Category Archives: health

What’s Your Ikigai (Reason for Being)?

Wikipedia lends the following definition:

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase Raison d’être. Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the cultural belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.[1] Examples include work, hobbies and raising children.[2]

The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (wikt:生き?) meaning “life; alive” and kai (甲斐) “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail” (sequentially voiced as gai) “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’etre”.[3]

In the culture of Okinawaikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”; that is, a reason to enjoy life. In a TED TalkDan Buettner suggested ikigai as one of the reasons people in the area had such long lives.[4]

The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not necessarily linked to one’s economic status or the present state of society. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make us feel ikigai are not actions we are forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.

In the article named Ikigai — jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei (“Ikigai: the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom”) Kobayashi Tsukasa says that “people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization.”[1][5]

My Ikigai is to stay active and perpetuate the rich API culture through my hobbies – dancing hula, paddling outriggers, and teaching karate.  Working out in the dojo taught me more about surviving and thriving in Corporate America as a single mom than any self-help seminar or MBA could have.  Recently, I opened a karate dojo as my passion project.  We focus on the values of Respect, Discipline, and Self-Confidence to help our students find their Ikigai.

Ikigai JaeRequiro

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#TeamTogisala #togisalashorinryu #fitlife #GirlPower #respect #discipline #focus #selfconfidence #selfdefense #dojoOhana #ikigai

lessons learned from a leadership journeys #diversity #leadership

I’ve been asked to speak at a conference this summer.  It will probably be my last national presentation as a leader at the Japanese car company where I have been employed for almost nineteen years.  As a diversity leader, I can make a presentation and share insights, stories, and experiences with attendees around career development or business strategies.  That is bland and dry as over toasted Wonder Bread.  The sound of the teacher from “Peanuts” would be echoing in my own ears as I spoke on that topic.  Blah, blah, blah, diversity, blah, blah, blah, business impact, blah, blah, blah, leadership, blah, blah, blah.  Instead, I want to tell a story.  I want to share some thoughts on standout moments and lessons learned from my leadership journey as a small business owner, karate instructor and brand-new Shodan.

The conference is by far my favorite event of the year.  It is an event designed to bring together multicultural women from corporations all over the globe.  It takes place in NYC and it provides an outlet for high-achieving and high potential multicultural women to be confident, courageous and take the next steps in paving the way for a stronger, more inclusive, and more trusting environment. The theme for this year’s conference, Race to Trust, reflects an intention to create a conference that inspires higher cross-cultural understanding and explores concerns among women that trust in the workplace is on the decline due to the current cultural and social trends.   My favorite part of this conference is meeting powerful and inspirational women of color from different industries and I have made several friends at the event over the years.

If I think about this opportunity as my last, I have to consider what my legacy will be.  My biggest accomplishment at the Japanese car company where I have been employed for almost 19 years are employee resource groups.  We started with 2 in 2001, just as pilots, while I worked with HR, Legal, and senior leaders to craft a policy that made all levels of the organization comfortable.  Now there are over 60 chapters across North America, with new groups being created in offices in Canada, Baja, and Puerto Rico.  I was dubbed the “Godmother of Business Partnering Groups.”  Where’s my fairy dust and magic wand???

However, I think that a presentation about 2016 would be more interesting to me.  We discovered that our dojo was operating without a business license or insurance for years, as we were told that we were losing the lease to our old studio.  I elected to become the small business owner created the S-Corp, purchased all the insurance and licenses, found a location, and continue my quest to become an instructor.  During the Summer of 2016, we taught karate in my backyard, on the stiff grass.  It wasn’t until late July 2016 that we moved into the new studio.

Now I am processing all of the emotions that I experienced last year to get the business launched.  All of this happened while I faced the end of my tenure with the Japanese automotive company where I continued to work full time, my daughter started her senior year of high school, and my boyfriend finalized his divorce.  Stress on top of stress on top of change on top of stress.  2016 weighed heavily on my shoulders…  more to come

Back on Track #trainmean Discipline, Respect and Humility

So far, 2017 has rolled over me.  We have lost family members and friends in our personal lives.  That means memorial services, funerals and lots and lots of tears.  At times, I’ve had to be strong enough to hold my loved ones up.  Other times, I’ve cried into my pillow or sobbed in the parking lot at work to let it out.  We hosted family from out of state after being away for a week for SuperGrands and sandwiched in between the sorrow, I’ve had to travel for business so I can network for my future career.  2017 has been whirlwind of frenetic activity.
My intention was to start training for my next race back in November 2016.  I wanted to train for 12 weeks to work on my race pace.  My goal was achievable but challenging.  In my first half marathon back in 2012, I ran a 13 minute mile and finished the race in 3 hours.  Somehow that race wound up being 13.98 miles instead of 13.1 but whatever.  A 13 minute mile for a half marathon is my race pace when I don’t prepare and the weather conditions are mild, not too hot or cold.


