Questions from Karateka

I leave a message at the academy for Hanshi. I want to know more.

What do I call him? Hanshi? Sensei? Sir? And when do I call him, if ever, by his first name? The other karateka used all three titles to address our instructor, and the one time I spoke in class I addressed him as “Sir,” though I was never told to do this specifically.

Next, I make the gesture to help nail down some of the floorboards that had sounded loose or squeaky beneath the mats. Hanshi said he was going to get to that this week, sometime. During one of his speeches in class, he explained that when his teachers and honorable instructors needed help at the dojo or even when they moved their families to a new house, the karateka showed up to help.

In Florida, where Hanshi taught for thirty years prior to moving back to North Carolina, he had 35 students. One day, he asked his students in class if they would join him that weekend to help he and his family move. When the weekend came, ten students showed up. Grateful for the assistance, Hanshi thought nothing of the students who did not show up.

Months later at a tournament, Hanshi spoke with one of the Grandmasters about his burgeoning academy in Florida and the focus of his students. “Some of them even showed up to help me move,” Hanshi told the Grandmaster.

“How many students helped you move?” said the Grandmaster.

“Ten,” said Hanshi.

“How many students in your academy?”


“How many students in your academy?” the Grandmaster repeated.

Hanshi paused. “I have ten students, Sir. Ten.”

Finally, at the risk of getting cut off by the answering machine, I also inquire about home study. Is there a recommended daily regimen? What conditioning is necessary? Can I borrow some books to read in my spare time?

At night, when it is dark enough outside to transform the floor-to-ceiling windows on the main floor of the house into mirrors, I put on my karate gi and warm up, then practice the two moves that I know until sweat drips down my neck.

Tomorrow, class number two…

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