Here’s a quick post about my top three martial arts heroes. I’m really most interested in learning about yours! Please list them in the comments. Include names, styles, and the positive influence they’ve had on your art and life.
For nearly 40 years, Masters Ed and Jean have run their Shohei-Ryu Karate dojo in North Attleboro, MA. I’m one of the lucky ones to have become a long time student. Their technical abilities rival only their ability to instruct, and their dedication to the martial arts are second to none. I have trained with them for most of my life and am forever grateful for all they have done for me and for the greater community. I never would have become a teacher or a martial artist if it wasn’t for their caring and support throughout the years!
2.) Shunryu Suzuki
Although not a martial artist, Buddhist monk and author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Shunryu Suzuki has had a profound effect on my approach to practicing, learning, and teaching martial arts. His emigration to the United States from Japan brought him to San Francisco until his death in 1971, and throughout his time there he became one of the most popular roshis in the West. Given the martial arts’ focus on character development and how some of the arts are founded in Zen principles, it seems natural to look to his wisdom to support our training. Here are a few quotes from his book that mean a lot to me:
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ”
Shoshin is the Japanese word for “beginner’s mind”. Always seeking to maintain shoshin in my training has allowed me to learn so much from everyone I’ve worked with–even true novices. Maintaining beginner’s mind has also helped me to grow and change and adapt in the martial arts without getting stuck in my old ways.
Here’s a short lecture on noise, sound, and birds. Listen closely: if you take change some of his words around, he could be discussing opponents, training, goals, and the self.
These guys live the art of jiu-jitsu. The sons of Rorion Gracie, founder of the UFC, and grandsons of Helio Gracie, founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, they grew up in the royal family of modern martial arts. Even though they have a fighting pedigree to uphold, and that they are both world-class competitors, they focus mostly on teaching and Keeping it Playful. They have created several training programs; however, the one I most admire is Gracie Bullyproof. Have a look at this story from NBC to learn more about it. The fact that these guys have dedicated themselves to eliminating bullying in our schools is a testament to the benefits of martial arts can have on society as a whole.
I love watching his fights because he is really the only true karateka in the UFC. Son of a Shotokan master, Machida has adapted his traditional style to the demands of the ring. His fights are inspiring because they show that defense, counter attacks, and evasive movement–all hallmarks of karate and self defense–can succeed at the highest levels of competition. Win or lose, he’s also a lot of fun to watch!
PS – Sorry I lied. There’s really five heroes on this list! Share your heroes too!