My best time has been a 13.64 mile race at 12:21 miles/minute and a time of 2 hours 48 minutes.  That race was the 2015 Avengers Half Marathon, which I did in conjunction with the Captain America 10K.  The two races together were marketed by RunDisney as the “Infinity Gauntlet Challenge – a 10K early Saturday morning and a half marathon the next morning on Sunday.  I took that training really seriously because I was concerned about whether my body could handle that many miles over one weekend because #ihaterunning.  That training paid off:  my body was in very good shape, my stamina was excellent, and my confidence was very high.  The root of those positive results:  fit body, better stamina and higher self-confidence, are founded in core values for the dojo, two that we carry-over from Rabago Shorin Ryu:  Discipline and Respect.  I would like to add a third core value that I want to include for Togisala Shorin Ryu Dojo:  Humility.

This word “Discipline” is defined by Webster as:  “1.  Punishment 2. obsolete Instruction 3. A field of study 4. Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”  In their Children’s Dictionary, “Discipline” is defined as “Strict training that corrects or strengthens mental ability or moral character.”  That defines what we want to teach in the dojo.  My training for half marathons fulfills the role of reinforcing the importance of my own discipline in training and conditioning my body.  Last year, I focused 50% of my energy on my day job, raising Kanoe, and being a good girlfriend; 35% of my energy on opening up the new studio; and 15% of my energy on my own training.  I would never approve of one our students only putting in 15% of their energy towards training and I had been very down on myself for that.  But life was filled with many barriers taking up my time after November.  December’s calendar listed business trips, a halau Christmas concert performance, the dojo Christmas party, and SuperGrands.  Honest reasons but not good excuses for being less than  disciplined on my training.

I already mentioned what January felt like for us.  And it all led to depression and health issues for us.  We are focusing on  getting his blood pressure under control and managing his blood sugars to get off of medication.  That takes discipline on both of our parts.  I need to ensure that we have healthy meals to eat and lots of opportunities for exercise and healthy distractions.  He must resist the temptation of sugary foods and drinks and the habit of mindless, late night snacking.  This discipline is critical to his health. Our lives are so intertwined because we live together and we share the responsibilities of running the dojo.  His health impacts my health and vice versa.

Our second core value for Togisala Shorin Ryu, “Respect” may sound simple.  The word is used every day in formal and casual conversations. However, the dictionary defines this word as a noun that means, “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” In addition, as a verb, the definitions reads as, “Admire (someone or something) deeply, as  result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”  What would that look like when one enters the dojo?  Students must bow before they walk onto the mat to train.  In addition, we bow to a photo of the late Sensei Rabago, who taught both Sensei Butch and me, of Rabago Shorin Ryu.  Before we start class to stretch and warm-up, we show respect by bowing to our Sensei and Sempai.  In addition, students must bow to one another while doing partner drills together.  If they are sparring, tapping gloves shows respect that each student will show good sportsmanship.  Winning is always celebrated with Respect.  Show-boating when winning is frowned upon.  Crying when losing is also not allowed.  We want to teach our students to Respect the lesson in each match or each drill.  Showing courtesy by using the words, “thank you” and “please” also builds Respect. Having such Respect starts with Discipline.  Many children start martial arts at such a young age that they don’t consciously understand these concepts but I trust that consistency and setting a good example will allow them to internalize these lessons.


But a more difficult value to teach and learn is the word, “Humility.”  I am going to spend more time processing this definition and tying it to our teaching at Togisala Shorin Ryu.  Look for a new blog post building on this one soon.  I need to go tend to our new puppy.  I want to name her “Kihon” (look up this Japanese word, if you don’t know what it means).


 

 

 

 

Pain and Sorrow in 2017

We started off 2017 losing the matriarch from my boyfriend’s family.  Aunty Laka passed away unexpectedly.  I never met her in person and I am just getting to know most of his cousins and such but I know my boyfriend.  He is big and tough with a heart of gold.  The amount of love he has to share with the world is rooted in his up-bringing and family background.  He’s shared stories of family get-togethers over the years with me.  They sound like the typical Islander gatherings:  lots of food and laughter and fun.  And razzing.  And singing.  And dancing.  And more laughter and food.

