One Month Update: White Belt Testimonial

Recently one of our newest students sent Sensei Steve a kind note with his thoughts on our dojo and his experience thus far. We are humbled to have this wonderful feedback and with the author Mike Hegarty’s permission, Sensei would like to share it with everyone:

First and foremost, I can’t believe my luck in having fallen into this style and this Dojo. I love this style, I love the history of it, I love that it contains Tuite and Kobudo, and the culture, dignity, and respect that goes with it. The demeanor of our Dojo (and you) reflects that.

I am also very aware that I am chasing performance and knowledge, not belts. I really want to get the fundamentals right. It truly is a marathon, and not a race, and I am taking the long view. Daily practice is the order of the day.

Hand in hand with learning I have to improve/increase my flexibility, core strength, speed and power. Especially flexibility. I have laid out a stretching plan and will work on it daily, as well as basic strengthening.

So anyways, It’s been a great month from my viewpoint. I am going to make Monday and Wednesday my main training days, with occasional fridays. There is a balance with trying to do too much too fast, as against not pushing to get better. I do know my body so will make adjustments accordingly, especially at the beginning.

So thanks for a great first month. I love the attitude, drive, and demeanor of the Dojo and all the students and Sempai’s. Believe you me, I know how much work goes into making a superb team! (smile).

– Mike Hegarty

The Musings of a Humble Sempai

Man standing on rocks reflecting in thought

Each passing day leads me towards new understandings. The world revolves in a constantly changing ebb and flow. Nature demands us to adapt. New challenges test not only our abilities but our creativity. Two of the strongest motivators can exist in a fraction of a second. One is the pull of knowledge, in this state one can choose the path in which they take. The other is that of helplessness, in this state we are choosing to become victims to the forces around us. In learning karate, we are choosing to move away from helplessness. Skills learned give us the understanding and tools to adapt to aggression while remaining calm. Our bodies are tempered, our spirits tested and hope is forged within the confines of chaos. I learn karate to avoid the feeling of helplessness, I practice karate to keep my body healthy and ready, and I teach others so they can feel safe. As an educator I can think of no more honorable endeavor than to pass on the ability to protect oneself.

Josh Curtis
High School Teacher
Nidan

Dojo Promotions for September and October 2020

Black Belts October 17 2020

Great job to all of the karateka that tested and promoted in the last month! On Saturday October 17th we had seven 1 Kyu students test for and receive their black belts! As well, we saw the ascension of two 1 Dan students to their 2nd Dan rank:

1 Dan

    • David Stephens
    • Victor Alexander
    • Mikel Leighton
    • Emmett Mahoney
    • Sophia Santiago
    • Edgar Leclerc
    • Gabe Curtis

2 Dan

    • Kyle Sullivan
    • Josh Curtis

MTK Kyu Rank Testing 09262020As well, we had several students test for their Kyu ranks in Orrington on September 26th and in Corinna on October 1st:

    • 2 Kyu – Hazel Leclerc
    • 2 Kyu – Nikolas Long
    • 4 Kyu – Andy Kempton
    • 4 Kyu – Jessica Fortier Leighton
    • 4 Kyu – Josh Bone
    • 5 Kyu – Zen Taylor
    • 5 Kyu – Logan Stephens
    • 7 Kyu – Max Raponi
    • 7 Kyu – Greg Bird
    • 7 Kyu – Logan Leighton
    • 8 Kyu – Jordan Endre
    • 9 Kyu – Travis Kelly
    • 9 Kyu – Tristan Sanders
    • 9 Kyu – Quinn Szarowski
    • 9 Kyu – Elliott Szarowski
    • 10 Kyu – Kristen Cornelio
    • 10 Kyu – Sam Roy
    • 10 Kyu – Finn McKinney
    • 10 Kyu – Nicholas Kondax
    • 10 Kyu – Caden Cloutier
    • 10 Kyu – Dylan Angel
    • 10 Kyu – Derek Young
    • 10 Kyu – Tucker Bennett
    • 11 Kyu – Lucas Thompson

Keep up the energy and commitment to your training everyone! See you in the dojo! Visit our Facebook Page to view all the photos of our tests. Feel free to download and share them with your friends and family.

Dojo Update: Karateka Perseverance, Shodan Candidates and more!

The year 2020 has certainly been fraught with challenges! COVID-19 disrupted many people’s lives and our humble dojo was definitely affected by it, as well. Yet we all have worked hard to get through this crazy time together as a dojo family!

