and not at all what I expected to be writing. After all, I’ve a fight scene break-down in the works, a post on chokeholds in the wings, and an interview set for after the first of the year.
But right now… Well.
On the morning of November 21, I sent messages of encouragement and excitement to a past student of mine preparing to test for her Sandan rank (3rd degree black belt), and exchanged cheerful notes with my own teacher, Shihan, of more than a dozen years, who’d be overseeing the test.
Then all my karate contacts on all social media platforms went quiet for a few hours, as one would expect during a long and demanding test. But what followed was not the outpouring of celebratory pictures and comments tempered with tales of hardship.
Instead, I found a smattering of brief comments, then a bunch of longer ones, expressing loss and grief.
Shihan’s sensei of four decades had died unexpectedly, and Shihan had found out ten minutes before bowing onto the mat to evaluate the efforts of almost three dozen students prepared to prove themselves worthy of the black belt. He made the announcement to students and observers, dedicated the day to Hanshi, and began the test.
Had it been Shihan who’d passed away, he would have wanted the same thing. And you know what? So would I.
This is not an article about my loss and grief. Truly, I met Hanshi only a scant handful of times so my sense of loss is removed, more of an empathetic reaction for those who were close to him. This writing is instead about continuity and legacy, understanding how those things contribute to the formation of a fighter’s mindset, and how a fully realized mindset creates an authentic fighting character.