 

The loss hit him really hard.  For various reasons over the past twenty years or so, he hasn’t spent much time with this side of his family.  And memories of losing his parents flooded his thoughts.  We had just gotten back from being in North Carolina for a week-long karate tournament (Super Grands), took a deep breath to prepare to host houseguests over the first weekend of 2017.  Hearing the news that Aunty Laka had passed away took the little wind out of our sails that we had inhaled.

 

Before Aunty Laka’s funeral, Uncle Joe and his family came to town from Seattle to hold a memorial to recognize the two-year anniversary of Aunty Honey-Girl passing away.  This memorial brought together our martial arts ‘ohana and it was a reunion of sorts.  I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. And interestingly enough, Uncle Joe is related to my kumu hula!  They were able to spend a couple of hours together over the weekend and catch up on life.  That surprise was a nice balance to all the sorrow surrounding us in 2017.

 

But before we could pause to let the sorrow pass, I was informed that one of my friends, Valerie, had passed away. I met Val right before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Val was energetic, positive, full of love, and a fighter until the end.  Valerie was diagnosed with breast cancer, beat it and was re-diagnosed with stage four spinal cancer. Valerie passed away at the young age of 42.  The love that she and Paula shared was inspirational. Val will be incredibly missed by all whose lives she has touched. God bless your soul, Val. I am sending Aloha and light to you and Paula and Aunty Laka and Aunty Honey-girl.

 

I’m tired of all the pain and sorrow in 2017.

 

“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.”

Cancer sucks, Life is short, and we must Live Aloha all in, every day.

September 22, 2016

By the time I staggered out of bed this morning, my daughter was already wide awake, dressed for school and eating breakfast.  She was rocking her white Chucks and her million dollar smile bright and early at 7:00a.m. today.  And my boyfriend had been out of the house for at least an hour, maybe two.  I remember feeling his butterfly kisses  across my cheeks and nose early this morning, and heard his sweet whisper, “Ok Lovely, have  good day.  I love you.  See you soon.”  After hitting the snooze button twice, I dragged myself to the bathroom to shower and get ready for a long day.

As I stood in front of my closet, draped in my pastel pink leopard printed robe, I contemplated what to wear.  How do I make a fashion decision on what to wear when my day would consist of the following:  work, conference call, funeral at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, a career counseling phone call with a colleague/friend, my annual visit to the gynecologist, and back to work at the Toyota Automotive Museum for an event to launch the 2016 Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks with 75 D&I practitioners from across Los Angeles.  What shoes does one wear for such a busy, action-packed day?  I opted for a chic but comfortable color-blocked tan, cream, and black sheath with a tan blazer on top.  It felt fashionable and conservative without being too churchy and boring.   During the day I wore my sensible wedges with my sexy color blocked heels safely tucked away in my car for tonight.  There is something about an evening event that just requires sexy heels.

The environment at work has been one of turmoil and change.  One of my dearest mentors and former bosses is retiring in about a week.  I’ve asked colleague to send cards, photos and notes of gratitude to me so I can paste them into a scrapbook of Memories for Midge.  I don’t know how to scrapbook but I’ve got scissors, non-acid glue, colored paper, and an album.  Hope it all turns out ok.

Thinking about her retirement and my eventual separation from my place of employment has me feeling sentimental.  My buddies at work have already relocated to North Texas so my days at work are much more subdued and quiet.  I feel like my friends are gone and that makes for a lot less fun during the workday.

Yesterday, I opened my email and read that one of my colleagues and friends who worked on a huge diversity project with me over the past ten years passed away and her funeral would happen this morning.  She will be laid to rest on Friday.  I know she has been fighting cancer for years and had spent months at a stretch on medical leave, undergoing various treatments and somehow defying her doctors’ expectations and recovering each time.   But I haven’t worked with her for several months and literally just discovered that she had passed away one week ago today.

Death is a part of life, right?  We are put on this earth to contribute somehow by living a full and productive life.  Some of us teach, some of us work, and others of us take care of the planet and the planet inhabitants unselfishly and freely.  But cancer.  Why do some people have to fight against a disease like cancer to have the strength to teach, to work, and to give freely?  It doesn’t seem fair that the people who seem the most generous and selfless have to fight against cancer.  Why don’t more assholes and racists and bigots and misogynists and murderers and pedophiles get cancer?  Why do the nicest people get hit with one of the cruelest diseases?

