Reflections on 2014 and Thoughts for 2015

by Sensei David S. Hogsette

As the year 2014 draws to a close, it’s a wonderful time to reflect upon the ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, and fulfilled dreams and yet unaccomplished goals in life and training. For me, 2014 was a dynamic year in which I made new connections and embarked on an exciting adventure in martial arts training and teaching.

Early in 2014 I met Sensei Rick Kaufman of Traditional Martial Arts Centers, who was teaching traditional Shorin Ryu along with joint lock techniques, basic takedowns and sweeps, and interesting bunkai applications of the kata movements. I started training with him and soon met his instructor, Sensei Jerry Figgiani, founder and President of Shorin Ryu Karate-do International.

Through these associations, I reconnected with my traditional karate roots and started exploring my martial arts passion: practical bunkai. Most of my training at this point involved relearning the Matsubayashi katas and exploring various martial principles through unique drill training. These experiences opened my mind to understand kata movement in new (for me) and interesting ways, helping me make bunkai connections to the kata.

During the summer, my life took an unexpected turn that took me from NY to Grove City College in western Pennsylvania. I was excited to start a new position at the college, but I was saddened to leave my friends and new karate family. However, this move offered me the opportunity to take my training and karate experience into a totally new direction: sensei of my own dojo.

My NY senseis encouraged me to explore the possibility of becoming involved in the campus martial arts club, and the club members welcomed me as their new faculty adviser and head instructor. I soon discovered that teaching is a whole new form of training! It’s one thing to train under a sensei each week, but it’s a whole different experience being the sensei. Collaborating with the senior club members, we designed a curriculum and direction for the club and challenged each other in our training. It has been an amazing learning experience, and the learning will continue, I’m sure, because teaching is itself a form of learning.

In the New Year, we will continue to develop the club and its membership. We are planning to focus our training on such areas as the following: practical application of kihon (basics), developing and practicing practical bunkai applications of the kata movements (exploring what the kata teach us about civilian combat and self-defense), exploring takedowns and sweeping techniques, and studying basic wrist and arm lock techniques. We continue to develop partner drills to make our training as practical as possible, and we emphasize significant use of bags and targets for impact and resistance training. Yet, we strive to remain grounded in the traditions that make karate so rich and engaging.

As far as membership, we continue to reach out to the college community to educate students, staff, and faculty as to what traditional karate truly is, attempting to distinguish our training from the false impressions and stereotypes perpetrated by some groups today. We are planning some educational seminars and a seminar on campus safety and self-defense. We are also reaching out to college athletes, encouraging football, rugby, basketball, and soccer players, and other athletes as well, to cross train with us. I am excited by what 2015 will bring to our martial arts club.

What are your training goals? What do you want to accomplish in 2015? If you’ve never trained in karate before, I hope you will join us. If you are an experienced martial artists, I hope you will come train with us so we can learn from each other. No matter what your interests or training goals are, I’m confident you will find something for you at the GCC karate club. Blessings to you in the New Year, and we hope to see you on the deck in 2015!