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What Karate Means To Me
by Shawn
24 June 2011

The art of karate has a physical, psychological and emotional affect, although we may be only seeking one specific benefit. On the conscious level, an individual chooses to become a karate-ka for such reasons as seeking better physical shape, self-defense, social interaction, and a challenging goal. Although one may only seek one of these goals the karate-ka is also benefiting from the others. Therefore, I believe that although each individual may have their own personal reasons for becoming a karate-ka, all karate-ka receive the same additional benefits. For many, the thought of ‘karate’ engenders merely thoughts of self-defense, but this self-defense is a result of the many aspects of karate. As for myself, I now reflect to determine the conscious reason I had chosen this art while also determining the additional subsequent benefits.

I believe it is important to remain active, both physically and mentally, and this goal I have always strived for. Prior to joining karate I remained active in a physical way, but in a way in which it was me, the individual, in my separate world, setting my own goals, and achieving these goals within ‘my world.’ The goal was usually to simply stay in some reasonable physical shape. As one who was introduced to karate by observation of others for a prolonged time, I came to realize that karate not only offered a physical benefit, but also an environment in which a group together seeks both common and unique goals through the same program while providing support for one another. The beauty of karate is that it offers not only this social support/interaction environment, but also provides kata,
which offers a challenge and exercise form that can be performed individually. But it is the requirement of group practice and performance that has pulled me further from my shell and has allowed me to jointly strive for a similar goal while achieving personal goals.

Another aspect of karate that I have come to realize, is that for many, including myself, we tend to doubt ourselves, we lack a level of self-confidence that can bleed into other aspects of our lives. Within karate we are challenged to build our self-confidence, we are challenged to perform with others and in front of others. This very aspect is a reason I continue; if I quit because of this challenge then I would not be satisfied with myself. I have found that a good karate instructor knows when to motivate a student in this regard, and a good group of fellow students knows how to support others in this challenge. I try to be conscious that others may need support. When we provided support within a group the group supports us.

An obvious benefit of karate to many is the physical and self-defense aspect. But there’s
more to it than meets the eye. Karate provides a unique situation in the world of sports in
which one must perform in front of others both individually and with partners; thus, a
requirment to practice by oneself and with others. I personally have found the need to
practice and perform on both a group and individual basis causes me to push myself by
myself and with a group. Often in life we find ourselves suddenly becoming interested in something, sometimes very interested, and before we know it we are no longer doing what we were interested in; often something pulls our attention away, even for a short time and we find ourselves suddenly going down a different path. This often happends with gym memberships as an example. We are motivated at times, then not so much at other times. Perhaps the inability to remain focused and overcome obsticles is what prevents most of us from achieving our higher goals. I have found within karate, when my attention is side-tracked or interest ebbs, I’m motivated to continue by the existence of a group and instructor, though it may be a subconscious subtle motivation.

I came to karate, like many others, expecting the primary focus and benefit to be self-defense through merely a physical means, I did not realize that the path of karate can be started by anyone. I expected self-defense to be merely comprised of learning how to achieve fancy hits and kicks, with blocks thrown in when needed. And though a primary focus is on the physical ability of self-defense, this self-defense is not only comprised of physical endurance or abilities such as the hit, the block and the kick, it is also comprised of self-confidence, psychological endurance, control and the ability to be relaxed and focus and think clearly in a stressful situation.

I see the goal within karate not merely as one single goal, such as a big ‘final game,’ or winning a specific metal. For me, karate is a life-time goal of enjoying and trying, of working with others while achieving. A great aspect of karate that I have come to realize is that this life-time goal–that has no limit, no ceiling, no finish-line–has been broken down into small parts with small separte goals, like that of a ladder with each belt representing a
different rung on the ladder. Although there may be a limited number of steps on this ladder, you can never reach perfection in this art, and thus one always has a goal. But I have realized above all else when setting these goals: It’s not important that we have achieved a particular goal before or after another person; the quest to improve ourselves utilizing these steps in this ladder is our own personal path and is not to be compared with others. We should not judge nor be judged by the pace in which we achieve these steps on this adder. In regards to goals, one must first be able to push him/her self, but just importantly, we must allow and accept that we need to be pushed.

For myself, the psychological aspect of karate has had an affect. As I’m required to interact, achieve goals within a group, and deal with different personalities, I have learned that one must not take things personally. It is the ’ego’ that causes us to have conflict with others. I have learned that patients is required when dealing with others because many are not aware that their ego has consumed them. This can lead to unspoken competition between students in addition to various conflicts. I have learned personally that karate is about seeking enjoyment through excersise, goals, social interactions and personal goals, it’s not about competition with others since we are all on different paths, it’s not about who can achieve a certain rank first, it’s about achievements with oneself. With the primary focus on these things, the rank of the belt will follow.

