Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Building Character

Original Source:

ttending the celebration of Masami Tsuruoka Sensei’s life this past Sunday in Toronto made me once again appreciate the indelible link between traditional martial arts and the building of character.

Speaker after speaker, voices forged through thousands of hours of hard core training, spoke of things such as…honour…hard work…humbleness…honesty. Each speaker was articulate to the bone. The millions of punches, the hours of kumite…what they spoke of and what they had done was one.

As Sensei David Tsuruoka says in Otousan, a documentary of Tsuuroka Sensei’s life, in traditional martial arts there is no subterfuge. What you see is what you get.

When we first walk into an Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan training hall, we’re a jumpy mixture of enthusiasm, ego, doubt and curiosity. From the first bow, we are provided with a set of tools with which to rebuild ourselves.

The training hall is the forge and we are the raw material out of which - after many years of training - a combination of relentless fighting skills and the capacity for deep compassion is created.

The traditional Sensei or Sifu sets up the forge. We give ourselves up to the training. Then the Sifu or Sensei turns up the flame. And believe me, it doesn’t take a long  for the forge to become really hot.

DVD available at

Those who spoke of Sensei’s life and training reminded the audience of mirrors coated with sweat, of stances tested with the shinai. Once again, I breathed the old sweat soaked air which we fed on. I heard the kiai coming from the long line of white belt I was part of. I saw the snapping of the hips that drove the piston behind every punch.

My Karate Sensei, Monty Guest, referred back to an old Dojo sign: “Ninety- nine per cent perspiration; one per cent inspiration”. There was, and is, no other way than perseverance. And through perseverance, martial arts character is built.

At the end of every speech, the audience shouted “Osu!” in agreement. I heard once more Tsuruoka Sensei’s voice, like a low growl, calling the hundreds of competitors at the 1967 tournament in Toronto to assemble. That was Canada’s centennial year, and through hard work and perseverance, Tsuruoka Sensei and his students had turned Karate into a strong entity in this country.

Osu! is the music of character building. It signals the ability to endure life’s hardships. It calls upon us to respect and to remain loyal to those who come before us. It commands us to help and support through deep friendship those who have undertaken the same journey with us. It prompts us to make a positive difference in the lives of others and to make the world a kinder place.

This is the soul of the traditional martial arts, the heart and the mind beyond fighting.


  1. Beautifully written and poignant piece. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your loss.

  2. Wow! Very very nice! Great reminder to us all what Bushido is all about.


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