Usually I post my collages as “Quotes of the Week”, but not today! Today I want to share with you the words of Sensei Harris Wallmen – If you have never read his words, you are really missing something.
If I call him “Wise”, he replies: “No, I’m stupid”. If I call him Sensei, he replies: “No, Harris, please”.
So, dear blog readers, let me present to you “my stupid friend Harris” and his thoughts and words about Tsukamoto sensei, Valeri sensei, Budo, kyokushin, life … enjoy @nadin4e
- About the beauty of Kyokushin, illusion and meditation
I was always intrigued why all the great masters said that this world is an illusion. What are they talking about? How could all the objects, all my feelings, my thoughts, my body, myself, all be an illusion? They must be crazy! And then I started practicing the Kyokushin way. And the words of the masters became so real!
Starting more than 15 years ago, I shave my head. In the beginning people asked me why I did this, because I really had nice hair, and I always replied that it is more convenient for me because of the training. My real motive was something else. The moment I realized, mostly through Kyokushin, through meditation and reading, how superficial, how asleep and lost almost everybody around me was, I decided that I must do something. Like a reminder to go on the middle way, to walk between this material, instinct dominated and petty world, and the spiritual world. Actually the only real one. I refuse to go to a monastery, I refuse to hide myself, but in the same time, I refuse to become this world of agony and ecstasy. So I choose to meditate in the middle of the market. I want to continue to live among all the people, enjoying every moment, every blessing, because when you start to understand the illusion, everything becomes bliss, even the things that you considered “bad” in the past.
The beginning of understanding for me was the moment when I realized that I can perceive the same situation in different ways just by a simple decision. After experimenting some time with this technique I discovered a new one, the most important of all, for me. When you start meditating, one of the things the master is asking you to do is to try to contemplate, to observe your mind, the way thoughts come and go, how they grow if you feed them, how they fade when you change your focus. Funny thing is, that thoughts and emotions, feelings, wishes, they start to become so much less vital for yourself just by observing them. Just by becoming a witness. This is the most important technique that I know, and I use it lately all the time.
Have you noticed how, after one good Kyokushin training, all the problems you were thinking prior have become smaller? I am absolutely sure that all who train in Kyokushin have experienced this. How come? Because, during training, during kihon, kata, kumite, the mind becomes still, it must become so, if not, you are not doing it correctly, and because of this, problems shrink. So a question appears: If a problem can become smaller just by not paying attention to it for a while, how real can it be? It makes me smile even now, after so much time.
Things have not stopped here. Not only did I discover that the mind is “guilty” for all my misery, but by trying to contemplate my thoughts, my emotions, my cravings, my fears, by deciding not to get identified with them, I stopped judging situations and I started discovering perfection in all things, even in those considered really bad by most of the people. And seeing perfection has never left me since. Contemplation helps you not to get identified with situations, with emotions, with clothes, wishes, with who you “think” you are. This is so great! It is such a feeling of relief! After understanding, after becoming conscious, you become light like a feather. Even if you are sick, poor or in pain. There are so much more things to say, but in brief: observe, contemplate, meditate, do not get identified, laugh all the time, stop in the middle of the day to watch a child playing, a bird singing, do your duty, but do not forget who you are and what this world is made of. This is the middle way. This is why I shave my head. This is why I train Kyokushin. Osu!
- Funny thing is that in Kyokushin people still think you have to beat or knock your opponent down in order to win. No. You just have to be better than him at this game. Competition is a sport not a street fight.
- About Valeri Dimitrov sensei
From my point of view, writing about Valeri is writing about Budo. Regarding every aspect that I understand of the way of the warrior. So, this short text is easy to write in a way, because I am not actually talking about Valeri, but about Budo. On the other hand, it is very difficult, because Budo (the martial way) is so deep, and so is Valeri.
I first met him in 2000, in Spain, when he became the first time European champion. He was kind of a mystery, very quiet, easy to pass, almost invisible. On the tatami you had to take notice. He was doing almost nothing, but he was winning in a very convincing manner. He was taking everything what was thrown on him, almost absorbing kicks and punching, and he was always going forward. Probably Sosai would have loved him dearly. I had to look at him from the second round of the competition because he fought with a very strong Romanian member of our team. Our fighter was doing everything, but with almost no effect. He lost in the second round because he was exhausted and it looked like Valeri was just waking up. So since then I have always watched him with interest and I was never disappointed. I don’t want to talk here about his countless titles, others have done it better, I want to talk about the man, the character, about his inner beauty as much as I can understand.