To many that have not participated in karate, or even some within karate, believe that with self-defense abilities and belt rank comes a lack of humbleness. My experience has been otherwise. I have learned and realized that as one goes up in belt rank, it should be an indicator of not only physical achievements but also of a propionate level of humbleness. Rank is to receive respect and is to reciprocate humbleness.

To me karate has many meanings, many attributes; to say that karate is merely one thing is to not understand all the aspects. Although I began my travel down this path expecting an increase in self-confidence and self-defense, I now realize there’s also the social/group interaction aspect; the breaking down of a life-time goal into small goals and the working to achieve with both neself and others. For me, the most important in anything is to seek to enjoy it, to seek it with self-confidence, otherwise the path becomes steep.


At the age of ten, when my family and I came back to America, I realized I had a passion for soccer. However, I was unable to play on a team due to financial circumstances. At
thirteen we moved to San Diego. My parents worked a lot, so I began spending time after school at a local Boy’s Club; which happened to be just up the street from where we
lived. It was a great outlet for a boy with lots of energy. It was at the Club that I met many people whom I still call friends today. They also have stories of what a big impact the Club
was in their lives. One of my favorite things to play was soccer, and since most of the Club members were Spanish it worked out well. “Soccer was in their blood as it was in mine .
Soccer at the Club was what glued us together despite our different cultures. .

Once outside of the Boy’s Club doors the only outlet offered were gangs, and I was in the right neighborhood for that too. But my parents taught me better than that. I had been
going to the Boy’s Club for about six months when I thought I knew all the programs the Club had to offer… Except for one. The Club offered a karate class which was held on
Thursday nights. I had first learned of this class by accident. One day my brother and I stayed at the Club a little later than usual. I was walking into the gym when I heard lots of
screaming and shouting. I wondered what was going on so I walked into the room which was always locked, and I saw someone who looked like Chuck Norris and a bunch of
kids doing karate. I got so excited, yet I was suddenly saddened because I new of the home finances. Regardless, I sat down and watched the class.

I returned the following week. The Sensei (teacher), Sensei Randy Langawski, asked me if I wanted to try out the class. I had to refuse because I knew I was unable to pay. As
I sat there, I could not help myself and I did more than watch the class from where I was sitting. I jolted my arms and legs with the same motions as the class and did it with the
karate students every “kiais”(Shout). After class, Sensei Randy waited for me outside the class room. Instead of asking me if I wanted to try the class he said, “Karate is free if
you’re a member of the Boy’s Club.” He must have read right through me. When I heard that, I officially became the happiest kid in the world! Inside I was crying happy tears, and it
was at that moment that my life would change. “Till this day I steal tear when thinking of that moment” Thank you Sensei Randy For changing my life.

” I became a martial artist.” I studied with Sensei Randy for six years in the system of Isshinryu. My brother and I became his two highest ranked students ever to date. It was
with Sensei Randy that I had learned most of the traditions, morals and discipline that the art has to teach, much like the karate and Ninja movies that we grew up with. Sensei
Randy taught me a lot on how one should carry , he was teh one who also taught how to punch and kick. ” The art of Isshinryu sums up how a person should carry themselves
with these I studied with Sensei Randy for six years in the system of Isshinryu. Sensei My brother and I became his two Randy donated many of his years teaching karate to
children like few words, “The whole heart method.” myself. I pledged to do the same, to give back the same gift that was given to me. Due to health problems Sensei Randy had to
stop teaching karate and thus karate at the Club existed no more.

I started working at the age of 13 in a local Italian Restaurant as a busboy, I learned a lot about the business and now owner of an Italian restaurant myself. I attended college
with the hopes of becoming a physician assistant, but later realized the medical world was not for me, so I studied business with a minor in Japanese. I’m also a certified
masseuse. On occasion you can find me singing karaoke or playing the guitar to some Italian songs. I love languages and the music world.

When I was seventeen I walked up to a park and Aikido was one of the arts being taught. The price was right so I studied with Sensei Jerry Jamel for two years. To me, Aikido
was a graceful way of practicing the art. It can be seen performed by one of the top ranked martial artist in the Aikido Federation. This person is Steven Seagal, but most of his
movies portray a harder form of Aikido. In the summer of 1995 I studied Goju karate with Sensei Gabe Renaga, who is a North American champion.

I like to get myself involved in many things. Thus this involvement is was set me out to join the US Army in October, 1995 and graduating top of my class. In the Army I was an
engineer and a chaplain’s assistant. While in the Army I continued my studies in the Juun-Ryee system. I even tried out for the All Army Karate Team but as luck would have it I
broke my ankles. In late 1998, I got out of the military and focused the next four years of my life working a vigorous sixty hours a week, attending college full time and maintaining
karate. In 1999 I trained with Sensei Johnny Killer under Master Alonso Wilson. By 2000 I Returned to my original roots of Okinawa style. Now studdign the art of Shorin-Ryu
Shorinkan karate.