Like many businesses during this pandemic, we had to find creative solutions to continue serving our students. Working with our students remotely via Zoom may not have been ideal but it most definitely kept us on our feet, connected, and working through our materials. When we were able to open our dojo doors again it was refreshing to see the faces that came in while still staying connected remotely with our other students that could not be present. Kudos to the students and instructors that have worked so hard to keep up with their martial arts training!

On Saturday, September 19th the Orrington dojo had it’s first Kyu rank testing since the pandemic began. This coming Thursday, October 1st will see our Corinna karateka testing alongside some of the Orrington karateka. We will post our promoted Kyu ranks in the coming days!

Lastly, we have a large group of Shodan candidates this year testing in just a few weeks! Unfortunately, we are unable to have the honor of having Hanshi Shipes this year due to travel restrictions. However, Sensei Steve and his team of black belts are prepared to rigorously test our 1 Kyu students on the weekend of October 17th.

When students test for Shodan they are asked to do extensive research on our style, history, and Okinawan culture. This culminates in an essay that is submitted to Sensei Steve and then forwarded to Hanshi Shipes for review. As well, we have a few Shodans that are testing for Nidan rank and have submitted essays. Sensei Steve would like to make all of these essays available to everyone to share as a resource:

Keep training hard and great job to all of our students who have persevered!

Tournament Time – Hajimemashite はじめまして

Warriors For Life Group Photo 2019

Hajimemashite. In Japanese, this means “it is a beginning” and would be used similar to “nice to meet you” when greeting someone for the first time in English. One of the things that amazes me every time I go to a martial arts tournament is how many new people I meet that share this unique interest with me. Since joining Maine Traditional Karate in 2016 I have had several opportunities to participate in various events. Most recently my family and I attended the Battle of Maine in Waterville and the Warriors for Life Tournament in Dover-Foxcroft. Every time we go we see familiar faces and we also get to meet new people from Maine, Canada, and several New England states.

As martial artists that train regularly with the same dojo members every week, it can sometimes feel like we exist in a silo. In a rural area like Maine it can feel even more so like our community is a small splinter apart from everyday society. Within the OSMKKF, we have our nearby fellows in the Orland Karate Dojo under Sensei Stan Leach to connect with, but we are many many miles from a lot of our other sister dojos in the US, Okinawa and South America. Our fantastic leaders such as Hanshi Shipes, Kyoshi Engelby and Kaicho Isao Kise visit us annually, and our dojo black belts travel afar to connect with the federation on a regular basis. We have access to a rich culture with a modern organized martial art deeply rooted in ancient traditions. This experience travels thousands of miles directly to us!

It is important to regularly step back and see the larger picture. We exist, not in a silo, but in a community that spiderwebs across the area connecting in more ways than one. Our style of Okinawan Shorin Ryu shares roots with many other martial arts going all the way back to ancient China. When I participate in these tournaments, I see so many connections between our styles by observing the other participants. Yes, each art is distinct in how it operates and where it places emphasis in its materials. But there are so many basic principles tied together throughout our styles and it feels like we are apart of something so much bigger when I notice these elements.

Much like our common roots in martial arts, the people involved are everyday citizens like you and I. I’m not the most social person, but I have met so many people by regularly going to these tournaments that we recognize each other in the other communities we are a part of. There’s an undeniable sense of fellowship you find by connecting with others, regardless of rank, style or dojo. I would highly recommend everyone take a chance and find their own “Hajimemashite” moments. Take a chance on meeting new people and doing new things. Karate is a journey with many beginnings, and most of those are well after you are fitted into a gi with a fresh white belt around your waist.

For the Battle of Maine, dojo members Sempai Josh Curtis, Gabe Curtis, Zen Taylor, Nikolas Long and Mikel Leighton stepped on the floor to represent MTK. At the Warriors for Life Tournament we had Sophia Santiago, Jessica Fortier Leighton, Logan Leighton and Mikel Leighton on the floor. Everyone performed and represented both dojo and Sensei Steve admirably. Thank you to the participants and the dojo family that came to support everyone!

Results for individuals can be seen by clicking on their profile photo in the MTK Dojo Members page.

Spring is in the air

March 9 testing students

The last 2 weeks have been busy ones for the dojo! We’ve had student testing, a tournament, new students, Orrington Recreation visiting the Little Samurai classes and so much more.

The 39th Battle of Maine Championship in Waterville, ME this past weekend was a great experience for everyone. It is always amazing to see the diversity of martial arts styles in action competing together. Sensei was proud of our students that represented the dojo in kumite (sparring), kobudo (weapons) and kata (forms).