With time we became a little closer, exchanging thoughts, joking (mostly me, I am a joker), watching fights together and making bets about who was going to win. I always had a good time with him, and I think everyone who knows him considers him a very good company. But he is more than that. I always got the feeling that he understands more than he says and much more than he shows. He is very smart, but quiet, like the Budo way should be. He has a good word for everybody, he does not avoid anyone, his patience sometimes annoys me and makes me want to shake him.
I have never seen him angry. This worries me sometimes. I am joking. It was only once, at the last World Tournament, when he looked tired and worried. He was under so much pressure from everybody that I think he forgot for a moment about his true nature. But it was love that made him react like this. He did not want to disappoint his teachers, his teammates, his friends, and his fans. But reality has sometimes a funny way of waking you up. And it did exactly this with Valeri. After not winning the World Tournament, he changed. He become so much stronger, and I don’t mean physically, but mentally. He become one, he closed the circle. At the next competition when we talked, the World Cup from Lithuania, I asked him before the tournament if he was nervous. His answer was so good: “It’s just a competition.” He won first place. He finally understood the value of being in the present, to enjoy everything without judgment, without expectations.
Although he is a fantastic fighter, his entrance on the tatami is almost invisible, very humble, like he does not want to disturb something or someone. When he wins, he reacts in the same way like he lost. No reaction. This is understanding. Understanding of duality, of the nature of this universe of illusion in which we live. Enough suffering is produced by winning a fight against someone, you don’t need to make a spectacle out of this. And he doesn’t make it out of compassion, another characteristic of Budo.
When he came in Romania to teach in our summer camp, I told him that in my twisted mind, I see him like that beautiful character out of the cartoon movie Kung-Fu Panda, Master Oogway, the ancient wise turtle. He laughed, but he did not get mad. He has a very good sense of humor.
I was always fighting and contesting my teachers. I still do it now sometimes, but not so often. I have never seen him do something like that. He is the perfect student that any teacher would love to have, never protesting, always listening, always saying Osu! This is what will make him such a great master.
Some teachers, when they come to teach in camps, they know perfectly what they want to teach. Some of them are like an ocean that brings you waves of knowledge, technique and if you are lucky enough, fun. Valeri is not like that. He is like an ocean without waves. More like a mountain lake. Transparent and deep. He was always asking me before every training: “Harris, what do you want me to teach?” If you were intelligent enough to ask the right questions, he would answer any of them in the wisest manner, profound. Whatever you wanted he was giving with altruism and passion. But you had to have the right questions. No waves here.
He is one of the loveliest family men that I know, an ancient soul, taking care of his amazing children and his beautiful and intelligent wife. He is the embodiment of Budo in my view. I hate him sometimes for being good in every aspect of his life. I could write a novel about him, but we are in a time when people don’t have patience anymore.
Going over what I wrote I realize two things: I could only touch the surface in trying to describe Valeri, my friend, but, like Budo, it takes lots of practice and dedication to understand and to feel more. And secondly, it looks like a love letter. Osu!
- “The way of the samurai is found in death”
Nowadays everything we are being taught is about life and how we should deal with it, how to become successful, how to behave etc. All education follows this path. In the past, things were a little different, and for me Kyokushin and all the philosophy behind it, the samurai code, the old warrior way offered a different perspective, a more healthy one, in my vision.
“Hagakure”, a spiritual guide for the warrior, written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo starts like this: “The Way of the Samurai is found in death”. And it continues with this advice: “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.” For most this kind of technic is very disturbing, it is a thing of the past. This is not something new. More than 1500 years before Tsunetomo, Seneca, a Roman philosopher, advices one to do a daily calm meditation on all things that could go wrong, disease, illness, accidents, death. What is wrong with this people, why can we just go on living our lives in peace focusing on more positive things? Of course we can, and most of the people actually live like this. The word death is tabu for them, even hearing this word makes them uncomfortable. In my opinion this leads only to unconsciousness.
