Student Spotlight – Richard Wantuck

What Does Karate Mean to Me?

by Richard Wantuck

I was introduced to the Shotokan style of karate when I was in my early 20’s. At that time, I was instantly attracted to the concept of this traditional martial art – the idea that a
person could defend himself by activating the intrinsic power of one’s own body, without the use of weapons. As a beginning practitioner, I initially trained under an
accomplished, black-belt student of Sensei Masataka Mori – who was an original student of Masatoshi Nakayama, the 1st chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association. Nakayama,
in turn, was a direct disciple of Shotokan’s original founder, Master Gichin Funakoshi. In those earlier days, I began to learn the basic karate techniques and kata, a process which helped me begin to imagine how I might also become accomplished in this noble art.

Over time, I practiced karate off and on when my life’s travels permitted me to find a
Shotokan dojo in which to train, but this inconsistency prevented me from advancing in
the art. It was not until I reached my fifth decade that I found the Shotokan Karate
Leadership School, where I began to train more consistently and seriously under the
direction of Sensei Marty Callahan, 8th Dan black belt. I steadily worked my way up in
rank and, in October 2019, I finally attained a life-long goal: 1st degree black belt!

Master Funakoshi’s Okinawan translation of kara-té means “empty hand.” It is a noble
martial art, deriving from ancient Buddhist roots. Karate was perfected over the course
of many centuries, and passed along from generation to generation. To me, there is a
profound significance in this connection through time. In fact, the Japanese word
Sensei, or teacher, can also be translated as one who has gone before. I truly appreciate that
my struggles to achieve a certain level of mastery of the art take me along the same path
experienced by countless other karate-ka over the centuries, and in all the continents on
Earth. Equally important, Funakoshi’s emphasis on character development and
training to be a “peaceful warrior” fits well with my own personal philosophy and
world view.

Karate embodies physical, mental, and spiritual components – these are the essential building blocks of character. I seek to develop my understanding and cultivate my abilities in all three areas. From a physical standpoint, it is exciting to experience increased stamina, strength, and agility through training. While there are always  higher levels of physical fitness that can be attained, I am pleased with the progress I have made thus far.
Similarly, karate’s dynamic movements enhance my mental ability to focus, and to think more calmly and clearly. This is especially true when attempting to
master new movements or skills that involve complicated, coordinated body movement. And in terms of the spiritual aspect, I have found that the further one explores the true meaning of karate, the more the spirit becomes engaged in a positive, holistic way. As a person who values life-long learning and personal development, karate is ideally
suited to my life’s experience.

I receive many tangible benefits from my practice of karate. Regular practice of the art helps me to stay healthy, physically fit, and mentally alert. These things are important to me because I want to live long and lead an active, productive life. My life has been blessed in many ways and I am grateful for my good fortune. This includes the enormous benefits of a close-knit family which provides love and support, a stable, safe community in which to live, and a bountiful, free country in which to grow and thrive. I want to sustain these values and help pass them on to future generations.

As I proceed on my journey, I realize that the philosophy of karate-do has become an
important influence in my life. Thanks to my training, I am able to focus on my
personal goals and physical wellness more effectively. I am also more patient and
understanding of my own potential, as well as my limitations. These insights help me
formulate and calibrate my plans and aspirations going forward. I look with a great
deal of optimism on my future prospects.

The attitude of karate provides a framework to guide my life’s path in a positive
direction. Our Shotokan dojo creed: seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor, respect others, refrain from violent behavior – promotes timeless values and a wholesome way of life. This is as it should be. I am grateful to my teachers and role models for setting this excellent example to follow, and I look forward to teaching young people the virtues of
karate-do for many years to come.

©Richard Wantuck, 2020