Cancer make no sense to me.  Wikipedia says that Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.  Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel movements. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they may have other causes.  Over 100 cancers affect humans. I think about all of the loved ones my family has lost to cancer.  I think about my dear friends who are fighting against cancer right now, as I typed these words across my Kensington keyboard.  The article goes on to say that 15% of deaths are caused by cancer.  Cancer also increased the risk of anxiety and depression in patients who already have a propensity for it.  I hate cancer.

The funeral was filled with choir songs, as my friend was an extremely talented singer who loved all kinds of music.  The young priest talked about how even though we are mourning, today would be about the celebration of life and reconnecting with our faith, as my friend stood strong in her religious beliefs.  Even though funerals suck the energy out of me, I think it was good for me to attend Mass today.  I thanked God for my many blessings, I prayed for the health of my family and friends, and I sat still for over an hour.  A few minutes of meditation did me good today, as the world is in turmoil around us.  I sat still and remembered my friend and was reminded that cancer sucks, life is short, and we must Live Aloha all in, every day.

 

 

 

#TeamTogisala visits www.thekaratedojo.com

 

Here is how Social Media works in a positive way. Sensei Brian Pena and Sensei Butch Togisala re-connected after twenty years thanks to Facebook. These two men competed throughout the 1990’s all over the world. Sensei Brian and his family visited California and Togisala Shorin Ryu during Easter break and, a little over a month later, Sensei Butch was graciously invited to attend the Carolina Martial Arts Open tournament in South Carolina.

On April 24, 2016, Sensei Brian Pena published the following announcement via Facebook:

“EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT:

We are excited and honored to announce that multi-time NBL World Champion and Japanese / Okinawan Karate Legend: LELAGI ‘BUTCH’ TOGISALA of Torrance, California is set to be at The Karate Dojo in West Columbia, SC for a seminar, private lessons, and to receive a special award on May 14-15, 2016 to coincide with the Carolina Martial Arts Open.

Sensei Togisala is a Japanese Kobudo and Kata MASTER that holds the record of winning the NBL World Title in Japanese / Okinawan Kata for 5 straight years through the 1990’s until he humbly bowed out to his team member Marcus Young at the 1998 Super Grands World Games.

Please make plans today to meet, greet, and LEARN from a great friend of mine, and the single most prolific Japanese / Okinawan Karate & Kobudo competitor of the past 25 years – PERIOD.

Email me at Sensei@TheKarateDojo.com with Seminar interest or to schedule Private Lessons, and stay tuned in the coming days for further information.”

On Friday the 13th in May 2016, before the sun had risen, Sensei Butch and I boarded a flight to ATL to catch a connection to CAE.  There was a level of excitement in both of us bubbling and Sensei Butch had lots of questions regarding the weekend.  We knew that a greeting at the airport by Sensei Brian and a sushi dinner with some of his black belts were on the Friday evening itinerary.  So, we planned on checking into our hotel, resting a bit, getting our gi pressed for the weekend and just going with the flow.

I had cooked up a fresh batch of Kalua pork for Sensei Brian. He really enjoyed that when he was at our house for Easter.  A couple of pounds of frozen Kalua pork were one of my carry-on items. In addition, I packed some healthy snacks for the long flight across the country.  

Early morning flights usually mean a plane full of passengers who are either trying to sleep or overly sparked on caffeine.  We both attempted to catch some Zs after take-off, to no avail.  Because our seats were upgraded to Delta Comfort, we had access to free movies and he selected the film, “Invincible” starring Mark Wahlberg.  Sports-themed movies usually contain messages about hard work paying off, enduring monumental physical challenges, and overcoming adversity.  These themes were threaded throughout the film and I saw many parallels with what Togisala Shorin Ryu is experiencing.

We sat next to each other, sharing earbuds (yes, we looked like “that couple”) and enjoyed the inspirational true story of lifelong diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale. Coach Dick Vermeil called an open tryout to boost interest in the flailing Eagles.  Papale realized his wildest dream, survived try outs, and became a squad member.  The movie shows Papale’s tenacity, grit and heart in a mature and relatable way, beyond Disney’s usual animated fairy tales.