    • Sempai Josh Curtis
    • Gabe Curtis
    • Mikel Leighton
    • Nikolas Long
    • Zen Taylor

As well, a special thanks to everyone that came to support the participants from the sidelines!

Testing is a proving grounds for students to put forth the product of their training before Sensei and dojo black belts. Congratulations to the following students that were promoted this month:

New Rank Member
01 Kyu (Brown 2 stripe) Edgar Leclerc
01 Kyu (Brown 2 stripe) Emmett Mahoney
01 Kyu (Brown 2 stripe) Sophia Santiago
04 Kyu (Green 2 stripe) Mikel Leighton
04 Kyu (Green 2 stripe) Nikolas Long
05 Kyu (Green 1 stripe) Hazel Leclerc
05 Kyu (Green 1 stripe) Jacob Endre
05 Kyu (Green 1 stripe) Kelly Sanders
06 Kyu (Green 0 stripe) Andy Kempton
06 Kyu (Green 0 stripe) Jessica Fortier Leighton
06 Kyu (Green 0 stripe) Joshua Bone
07 Kyu (Blue 2 stripe) Nicholas Huff
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Alden Bartlett
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Annika Fehn
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Carter Donahue
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Collin Huff
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Logan Leighton
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Logan Stephens
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Marco Fehn
09 Kyu (Blue 0 stripe) Crystal Leighton
09 Kyu (Blue 0 stripe) Zen Taylor
10 Kyu (White 2 stripe) John Vallely
11 Kyu (White 1 stripe) Clive Haverkamp
11 Kyu (White 1 stripe) Loxley Haverkamp
11 Kyu (White 1 stripe) Sefia Haverkamp

We look forward to training hard and enjoying the Spring weather as it thaws away months of snow and ice. In just two weeks there is the 14th Annual Warriors for Life Tournament in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. It is a smaller tournament and great for students to get a first-time experience! Please let Sensei Steve know if you want to participate.

Congratulations to our new black belts!

MTK New Black Belt Members October 2018

On October 28, 2018 we had the honor of testing three 1 kyu karateka under the guidance of Kyoshi Loren Engleby. After a long day of rigorous training  alongside their peers in Orrington Maine Traditional Karate and the Orland Karate Dojo, these outstanding members performed exceptionally well and to the satisfaction of the reviewing black belts.

We welcome the following members into the rank of Shodan:

    • Josh Curtis
    • Kyle Sullivan
    • Gavin Worcester

Kon’nichiwa

Welcome to our new site! We appreciate your patience as we develop the content. If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach us at:

Address
136 River Rd
Orrington, ME 04474

Phone
207-570-5425

Transitions

shuhari in kanji

The kanji depicted above reads “Shu ha ri.”  The term references the journey of the karateka as he or she moves from beginner to black belt to advanced student and how the relationship with one’s Sensei may change along the way.  This blog post is not about that.  There are many fine articles on the web (http://aikiorlando.com/article/meaning-shuhari is a concise explanation and from where I borrowed the kanji).  We recently had two exceptionally skilled youth black belts leave our dojo – they, and their family, are just wonderful people as well and will be profoundly missed.  This blog post isn’t about them either. (Okay, I started this post last year, but it still applies).

This blog post is about the equally skilled and wonderful Sempai Kailee (she’s the beautiful young lady in the middle).  Sempai Kailee currently serves our dojo as the only youth Shodan. (I don’t really think of her as a youth anymore, but it’s important to the story).  As the head youth Shodan, Sempai Kailee’s responsibilities include co-instructing youth classes with our Sensei.  What she probably doesn’t know is that she is one of two big reasons I go to the youth class on Monday and Wednesday nights.

You see, her bad influence is corrupting my otherwise stellar class protocol (i.e., behavior).  Okay, well not really, but whatever.  You see, unless another higher rank is present, I am supposed to take the “first position” as students line up to train.  Even though Sempai Kailee surpasses me in skill and curriculum knowledge, an adult Shodan lines up to the right of a youth Shodan regardless of time in grade or skill. The ranking student assumes the first position and has responsibility for leading the traditional opening and closing ceremonies of the class, enforcing protocol and dojo rules, and generally helping in any way the Sensei or lead instructor of the night needs.   The uninformed or even new student might think, “oh, you mean they get to be bossy.”  Uh … no …. but after long wait and much anticipation brings us to the topic of today’s blog … sort of.