What does daily meditation on death and illness do, on things that could go wrong? It makes us conscious. One day, not very far from now, this events will eventually happen anyway. Problem is not this, this is only natural. Problem is that until then we live like we are immortals (and in a way we are ), and that means we do not appreciate people, events and things the proper way. We do not appreciate our meal, our neighbor, our daily training, our student, our master. Have you noticed how much we start missing lovers, friends and parents when they are far away? Have you noticed how much we miss our training when we cannot train because of an injury? This are only signs that we do not live in a proper way. And life should be about daily cherishing and loving your friends, your family, nature, our training, everything, even the “bad” things that happen only to make us more conscious.
Training in a dojo makes us conscious about many things. We discover how vulnerable we are, that life can sometime end with a single blow. We discover that we are not the body, but something else, more beautiful, that makes the body go on even after we think it can no longer function. We train how to end a life in order to appreciate it more and to protect it. What a beautiful paradox! So, I encourage you to do this meditation daily. This is a very old method, but we must make it new again, so we don’t start living as walking deaths. Meditation on inevitable death leads to life, a more beautiful and more conscious one.
More than 20 years ago, shihan Howard Collins asked me before a competition if I was prepared. I answered yes, of course. And then he told me something strange for me back then: “Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy everything!” Now I finally understand. Osu!
- About Norichika Tsukamoto sensei
For about three days I had the chance to spend some time with sensei Norichika Tsukamoto in our summer camp. For me, he was always a kind of a mystery. Sometimes I was truly amazed at his innovations, sometimes he made me laugh and sometimes he was confusing.
Towards the end of the camp I was about to receive one of the biggest physical, cultural and spiritual shocks of my life. I guess that watching his career from a distance, everybody wondered about his secret. How does he execute his amazing techniques, how can he be so efficient with very little effort seemingly? So we started with technical questions. And he answered with the greatest kindness and benevolence. And we trained, and it was really great. But this was not nearly enough. Somehow we felt that we are only scratching the surface of a huge volcano. So we tried more.
We asked about his special stretching and body adjustment program. And with his generosity he never hesitated to show us everything, his daily routine. And we had the feeling that we went a step further, a step deeper. We realized that the capacity of the body to perform efficiently without much use of energy was greater than we thought. We discovered lines of energy, circles and points. For some it was sufficient, maybe more than what they hoped for. I was still not satisfied. Still I felt this man is more than what we understood at this time. Where did his inspiration come from, his creativity?
So we started asking more questions. And we found out he emerges from a line of artists, his mother teaches katana, his grandfather was a sculptor. Himself, when he was a child, he never wanted to become a karateka, but a painter. And it came like a thunder: he became a painter, but his paintbrush was his karate techniques and his canvas was the tatami, his force inspiration and improvisation. But this was still not enough to explain his strength, his endurance, and his will.
And then, like sensing that somehow we were still a little baffled, on the last training sensei Tsukamoto shared his story with us. And so we found out that maybe the most important thing is to be part of a system. Of a cultural system that gave birth to the samurai and the Budo code and to Sosai.
His life was not perfect, this man was very familiar not only with the glory of the heavens, but also with the dark shadows of hell. His journey was not all flowers and celebration, but also many encounters with depressing times and demons. The will to know more about himself and the health of the system he was part of saved him in the end. Great teachers, great students, his masters, Shinkyokushin. They all saved him from himself, from who he thought he was and he was not, from an egocentric life to a life of altruism and dedication. A life of understanding that doing something for the others is finally doing for yourself, for the completion of your personality.
And so, a formidable young world champion, with skills that come into manifestation once in a century, became a mature world champion with the same skills, but this time accompanied by understanding, empathy and a deep sense of belonging to something greater than himself, his family, his dojo, his Senseis, his students, his organization, his country, his world, his universe.
Sensei, thank you very much for letting us take a glimpse into a wonderful human being, and one of the most inspiring and fascinating fighters of all times.
Photos and text are taken from FRKK www.fb.com/federatiaromanadekaratekyokushin
Thanks to editor Scott Heaney http://the-martial-way.com