“Invincible” touched our hearts and there must have been quite a bit of dust circulating in the plane, as I had to keep wiping tears away.  No comment about Sensei Butch’s “allergies”.  The feel-good story focused on the importance of hard work and the responsibility of individuals to support their friends, neighborhoods and more importantly, their families. Competing in sports played a critical role in developing both of our personal core values around Respect, Discipline, and Courage.  He and I are athletes who have competed at various levels throughout our entire lives.  Sensei Butch leveraged his raw talent for karate and his incredible support from his father and surrogate father, Grand Master Sensei Richard Rabago, to “pull himself out of the ghetto.”  Disciplined training became a way of life and that led to a successful sport karate career that took Sensei Butch all over the world.

When a competitor sees someone who consistently performs at the level to achieve world champion status, that person impacts him/her in profound ways.  Sensei Butch has fans around the world and social media has connected him with other martial artists that used to compete with him. This is what brought Sensei Butch to South Carolina.

Friday afternoon we landed at CAE airport. Sensei Brian Pena greeted us with some of his senior students:  two of his black belts and one of his brown belts. The Karate Dojo welcomed Team Togisala with warm smiles, open arms, and deep bows of mutual respect.

We felt hungry but wanted to see The Karate Dojo before checking into our hotel. The facility was incredibly impressive. I had never seen a dojo as large as this one. The main floor also housed weight machine that looked more complete than most hotel gyms I train in while on the road. In addition, there is a smaller, more private training room and a large space perfectly equipped for child care and fun. But as impressive as the physical space was, even more impressive was the spirit and atmosphere inside the dojo. The floor, the walls, the equipment all looked pristine. But on the interpersonal level, everyone  from the  staff to the students showed immense respect to Sensei Butch. We heard, “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am” in every response.  Such a simple behavior, using consistent and respectful manners, exemplifies the way a karate-ka should hold him- or herself.

Sensei Brian graciously allowed Sensei Butch to use his beefy, tricked out, and gorgeous Expedition.  He drove us to Downtown  Columbia, dropped the car off with the valet, and Sensei Butch spotted a man walking.  He told me, “Babe, that’s Coolio.”  I dismissed him and said, “Leave that man alone.  It is not Coolio.”  What would Coolio be doing in Downtown Columbia?  We checked in, unpacked, and grabbed a nap before dinner.

Friday night – sushi dinner in South Carolina.  That was not a sentence I ever imagined saying out loud.  We pulled up to a shopping plaza and found a restaurant called, “Inakaya Watanabe.”  Sensei Brian had reserved the private room with tatami mats and when we entered, there were two HUGEMONGOUS  sushi boats on the tables to greet us.  Sensei Butch felt a bit apprehensive about sitting on the floor throughout an entire meal but thank goodness, the tables were built over a sunk-in floor.  The food tasted fresh and I devoured the fresh yellowtail sashimi while Sensei Brian requested rolls like soft shell crab, chef specials and some terrifyingly hot roll with a mystery chili pepper of some sort.  Eating that hot scary pepper thingy roll was a rite of passage for Sensei Brian’s black belts.  Since I am deathly allergic to peppers, I did not have the opportunity to taste that mystery torture roll. Thank goodness.

 

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At the end of dinner, Sensei Butch presented a special gift to Sensei Brian.  We had a brand new set of rope kama made  by Tenth Degree Weaponary in Southern California for Sensei Brian.  Rope kama are Sensei Butch’s signature weapon and there are multiple videos of him swinging them in sport karate tournaments all over YouTube.  Sensei Brian appreciated the gift and we were delighted to present it to him.

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 May 14, 2016, Saturday morning, Carolina Martial Arts Open tournament day.  When we arrived at the The Karate Dojo, the building was bursting with competitors and their family members.  Sensei Brian treated both of us like honored guests in his dojo and asked for the opportunity to introduce Sensei Butch to all of the participants.  We didn’t know he also had a big surprise in store for Sensei Butch.

And then, Sensei Butch had me bring up another gift for Sensei Brian. It was a vintage heavy weight Team Togisala competition gi, complete with gashes in the back of it from Kama blades. I thought that this one of a kind, irreplaceable gift would be something that Sensei Brian would appreciate. Material gifts can’t beat sentimental gifts, in my opinion. We can all buy “things” but no one can replace memories and experiences. 

A wide variety of martial arts schools were represented by colorful gi and t-shirts.  The number of competitors could have felt overwhelming but the order and precision that Sensei Brian exemplified in running simultaneous divisions impressed me.  Sensei Butch and I split our time between walking the floor and resting and reviewing the seminar format together.  Jet lag crept in every hour or so, we tried to catch cat naps throughout the morning. While out on the floor, we met an enthusiastic competitor.  She cheered everyone on in the rings by yelling, clapping, and sending tons of positive energy.  I pointed her out to Sensei Butch and he said, “She’s an awesome hype man.  We should bring her to all of our tournaments LOL.”  Her enthusiasm was noted by others and pointed out to Sensei Brian.  He recognized her by presenting her with a special “spirit” award.  She found us at the end of the tournament and asked to take a photo with both of us.  Look how her spirit shines through in her smile.

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This tournament had numerous examples of how martial arts influences young lives.  The atmosphere felt supportive and loving and still competitive throughout the day.  It struck me that martial arts tournaments should always feel family-friendly, rather than cut-throat competitive.  We work to build character in our students through discipline, respect, courage, and fun.  Becoming a tournament champion does not have to be the outcome in order to build up our students’ character.  World Championships, trophies, black belts…none of that makes a Champion.   Students living their lives by showing respect for others, acting with integrity, and staying physically fit is the ultimate goal.  Martial arts training never stops.

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As the tournament wound down, I heard tid bits of stories of first-time adult competitors making their debut at the Carolina Martial Arts Open and examples of children showing love and support for one another.  Sensei Brian referred to his event as an “investment in the future.”  A father of one of the participants wrote a “thank you” note to Sensei Brian because his son was crying at the end of the  tournament.  This young competitor was overcome with tears of pride because his sister had won Grand Champion.  Sensei Brian recognized and rewarded this young competitor with a trophy, as well.  But in fact, what that young man gave all of us was a greater gift.  Love and support for our family members and dojo Ohana is the ultimate goal.  Sensei Brian encouraged all spectators to cheer for all competitors and the dojo roof was raised by all the positive energy and Aloha throughout the tournament.

Next up, was the karate seminar with Sensei Butch Togisala.  About 20 or 25 students attended the seminar on Saturday.  The game plan consisted of a brief stretching session to prep the participants for the first activity – stances.  Strong, low stances are a signature for Togisala Shorin Ryu and the foundation of our style.  Having a low base is critical to executing our kata correctly.  Sensei Butch selected Pinan Godan as the kata to teach during the seminar.  And we wanted each student to be able to learn the entire kata during the seminar, regardless of belt rank, and be able to perform it.  I will note that Sensei Butch thought I was being too strict during warm-ups but I protested that as I conducted a very short stretching session to prepare their hips and legs for doing basics, just as I do in our dojo every night.  But I digress..

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I have written about one of the mantra of our Sensei, the late Grand Master Sensei Richard Rabago, “Basics are Everything.”  The stance is the foundation for karate.  Not all Japanese karate schools take as a low of a stance as Togisala Shorin Ryu.  But I believe that the beauty in kata is taking a low stance.  It might be from my years of studying hula kahiko, my Kumu Hula taught us that our energy comes from our classmates and from the Earth.  Being connected to both improves the spirit or mana in a dance.  The same can apply to kata.  When the karate-ka applies the movements within a kata, it is a self-defense technique or offensive attack.

Sensei Butch began the seminar with running the participants through exercises to practice:  kiba-dachi (horse stance), zenkutsu-dachi (forward stance), and neko-dachi (cat stance).  We had students as young as six years old, all the way up to adult aged and yellow belts up to second degree black belts participating.  Everyone worked hard to adjust to the style of Togisala Shorin Ryu to learn a new kata, Pinan Godan.  This is a required kata for advancement to purple belt in our dojo but it isn’t taught at The Karate Dojo so it became a nice addition to their kata toolkit.  One of the black belt students in the seminar stated, “So very impressed with Sensei Togisala.  He captured my family with his calm yet strong patience.  He led a seminar with a 6 year old all the way to us older folks and NEVER lost our attention.  We all left not only being taught a kata but also being taught a lesson in humility and strength.  Thank you sir for graciously giving us your time and energy this past weekend!  Deep bow of LOVE and RESPECT!”

Personally, I learned a lot through the process of helping to teach our kata during the seminar.  In addition, it became clear to me that Sensei Brian teaches all of his students how to be Champions in life.  His dedication to teaching the martial arts is a gift.  Sensei Brian runs The Karate Dojo as a very special school, filled with exceptional students.  I humbly bow to him.