I have had the pleasure to watch Sempai Kailee move from youth into adolescence with the grace of a woman and not the antics of a child.  At a time when her peers resolved conflicts with opposing statements of “nah uh,” and the undefendable counterattack of “yes sah,” Sempai Kailee’s training involved crucial lessons in group dynamics and how to give and receive feedback in a constructive manner.   And now, as an adolescent, it is her dojo role that deprives her the opportunity for developmentally appropriate attempts at control and “bossiness” that teens exhibit as they navigate lessons of independence and its associated responsibilities.

Sempai Kailee assumes the first position role as a leader and not “bossy Betty” because of her karate training.   Karate-do helps one develop an inherent or internally-based sense of self-worth that exists independently of how those in the external world respond to or treat you.  As you grow as a karate student, personal achievement becomes just that – “personal.”  The standards by which you come to judge and accept yourself is whether self-improvement relative to the day before has occurred or, at least, been attempted.  Additionally, one actively strives to apply consistently the morals and values that have become part of one’s being.  Freed from the destructive forces of other’s acceptance or rejection, the karateka meets the world with head up and shoulders back with the full knowledge that failure will occur as part of the process and is not a terminating event.

In short, there is no reason, need, or desire to be “bossy.” “Bossy” people often define self-worth in terms of the extent to which they can manipulate and control others to do as the “bossy” person wishes.  Control of others is equated with being powerful and must be constantly sought in order to maintain arbitrary standards of self-importance.

Leadership, on the other hand, involves structuring one’s presentation and interaction with others with the aim of helping others grow while achieving a common group goal.

So don’t come to class with hopes of getting to be bossy some day … Come to class and learn to lead … like Sempai Kailee.

The Rock, The Stream, and Dirty Socks

We have an L shaped sectional couch in our living room. My son, Isaac, usually rests at one end of the L, I at the other, and my wife, Sue, in the middle. Inevitably, at some point in the evening, an eerie silence falls over the room …. Peace? … Nope. It is a telling silence, and you best be listening for it when visiting the Roberts’ homestead. Without warning, the unmistakable “FWAP” of a sock hitting Isaac or Sue square in the face marks the beginning of the almost nightly ritual.

I have no idea how or when it started, but the ritual involves an all out, no holds barred war of sock and pillow throwing until such time as easily accessible ammunition exists no longer. Being the eldest statesman in the house, I, of course, am above such juvenile shenanigans …. UNTIL a seemingly unintentional ricochet or errantly aimed projectile invades my airspace and connects with my person. Oh, it’s ON then baby.

So, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. When everyone in my household is getting ready in the morning, it is a miracle if you can find ANY socks, no less a matching pair. My son and I view life much the same way – the function of socks is to keep one’s feet warm; two of any variety will do the trick. Sue asked Isaac the other day, “what do you do when people ask you why you are wearing two different socks?” Isaac’s response, “I usually ask them why they’re not.”

Hold that true story in your mind while you ponder this equally true story.  We have a great little mom-n-pop convenience store just down the road that is the go to location for Sue and Isaac if they are missing a crucial ingredient for the evening’s meal or activities.  Some sketchy individuals can sometimes be found in the vicinity after dark.  It is not a particularly well lit area and would require a few minute response time from our police department.

Isaac and Sue were on their way back to the car one evening when a questionable individual approached Sue and asked her for a quarter.  Isaac had already made his way around to the passenger side of the car.  Now I am usually the cynical one in the family which makes it amusing that I did not even think of the highly likely scenario that the individual wanted Sue to move her purse to a more snatcher friendly location.  The way Sue told the story however made it clear that a possible robbery was exactly the vibe that she had gotten.  I looked over at Isaac, and, like part of a well-oiled story telling machine, he picked up without missing a beat. “Don’t worry, Dad.  My body had already started moving and I knew exactly how I was going to get across the hood of the car in time to protect Mom.”  Isaac then described a sequence of actions that indeed would have been quite effective and well within his Nidan arsenal.

Ponder both scenarios from the perspective of a karateka and you can see how karate-do is as much, if not more, a mindset as it is a set of violently effective combative actions.  Self-confidence, an internally-based sense of self-worth, and a calmness that allows prudent response versus reaction are all characteristics fostered and cultivated in the dojo.  Such has been true from the very beginnings of the Shorin Ryu style.

In his book Empty Hand: The Essence of Budo Karate, Kenei Mabuni tells a centuries old story regarding karate legend, Matsumura Sokon:

He was then 41 years of age. It was a day in autumn when a young man in his early 20s came to [Matsumura] asking to be accepted as his student. He was tall, more than 1.80 m (about 6 ft) 141, with a strong stature. Matsumura was already a famous man and many young men wanted to become his disciple. But he chose his students very carefully. While the young man was begging, Matsumura noticed that there was something ill-bred in him that he did not like. He grumbled a few words and finally refused his wish. The young man left with a rather angry face.

