Friday, September 28, 2007
A tribute to my First Internet Sensei
It's been about 5 years since I met Sensei Paul on a forum that does not exist anymore. I was a beginner at Shotokan karate, barely placed a color around my waist, and I had joined a karate forum that I had hoped wasn't too active. At the time, I was homeschooling my kids, and I wanted to try to keep up with the postings. Sensei Paul was the first person to greet me. He was funny, intelligent, obviously knowledgable, and such a warm, welcoming person that I enjoyed each one of our interchanges.
One day I asked him directly to tell me what rank he had achieved in Martial Arts. I remember his response to this day "Which Art? I have a closet filled with titles.. pick one." He wasn't joking. Sensei Paul had been taking Martial Arts since he was a young boy, and has lived a life filled with various experiences. He started off learning Judo in the basement of his Sensei on a dirt floor that they would spray with water to keep the dust down achieving a high rank in that Art. In fact, he admits to me that to list all of his titles of Martial Arts would take forever, so he tells me to "just call him Paul and to think of him as a student of the Arts."
Today he teaches Tai chi. I would like to believe that my youthful exhuberance had some effect on his decision to enter this Martial Art. Through our communications, I kept hearing Sensei Paul expressing how much he desired to rekindle the same kind of energy, and joy that he kept hearing from me. I challenged him to do so, and he responded by exploring more deeply the art of Tai Chi, and achieving the rank of recognized Instructor. I was given the honor of becoming the very first honorary student of his Tai chi club. I am SO proud of my Internet Sensei: His openness to seeing the beauty of all Martial Arts, his willingness to share his knowledge with others, his humility at being able to interact with a lowly white belt beginner with the same amount of respect as if he was speaking with a Shihan, and his perseverence in spite of any obstacles that come his way. If I could have people say to me "You are JUST like Sensei Paul Danelutti..", I would be extremely happy with myself.
He taught special self defense classes to veterans, physically challenged people, mentally challenged people, children, etc. His love for Martial arts, and his joy of sharing the benefits of training have fueled him into a lifetime of affecting those around him, and helping them to believe in themselves, and their ability to surmount difficult challenges. He had the exact same effect on me through just his words sent in my direction as I struggled through my training. He held my hand when I needed support, he virtually slapped my face when I needed a wake up call, he believed in me when I had doubts, he challenged me when I felt overwhelmed. He has been with me through every class offering suggestions, encouragement, and most importantly his presence.. not physically.. no.. he lives in Florida, and I live in Canada. We have never seen each other. No.. Sensei Paul's presence, and words are centered in my heart. His comment to me of teaching with knowledge, and not derision has directed my every effort to help others as I offer people correction in the dojo.
Thank you, Sensei Paul, for sharing my path up the Shotokan mountain, and beyond. Yes, you were right. There is a Black Belt in me, I found it, and I brought it out. I didn't believe you when you said it so many years ago, but I believe you now. There were so many things that you warned me about, and forecasted that became true, and I'm so glad that I had your wisdom, and experience to guide me when things seemed to be helter skelter.
ONE day, it is my desire, to stand upon your doorstep and ask you to teach me. We will both have to be patient because I am still a mother of many children, whose first priority is to create a good future for them. BUT.. Usually, when I desire something as much as this, usually I get what I want. Do not be surprised when I show up, wearing my Gi, ready to shake your hand, give you a HUGE hug, and then have the experience of you helping me up as I "trip".