The word karate can mean a lot of things to many different people. Some people instantly think of Bruce Lee or voiced-over kung-fu movies. For some, it’s condemned as a way of teaching violence. However, for those of us who are lifelong practitioners and admirers of the art form, it is a way of life. Yet, very few people actually embrace it fully as a way of life.
Yesterday, I attended the 80th birthday celebration of my sensei (instructor), Sensei Najib Amin. I met Sensei Amin about three-and-a-half years ago when I stopped into his dojo. My father studied Shotokan karate for many years and it was a large part of my life (I still remember all of those damn push-ups). I trained off-and-on throughout my childhood however I always said that when I had the time, I would return to my “training”. When I arrived, I met Sensei and his wife Mrs. Amin and they were both just genuinely wonderful people. I started training and was just amazed at the fact that A) He was still actively teaching B) He was in better shape than men half his age. He began teaching in the late 60′s and opened one of the 1st Shotokan karate dojos in the state of Maryland.
As I listened to the different speakers and current/former students who spoke at the event, I was amazed at just the sheer number of lives this man has touched. People that have trained with him and have known him come from as close as Baltimore and as far away as Africa. Many even travel from other countries just to train with him. Many of the speakers spoke not about his karate teachings, but about the effect that Sensei had on their personal lives as men, women, parents and human beings.
While I have not known Sensei as long as many of the others, and he has been teaching longer than I have been alive, I have always admired his humble demeanor and his willingness to teach at all times. I remember an incident once where one of the younger students did something…dishonest we’ll say. Instead of telling the child that they couldn’t return, he spoke to him, told him how what he did affected everyone in the dojo, and had him apologize in front of all of the students and parents. Then, that was the end of it. It’s a lesson I’m sure that young man will never forget.
After every class, we recite the Dojo Kun. It’s our five basic principles on why we train in karate. The first one is “Seek Perfection of Character”. It reminds us that karate is meant to better us as people and should be a part of our everyday lives. I will admit that this is not as simple as it seems and I struggle with it as well. Yet Sensei Amin embodies everything that this principle stands for. Karateka (karate practitioners) from across the globe, and people across the state of Maryland owe a debt to him for his contributions to Shotokan karate and society, but he is too humble of a man to receive it.
Making an impact, THAT is how you seek perfection of character.