Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Lest We Forget




I have been privileged to have taught many Canadian Forces personnel and their dependents over the decades. As a Base club, we started off in a long narrow mat-covered room with a solitary window at one end where one either stuck one’s head out to breathe in some much needed oxygen or hurl the contents of one’s stomach onto the lawn outside. In mid-summer, the air became so thick a puddle of sweat would form on the surface of the mats – in fact, I recall one excited newcomer slip on the sweat and fall to the mats as he quickly made his way back to the lineup at the end of class.

That’s where we first held our Sho-Dan-Ho test, the six hour preliminary exam we threw at any Brown Belt who wanted to eventually attempt a Black Belt exam at the association level.  Six hours was the benchmark time frame; I remember a teen who later was to become a pilot crawl off the floor after eight hours.

We weren’t trying to impress other clubs or other associations by trying to be the toughest and most demanding. Other organizations demanded similar stringent requirements in order to move on to the Black Belt level. The Sho-Dan-Ho narrative, if I can call it that, came naturally out of the environment we trained in and the quality of students we were lucky to have. In fact, the students themselves expected a strong finish line to that point in their training. We had loads of pilots and other flight crew members, search and rescue techs and the important folks who looked after the planes and made them safe to fly. We had cooks and air traffic controllers, military police and medics.  Corporals, sergeants, majors…they all shared the same hard core training.

And we had the many dependents, from the hundreds of little people to the teens who pushed their way up to the level of sixteen years of age and the Sho-Dan-Ho.

So many names, so many faces. I was impressed early on by the quality of the Canadian soldier. One of the first that woke me up to the fact that these folks are extra special was a gentleman who made it up to Orange Belt before he was posted out. He was friendly, solid and calm. He used to take five hundred mile canoe trips in places across Canada. He was smart and dependable. Most of all, he had a quality about him that quietly spoke to you: “I will always watch your back.”

No matter what the rank, the Canadian soldiers, male and female, that I’ve come across infuse their high standards of professionalism and their everyday conduct with this quiet assurance that they are there to watch your back.

Our club is at a different location now. We have our own floor, with many individual Dojo. But the quality of human being remains the same – the man or woman who is there for you, whether feeding and housing those stricken by catastrophe, building schools and hospitals in places in this world where there doesn’t seem to be any more hope left, protecting vulnerable women and children from hatred and violence.

We’re indeed lucky as a nation to have such a deeply committed group of people. I cherish you all not just for the many years of friendship you have given me but for the quality of people that you are. 

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