Today I reflected on my Kobudo teacher Minowa Katsuhiko who passed away on this day in 2003. I remember him talking about technique, kata, applications, stories about Taira Shinken, his sense of humor, his stubbornness; god he was stubborn at times. When he passed away, it was only a few months after I had come back to Canada and I was in complete and utter shock when I found out. Minowa sensei had not only been my teacher, he kindled and instilled a love for Kobudo that remains in me to this day. I remember being so overwhelmed with sadness initially and too despondent to do anything. However some good did come out of it as in the weeks that followed I picked myself up and started teaching Kobudo. That was eighteen years ago and I haven’t stopped (except for the Covid-19 pandemic). I think it was a good way to honor what he taught me. Still, there are times in all honesty when I’ve felt tired and wanted to quit and it sometimes seems pointless, but those sorts of thoughts are just small and selfish.
Minowa sensei was always kind and so polite when he corrected technique and kata. It actually made me feel uncomfortable that he was using polite language to me, his student, who was decades younger than him. He had a keen eye for catching errors and although he was so grandfatherly in his manner, he was extremely hard to please. In the years that I trained with him, he often responded in three ways to me, “you’re still young” (i.e. you’ve got many more years to get this right), “no, not yet” (i.e. no, you still don’t understand this and need to practice more), and “that’s ok” (i.e. I guess that’s ok for the time being but keep working on it). Like Kanzaki sensei, Minowa sensei was a wealth of information about old style Kobudo. He would tell stories of his time studying with Taira Shinken or another time when he showed me his photo album and pointed out a photo of an old woman who turned out to be the the great grand daughter of Sakugawa Kanga!
What I came to realize is that Kobudo and Karatedo are disciplines (like any other) that can help you be strong enough to endure the challenges of life. They allow you to see and feel each and every encounter that comes into your life – illness, death, life, happiness, joy, sadness. Part of this discipline includes studying under a good teacher – not just a good technician, or someone pedagogically good, but a “good” teacher – some one who is both a moral human being but also not infallible. Our teachers are models for us and a means of imparting strength to us. We need them in death as much as we needed them in life in some respects because they serve to inspire us to keep moving forward; despite how much we may falter. For that and many more things I am eternally grateful to you Minowa sensei.