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).
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.”
Today is December 26, 2016. We are in North Carolina to register for SuperGrands. Team Togisala has combined with Team Dojo of South Carolina to form Team Dojo Elite. Professor Angie Abad-Mancia and her son are also here from Abad-Mancia MA to compete.
Sensei Butch has come out of an 18 year retirement to compete this year. He still holds the record for most consecutive world title wins in Men’s Japanese/Okinawan Forms 1993-1997. And as the story goes, Sensei Butch was in the finals with his teammate Sensei Marcus Young in 1998 and bowed out of the finals. Perhaps that would have been six consecutive wins in Men’s Japanese/Okinawan Forms.
2016 has been a turbulent year for Team Togisala. We unexpectedly lost our lease and had to move our of our dojo space in May. I spent March, April, and May looking for a new dojo space, applying for a business license, purchasing unsuccessful coverage, preparing for E Hula Mau, all while I managed my full-time career at Toyota Financial Services. It felt like every minute was consumed with karate, hula and Toyota. And as exhausting as it felt, I loved every minute of it. All the emotions could be channeled into my hula, and when our group placed third, my tears flowed freely.
For the summer months of June and July, classes were held old school style in my backyard on the grass. July was the month of Samoan construction. They even rocked rubber flip flop slippers in lieu of work boots. Sensei Butch and Sensei Frisco, along with his nephew, built ponywalls and painted them black for our new dojo space. I visited Home Depot on a weekly basis to purchase all the necessary materials. Dojo moms and students helped us clean and sanitize the mats that were stored in my garage. It was truly a team effort. By August, we had moved into the new dojo on Torrance Blvd and every month things are getting better and better.
At the moment, I am waiting for the team to finish registering. I will keep logging photos and blog posts here all week. It will help me shake off my nerves.
Monday Late Afternoon: Time for practice. Kamaka, Marcos and Natalia are running their weapons for tomorrow’s tournament. (I think I need a separate blog post about how horrible American Airlines has been to Team Togisala throughout this trip. Kamaka and Buddha’s weapons didn’t arrive until Monday Afternoon!)
This tournament is going to be a challenge. Not only is it bigger than any tournament we have attended in the past, as West Coast competitors we are not known. And like it or not, politics always plays a role in competitions.
Our combined team, Team Dojo Elite, met in Sensei Brian Pena’s room so all competitors could connect and say Hello. This is also the first SuperGrands for many of the students from Team Dojo. When Sensei Brian asked if each of us were nervous or excited, we had an equal number of “nervous” as we did “excited”. Personally, I’m so excited for the kids who are competing. This is an extraordinary opportunity for a young person to experience. And it is heart-warming to see the pride and love of their parents and family members who are able to travel with them. The competitors have worked for months and months, they will have one shot to show the judges what they’ve learned.
Speaking of one shot. I’m not telling the precise truth on that. We watched two black belts from Sensei Brian’s dojo compete in musical team forms Monday evening. Despite the delay of over 90 minutes, Miss Pena and Miss Hunnicutt stayed focused and nailed their team kata set to music. When we saw them in May, I had commented that they are perfect for team forms because they move in such a similar manner and their body types are the same. I would have pegged them for a shoe-in for top two in this division. I know Sensei Brian and Sensei Butch were proud of their performance, despite how the scoring went. Great work, Sensei Allie and Sensei Jill.
And, we witnessed the “do over” rule last night. If a competitor drops her or his weapon, that competitor is allowed the opportunity to completely start their routine over. And one team entered this division twice under two different black belt/dojo names. So they were able to do their routine twice and were scored twice. In addition, one of the competitors dropped his weapon each time they competed and the do over rule meant they got to restart with no penalty to their score. In the end, that team did their routine four times and wound up placing 1st or 2nd and qualified to go to the finale.
Personally, I don’t think black belts or any level of competitor should be allowed to restart their routine in a tournament. Perhaps beginners should be allowed that grace, White to Orange belts. I can understand giving them a chance to start over and build their confidence in competing. But for more experienced competitors, that’s what we train for, the three minutes we have to do our kata or weapons forms in front of three judges. It felt wrong to allow so many competitors two chances. And it took three times as long to complete the divisions because of that “do over”rule. That rule left a bad taste in my mouth last night.
And yet, Tuesday is another day. We have five of our So Cal competitors up: Mr Cool, Kamaka, Buddah, Cy and Professor Angie. They’re going to kill it!
