Glad I was There!
By Sensei Mark Hannah

On Sunday November 1st,1998 I attended along with many other Wado Kai karateka a seminar that lasted roughly 5 hours in duration. This seminar was taught by the former world heavyweight karate champion Joe Lewis.

Before going any further I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Sensei Neil Prime of the St Catharines Wado Kai Dojo as he did such a wonderful job in arranging and coordinating this seminar. He gave us an opportunity to work side by side with people from other disciplines as well as from our own. In order to make all of this possible,sensei Neil put in a great amount of effort and self sacrifice. So on behalf of the Grimsby Beach Wado Kai I would like to say thank you for all your hard work. We would also like to request that you gather the energy to one day make this happen again.

I can remember as a child when I first started learning about karate that I had posters in my bedroom of various martial artists. These people back then were considered heros to an ambitious young teenager such as myself. Among these posters was a picture of Joe Lewis. Who would have thought back then that I would get a chance after all these years to actually meet the man(let alone work out under his direction)? Back then I believe he would have been in his late 20's or early 30's. So seeing him now at 54 years of age its fair to say that he looked a little different than he did in my poster (then again I guess twenty years or so will do that to a person). Having said that I must say that I was very impressed with how physically fit he has remained. The speed and power that Joe possessed was incredible.

Joe Lewis had a unique way of teaching. Each technique or idea that he expressed was delivered to us in such a way that understanding it was not much of a problem at all. In fact he had a way about him that made learning a lot of fun. What impressed me most about Joe was his attitude toward other martial artists. You would think that a man in his standing would talk down to people or would try to maintain that his way was the only way and the best way. This just was not the case. Although Joe is not the most traditionally minded martial artist in the world and even though he got in the occasional dig about the traditional methods of training he still maintained a respect and acceptance of those ways (without pushing any of his views on anyone). He even ended the seminar with a traditional bow. His jokes here and there were all in good humour and I believe that they even helped us to pick up on what he was trying to teach us and therefore broadened our horizons of learning.

Joe seemed to stress many things to us that most of us already practice. Things like side stepping, good straight punches (elbows in),various guard positions and fighting stances.

One of Joes' quotes that tends to really stand out in my mind is as follows:

Every kick or punch that is released towards me is an opportunity. In Wado Kai we have always tied to stress how important a quick, properly timed counter technique is against an attacking opponent. I feel that the above mentioned quote would be a very beneficial thing to keep in mind when practicing this counter technique.

Another thing I learned was the simple fact that a whole new realm of fighting was exposed to us. After being so conditioned to keeping our techniques above the belt level it was an eye opener to actually get comfortable placing Joes' leg kicks in the proper area while fighting that urge to lift them higher. I am not saying that we don't practice this to some extent already but now I feel that it could be a highly beneficial technique to practice more often (as long as we remember our place while competing at tournament time).

That day we learned so much so quickly and had so much fun doing it that the time just seemed to zoom right by and 5 hours felt more like 2 hours. Now I feel it is safe to say that I am hooked on these seminars . So come spring time I will most likely be travelling to Virginia to attend the weekend long karate college.

I will never abandon my roots and will always remain faithful to the wado kai way. After having said that I will further state that it is amazing what one can learn with an open mind.

The opportunity to experience this seminar is something that I will never forget and I will always be thankful for being given the chance to attend and participate in it.

Back For More Great Reading!