After the seminar, Sensei Butch and I went to the Club Lounge to relax with appetizers and a glass (or two) of wine.  He felt pleased with the outcome of the seminar.  We chatted with the lounge hostess, a student from USC (Gamecocks, not Trojans) and discovered something that Sensei Butch found amusing.  A big old school hip hop concert was held nearby and Salt N Pepa stayed at our hotel the night before.  They were hot during the early 90s, the height of my clubbing days.  Sensei Butch and I sang a bunch their songs, most of which the hostess had never heard of because she was an infant at the time.  And, unfortunately, it was revealed that Coolio was also staying at our hotel! BThat means Sensei Butch did see Coolio the day before and he reminded me over and over throughout the rest of the weekend that I blew a fantastic photo opportunity for him.  Ugh.

At dinner time, we walked about a mile down the road to a restaurant ironically named, “California Dreaming.”  It came highly recommended by the nice man sitting next to me on the flight from ATL to CAE, that recommendation was co-signed by our lounge hostess and others.  They were right!  We had a fantastic walk and a lovely meal.

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After dinner, we called Uber so we wouldn’t have to take the one mile walk uphill.  A tricked out GMC SUV on 22″ tins rolled up, bumpin’ some hip hop. We looked at each other and laughed. Our driver was so chill, we talked about USC (Gamecocks, not Trojans) being on summer breaks. Then we asked about the concert and I had to hear how I blew an opportunity for Butch to take a pic with Coolio. Again.  They both laughed at me about that. Every person we encountered in Columbia, SC was gracious and welcoming. We had such a lovely time.

On Sunday, Sensei Butch was in his element, working one-on-one or in semi-private groups with students on their kata.  His innate talent for performing kata spills over into the incredible gift in customization and teaching.  Sensei Butch excels at making subtle shifts to sequences and moves that suit the individual’s strengths to transform a dojo kata to a winning sport karate kata.  Let me have some of the participants speak for themselves.

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“What an incredible experience to be instructed by Sensei Togisala, honored to have the opportunity, I hope to see him again one day to Thank him once more (or a thousand more) for helping me with my competition Kata.  He is an exceptional man.”

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The photographs above are from a semi-private lesson with two black belts.  They perform the same competition kata but Sensei Butch provided direction for each of them to customize a section of the kata to make it their own.

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“Very cool to have met someone I’ve only ever heard about (and seen in kata videos).  Sensei Togisala embodies who a leader and instructor should be – knowledgeable, caring, and patient.  Respect!!”

Sensei Butch started the morning off with a private lesson refining a kata specifically for competition.

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In this private lesson, Sensei Butch shared a few tricks of the trade to make this Sensei’s competition kata really stand out.  His strength could be amplified with a few tweaks at key points in Go Gi Shi Ho, which happens to be Sensei Butch’s signature open hand kata.

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Three private lessons were with junior colored belts.  Each of these students worked very hard and earned a lot of praise from Sensei Butch.  He reinforced the importance of basic stances and precision in strikes for competition.  As intense and serious as all these photos look, there was plenty of laughter and smiles during these private lessons.  Best of all, each of them asked questions when necessary, took the gentle criticism to heart, and applied their learnings in real time.  It was a delight for me to watch.

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The last lesson for the day was a semi-private session with two junior blue belts.  Each of them paid close attention to Sensei Butch.  Their high energy sustained him as he closed out the long day of teaching.  These two are well on their way to a bright and shining career in sport karate competition.

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Sensei Brian’s Team Dojo will “Never Give Up.”  The future of karate lies in our children continuing to learn and train from experienced instructors and competitors like Sensei Brian Pena and Sensei Butch.  Being open to new lessons and learnings was my key take-away from the weekend. Hard work is nothing to shy away from in karate or in life. As instructors, we need to be open to receive the lessons that our students teach us every day. On behalf of Team Togisala, I send a deep bow of respect and gratitude to Sensei Brian Pena and all of his students, staff, and parents at http://www.thekaratedojo.com.  We were honored and humbled by the experience we shared with all of you during the 2016 Carolina Martial Arts Open karate tournament.  Sending much respect and Aloha to Sensei Brian Pena.

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When Hormones are Not Your Friend. Too much business travel and not enough sleep makes Pi’i UnhapPi’i. 


Six Weeks of Travel = An Increase in Cortisol, a hormone that is not your friend when eating clean and living healthy is a goal. 