A few days later master Matsumura went home from his service in the castle of Shuri together with two of his disciples. Suddenly they were ordered to stop by a group of about 10 young men who had waited for them in ambush. The place where this happened is today the road behind the Shuri high school.

“Oh, am I seeing Master Matsumura?” The young man who had stepped out of the group and said this was taller than the others. Matsumura thought this voice reminded him of someone. Calmly he answered, “Right, I am Matsumura.” When the moonlight let the young man’s face emerge more clearly Matsumura recognized him as the big guy who had visited him a few days ago.

“If you want to pass you must crawl between my legs!” As if by command, the men started to surround Matsumura. His students stood silently aside and watched the scene.

“If you say so.” Master Matsumura nodded and without objection kneeled down in front of the young man. While sitting on his knees he bowed his head down to the ground. Suddenly, the tall guy seemed to be puzzled because he did not understand what Master Matsumura was really intending. But then he straddled his legs to let him crawl through. He looked very strained. Sweat was running from his forehead. In the moment Matsumura put his hands on the ground to crawl on all fours he could not stand the tension anymore and jumped back shouting: “Ok, ok, I got it. You are free to go.” Angrily he spat on the ground. He was panting with a pale face, his shoulders trembling. Matsumura … left the scene as if nothing had happened.

Both students who went behind the master had to struggle to control their emotions. But finally they could no longer restrain themselves: “Master, what we were just seeing, was this really “Bushi” Matsumura? Wasn’t it just terrible being humiliated that way?” The other one added: “Right, even if there are so many enemies you must not allow them to bring such a shame and humiliation on you and force to creep like a dog.” Matsumura listened to their words with a gentle smile. …

Of course the other students heard about this matter soon. So did Matsumura’s wife Ume. She is said to have told the students: “Look, you should understand that Matsumura has just won without fighting.” Of course, he could have chosen to fight. One strike would have been enough to knock out the tall gang leader. Then he would have knocked down four or five of the others and the rest would surely have run away. But he was accompanied by two inexperienced disciples. There was the risk for his students to be injured. He would have had to protect them. So the situation was more difficult than if he had been alone. But even if he had been alone, fighting against so many people would not have left him much room for modesty. Probably he would have had to injure a few of them. Maybe one of them would have even come to death. His king would never have forgiven such a behavior. This is why he chose “winning without fighting”. But again this was not a deliberate decision but a natural and spontaneous reaction to the situation. (pp. 166 – 167)

The concept is ubiquitous in Eastern thought. A Daoist may speak of a flowing stream that encounters an immovable boulder.  The boulder stands rigid and firm, resolute that none shall pass through it.  The stream simply yields to the boulder, flows around it, and continues merrily on its way.  The boulder believes itself to be all powerful as it forces others to alter their path.  The stream almost feels sorry for the boulder as it knows the boulder will always be anchored, stuck in the same place in life based on its mindset. 

So, when facing the sock mockers in your life, be the stream and not the boulder.  Keep your eye on the goal of being happy in life and experience as much of its infinite wonder that you possibly can. Allow the boulder its illusion of power – to engage it yields no benefit to you and only sucks you into a battle of the wills over insignificant minutiae.    As Bruce Lee once said, “be like water my friend.”

If your reaction to such a thought is “why should I bother studying karate if I am simply going to yield to all such obstacles,” then you need to come to class twice as much.

In a prior post , I pointed out:

one of my favorite karate posters involved a tiny bird perched on a katana (sword) that was attached to a samurai’s waist area.  The quote read “Never think that because I am peaceful that I have forgotten how to be violent.”  Way cool … Definitely need to hang that one in my home dojo … After cringing at the fact that I had just written the term “way cool,” I also felt some embarrassment about thinking so highly of the poster. Neither confidence nor strength were being depicted.  The ugly faces of arrogance and insecurity lurked beneath a false veil of nobility.

A new year of training is upon us.  Set aside time to reflect on the lessons that lie beneath the punching and kicking.  Do not be ashamed if you do not yet see them.  I honestly have grown to believe that the lessons reveal themselves to us when we are ready, or, more frequently, when we most need them.

As you ponder the deeper meanings of your own experiencess in karate-do, always remember that, unfortunately, the world can be a dangerous place.  So, train hard and with focus.  What you will find is that your body and mind subconciously will come to live the philosophy best summed up by Theodore Roosevelt:

Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft.