“What Did You Learn in School Today?”

Many years ago, I remember coming home from school and my mom asking me the question that every mom asks of their child, “What did you learn in school today?” This is standard maternal interrogation that all of us, as young kids, experience during the first few years of elementary school. My kindergarten and first grade classes were held at Jefferson Elementary School – right across the Honolulu Zoo, on Kapahulu Avenue. The following year, re-districting found me at Ala Wai Elementary School, where I began the second grade, sharing a table with four other children, including another young student – today, you call him Sensei Peter – we were just six years old when the semester started and actually learned the rudiments of grammar and arithmetic together.  Amazing to think that just a dozen years later, as college freshmen, we’d be learning the rudiments of karate together.

In similar fashion, I can recall the day that Sempai Dave walked into HISKF to sign up himself and his six-year-old son Daylen, in an attempt to pique the young boy’s interest in karate. Back then, little Daylen was more interested in drawing and talking about airplanes. Many years later, and he has graduated from high school, and also become the first youngster to ever ascend from white belt to black belt in HISKF dojo (11 years in the making). He will be leaving in a month for Arizona State University to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.

Over the past 28 years (18 at HIS, 10 at SKC), I’ve had the privilege of sharing the art of karate with scores of youngsters, who, today, contribute to our society as fine adults. Among them are doctors, engineers, attorneys, physical therapists, teachers, physicists, actors – and someday, a pilot. 😉 I’ve noticed a common thread among our members, and I suppose, Shotokan Karate-Do in general – the pursuit of knowledge through higher education. Possibly this is due to the fact the founder of Shotokan was himself a schoolteacher by trade while the JKA’s Chief Instructor for its first 30 years was a college professor. Maybe it’s the fact that the art was initially established and promulgated within many fine universities in Japan. Something about the art must attract those who strive to improve their mind along with their spirit and body. In fact, around the time that Sensei Peter and I were learning our ABC’s (1957), the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was officially recognized by the Ministry of Education in Japan. Sensei’s Peter, Trisha and I are fortunate to have received dan rankings from the JKA many years ago.

If one regards karate training with the same attitude/expectation that one does in school, you know that constant effort and improvement are a must. You wouldn’t be satisfied attending school classes for 17-18 years and come away with only a third-grade education, would you? Of course not! In the same way, should someone ask you how karate class was on any given day, a poor response would be, “Well, it sure was hot and we worked up a sweat…” Imagine your mom asking you, “What did you learn in school today?” and answering, “Uhhh, lunch was great! The cafeteria served Spanish Rice today…and I bought a fudgesicle afterwards.”

Karate-Do is a rare gift that we get to share together, try not to waste the nuggets of knowledge hidden in every class lesson. If you pay attention and watch your sensei’s and senpai’s, note that even after decades of class, each one is always trying to learn something new from every class.

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