I have also spent a lot of time in the tournament circuit. My first big competition I was sure that I would get last, but I cried as the judged game me my 1st place trophy. The
arts made me believe what I always knew but never practiced- if you put your heart into it you can achieve anything your heart is set on. I had won not only “The International
Tournament”, but also a “Regional Tournament” and in 2001 “The World Championships.”

My Martial Arts training began in 1989. I have been taught numerous arts under great teachers, and in most cases, only achieved the rank of brown belt. Due to circumstances
I was unable to be ranked any further. I was beginning to think that I was cursed and was never going to earn a black belt. The color belt a person wears is not of importance, but
after fifteen years it was a chapter in my life that needed closure. In 2003, I was called and told I would be tested for my black belt. I waited nearly 14 years for this day. It was a day
I will never forget. I took a good beating during my testing, but it did not matter because I was numbed by the feeling of what it would be like to finally have my dream come
true…and it did. I passed my test and was ranked shodan (black belt). I was now one among the ranks of black belts. I was always a martial artist in my heart, but I was now
honored in the eyes of my Senseis to join them in their rank. I have studied Kendo, which is the art of the sword. I study Shorinkan Shorin-Ryu karate under Kyoshi Nabil Noujaim,
a great man who is widely respected and has many accomplishments in the martial art world and who studies under 10th Degree Shugoro Nakazato Sensei.

After many years I held true to a promise. I took the place of Sensei Randy at the Boys & Girls Club of Vista and now teach classes. I want every child to realize that they can
reach the stars no matter what their story might be. It’s easy for a child to believe that he/she does not have equal opportunities in life, especially when living in an area in which
mentally does not offer positive ideas. I fell into these sad beliefs but thanks to the opportunity the Boys & Girls Club gave me I managed to turn myself around. I realized I could
achieve more in life if I follow my heart because I truly believe, “you can do what ever you set your heart on”. It’s an intense feeling teaching karate; this gift that was once passed on
to me. It’s a part of my life as I hope it becomes that to someone else.

What the Boys & Girls Club of Vista has done for me I cannot put in words. Sometime in 1992 when I was going to the Boys & Girls Club as a member I was selected as Youth
of The Year. It felt nice being the one recognized out of thousands. I also realized that not everyone can be chosen. Learning karate gives one a feeling of importance, and they are
because they are learning an ancient art that goes back thousands of years. One of my biggest goals is to own a home on my private vineyard. Another one of my goals is to
become the Mayor of Vista some day. My heart is not set on it but I have thought about it. You never know what calling God has for us. For now I can put my time where my heart
has always been and that’s with the Boys & Girls Club of Vista.

My Club Bio

I grew up and was raised at the Vista Boys and Girls Club since 1989. Everything I experienced at the club as a child was to become an opportunity, a layer to my life teaching that
would one day make me into the man I am today.
“Crazy legs Sal” is what my friends called me at the club. I had dreams of one day becoming a professional soccer player but life did not have that in my future. Instead the Club offered a
karate program which became a tool in my life and when I played soccer, my crazy legs where all over the field.

Finances were vary tough at home when I was growing up. Playing soccer at a city level team was an opportunity I never had. So the club filled that void in my life and also gave my parent
a peace of mind that my brother and I were in a safe place.

I remember once as a teen the club took us on a ski trip. It started as a awkward ski trip being that there were those of whom were gang members from different gangs and teens with
attitudes. As we skied down the slopes most of us had fallen many times. But we dared not to laugh at each other for we knew it would turn out bad. On the second time down the slopes
we fell again but it was impossible to hold back the laughter and no one fought nor did anything negative. The club provided an environment for us to be ourselves and forget about the
outside stresses that we dealt with on a daily basis.

The club taught me the importance of an education, treating others with respect, fair play, giving with a pay it forward mentality, and the importance of family.

Today I’m still a club member but not as a child in need of guidance or opportunity. I now stand as those before me as a successful business man and a Club Executive Board Member
creating opportunities, a safe environment and tools for our children that were once given to me…
“Touching Lives One at a time”.

My life Journey of the Martial Arts as led me to Kyoshi 8th Dan Nbil Noujaim, a great Man and a Wonderful mentor.

“Thank you all.”

“Touching Lives One at a time”.
“A martial artist stands out among a crowd because they carry themselves in such a matter. We set standards and norms. I am only a teacher with hopes to create
masters. I invite you to learn this gift and create a master within yourself!” – Sal Cirincione

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