My colleague and friend, Jennifer Brown, asked me to write the Forward for her new book, “Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will to Change.” It has just been released and when I saw an advance copy of it in the bookstore at the 2016 Out & Equal Conference, it made me smile. Hard copy books feel so official and important to me. I love reading on my iPad or Kindle but the tactile feel of turning paper pages and even the scent of paper and printing ink add to my enjoyment when I read a hard copy book. Seeing my name in print after something that I wrote was exciting.
I have to thank Noemie Iniguez, a young Black Belt from our brother dojo in South Carolina, for doing a quick edit to my draft before I sent it to the publisher. When I blog, I just write. I don’t edit or even spellcheck. But for this forward, I felt like I should send it over as close to final as I possibly could and a second pair of eyes reviewing a draft is always helpful.
So here is the Forward. And if you’re interested in purchasing a book,
Get updates and download your free chapter here: http://jenniferbrownconsulting.com/inclusion-the-book
When Jennifer approached me with a request to contribute to the forward of
her book, I felt extremely honored. I consider Jennifer to be a trusted
thought leader and a dear friend. We easily move from holding deep,
strategic conversations about social justice and diversity to giggling over
silly events involving family and friends. But I felt pressure to write
comments on point with what is happening today in our country around
diversity and inclusion. Honestly, my will to change has levelled up like
the obsessed Pokemon Go gamers wandering the streets across America. As our
country struggles with tension across groups, it feels like I have job
security because I get paid to create change. Our systems are broken, our
country is wounded and we must have the will to create change to heal.
By the time I received more details on Jennifer’s book, our country had
heard more reports of police officers shooting African Americans, woken up
to news of the Orlando nightclub attack, and just experienced the sniper’s
attack on police officers in Dallas. Putting this in context with the
concept of “Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change” made it easy
for me to craft my thoughts to this Forward. I am delighted and humbled to
be afforded this opportunity to put into writing my respect and admiration
for Jennifer and her work.
When I joined my company eighteen years ago to work in “Corporate
Diversity,” I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My definition of
“diversity” was limited to race and gender. Like most people, my thoughts I
focused on protected classes; I saw this position as an opportunity to give
voice to the underdog. I joined Corporate America in the late 90’s and found
very few role models for me to emulate. Where would I find the Gen X,
Asian-Pacific American, LGBT Ally, single mother of a biracial child with
disabilities who were running companies and calling the shots? Diversity
became a concept I connected with immediately and revealed itself as one of
the only ways I felt that I could make an impact in my company and leave a
legacy, because of my will to create change.
The concept of “inclusion” hit me as very fresh and exciting, an opportunity
to bring straight white men over 40 into the work and really make the
culture change effort for everyone. After all, I quickly learned that
culture change is not about taking anything away from one group to give to
another, it isn’t a “fight the power” theory, it is about creating space for
all individuals to fully contribute and thrive. And corporate culture change
must be focused on the bottom line: working towards keeping a competitive
advantage in these uncertain economic times, driven by a will to change.
Creating change is often a lonely place. Finding the will to change, and to
create real change requires passion and patience. One needs passion to
create change, passion for what is possible, and passion about seeing
results. If a person becomes involved with Diversity and Inclusion for
monetary rewards or recognition, it is doubtful that he or she will be
successful. This work is about service to the company and to others. The
ultimate goal is higher performance, which only comes about when people are
feeling valued, supported and respected for their individuality.
My mom once asked me to describe what I do for a living. I answered, “Well,
it feels like I bang my head against the wall of resistance to create
change. At times, the wall of resistance actually cracks, which gives me a
moment to rest and inspires me to continue.” The will to change requires a
lot of patience and a strong will to change. Patience is about realizing
that change happens when one convinces their constituents to slow down to
adjust behaviors so they can speed up the way they do business. Allow
yourself to see the signs of change, acknowledge the necessary work you put
in and celebrate the victories, no matter how small.
The will to change must come from deep inside the change agent. No one can
artificially manifest that sort of will. Jennifer Brown has laid out real
time examples of how we must find our own voices to create change. Don’t be
your toughest critic and minimize your accomplishments, this work takes
time, this work takes dedication and this work takes patience. Keep that in
perspective when someone tells you that you haven’t been successful. It all
begins with understanding our own values and motivation to live life in
today’s turbulent and uncertain world.
Thumb-typed on my iPhone
Peter said it best, I’m a sell sword podcaster. Here is my latest guest appearance on Core Temp Arts Network’s “We Got Five”. Listen to me, Peter and Devin Lamarr with two “R’s” talk about our Top 5 Sci Fi movies of all time. Give it a listen and leave us a review!