Business travel is a privilege, not a burden. At least, that’s what I recite to myself when I my alarm goes off at 4:00am prompting me to stagger out the door, tumble into a cab (“no money, no honey”) and ride to LAX. I wrote those words to close out one of my last blog postings, 98 days ago. About a month ago, I wrote about receiving a box of costumes and a gi from Sensei Richard Rabago. The four year anniversary of his passing away is next week Tuesday. My body has crossed so many time zones and my heart has felt so many different emotions over these last several weeks that I can’t even think straight or process what I am feeling today.

At the beginning of 2016, I felt very healthy and stopped taking the blood pressure meds that my doctor has prescribed because of all the stress I took on with my job in 2015. My mindset had shifted to helping the company become positioned for a successful move instead of worrying about my personal career choice regarding Texas.  

I had completed a personal fitness challenge to do a 10K and half marathon back to back in one weekend, which resulted in a personal best time for a half marathon. 


One month after that, I passed my 2nd Kyu belt test in the dojo and began taking a more active role in teaching. All of that felt good and felt right. 


 And even though Uncle Randy’s health was up and down at the time, we were attending halau on a regular basis and that is also pono.

Today, in May, I feel unhealthy and off balance. Side effects that I am experiencing, lack of sleep and lack of exercise and a poor diet equal a few extra pounds have snuck onto my frame. All of my training for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge resulted in a lean, fit physique and now, I’ve got a bit of fluff to shake off again. When I am diligent about eating clean, I have a much easier time sleeping. If one is not sleeping well, it creates a viscous cycle as the stress hormone cortisol builds up. Cortisol creates a “fight or flight” state within the body and increases one’s appetite. And, exhaustion means less motivation to exercise and less will power to eat clean. It also adds and more of a propensity to use sleeping pills or red wine to help with winding down before bedtime. Couple that with working in different time zones and not having easy access to clean, fresh snacks and BOOM! My okole grows once again. 

This cortisol rush all started when my Uncle/Godfather passed away unexpectedly. He went into the hospital experiencing pain, was prepped for emergency surgery and didn’t survive. My own heart broke and when I thought about what my cousins must have been feeling, it shattered into even smaller pieces. Talking to my mom was hard because I didn’t want her to worry about my tears, as she felt truly devastated. Uncle Ray was her little brother, the jokester who always filled the room with laughter. And he was my Godfather, which added to our relationship. I love his children like my own siblings, growing up with them shaped my entire childhood. After the funeral, my life would move in and out of suitcase for a month and half.
Sandwiched in between mundane and necessary trips to meetings in our office in Plano, I’ve ventured out to Oklahoma to play pai gow. And my Ninja Bear ran his first 5K as a birthday present to me in San Diego where we squeezed in a trip to the local casino before rushing off to a tiny karate tournament. 

The big highlight for this trip was seeing President Barack Obama as the keynote speaker at the APAICS Awards Gala dinner in Washington, D.C. Never mind that my company received a corporate award that evening, seeing POTUS speak live and in person, only 25 yards in front of me, that was a truly a once in a lifetime experience. He has been the President for my people. He built a diverse cabinet and pushed forward programs to help underserved communities. Now, he fights for immigration reform and true inclusion of the LGBT community.

Here is how he greeted the black tie crowd:

President Barack Obama is my president. He and his wife keep it real by singing and dancing (he cannot dance in his mom jeans) and living life as a happily married couple who love their children. 

POTUS was funny, direct and personable in a Presidential but I can still kick with you kind of way. 

I am in Week five of six straight weeks of business travel. My enthusiasm for work is waning. The announcement about my company moving to Texas happened two years ago. They made the announcement to all employees on April 28, 2014. Not the best way to celebrate a Birthday Eve. Anyway, a few of my work friends have retired, more of them have left the company and a couple of handfuls have already packed up their lives and moved to the Lone Star State. The office environment feels simultaneously tense and empty. Some of my colleagues are still agonizing over whether or not to move. I’m hearing that many people are asking my teammates if I am moving. I assume that people are asking behind my back they want my job, not because they care about me. And why wouldn’t they? I work in a fantastic position – direct communication to the senior most level of the company, decision making power on which non-profit organizations to sponsor, and I have responsibility to create an environment where all people have a voice and can thrive at work. 

After next week, we need to make some decisions about the dojo. Shortly after that, my Ninja Bear goes to court to move closer to finalizing his divorce. And I hope to sleep for more than 8 hours at a stretch. Clean eating and moving more will commence shortly thereafter.