What Is A True Sensei?


United States
42° 20' 51.4248" N, 71° 6' 1.0368" W

Does it mean to handle a *Bokken?
Or to truly perfect one’s **Kata
Swinging to his heart’s content in joy
Connor Burke is an artist of doubt
Yamashita, master of arts, glows
Callused hands and rough feet endure pain
Sweat,blood pours out to form a pure soul
The Running, Jumping, Dodging, Kicking
And Punching drills instill peace in you?

Or stir up the slumbering maelstroms
Hidden deep in your *pectore
Hark to the meaning of my story!
Seven years of TaeKwonDo training
Brings out every hint of wrath beneath
My once caged soul bottling *ira
Every fierce punch against the sand bag
Buried crests and folds bearing zeal
Sparring for the first time in my life

At eight years old, frenzied in slight fear
Wearing color coordinated gear
The rival, a large and burly teen
^A match in which skills were sharpening.
With a shout it started and ended
A swift, smooth round house to the rib cage
and both of my legs slid off the stage
Split second moment woke the spirit
Self awareness is the key of faith

While the teen swirls victory in mind,
Turns for what becomes a sweeping kick.
As I managed to stay in the ring,
oblivious of my first defeat.
Mr. Smith took me aside to talk
Took my belt and gave me a white belt
Exhaling deep disappointing sighs
The first few steps of the way of arts
Leading to a lifetime of practice!

*Tameshiwari- a test of strength
You must break boards to climb the ranking
Without hesitation nor restrain
Samurais do not Tameshiwari
Instead cold steel and mesh are their friends.
Motobu Udundi* of Japan
Practice tears the flesh till it turns steel
Thick and Strong Fingers like Ikagi**
Calluses stood out like white patches

Belt tattered and ragged over time
Daily displaying respect to shrines
Workout patterns soothes pain caused by pain
There is something about getting hit
Whether the pain is pleasurable
Or the pleasure is sought in cruel pain?
Flying knuckles make me clench my teeth,
Loosening my neck and eyes wide open,
The punch connects but loses impact

Facial nerves throbbing in rhyming stings
Twisting my head in lieu of the punch
A smile creeps on my writhing face
As I courteously welcome him
With a punch to his solar plexus* .
Light punch to play on a level field,
Damage was enough for him to fall.
Sweat intertwined with someone's blood
My school frowns on whimsical brawling

But at 13, I did not care much
Wretched Fury invaded my cells,
Rewiring my peaceful atoms,
Flourishing in others futile struggle
Willfully absorbing full contact
Tightening abs, cuts and scars I fear
Only the end of sparring matches.
I saw my belt’s color everywhere;
RED,RED, and an abundance of RED

Blinded like a bull in utter rage
Every jab,cross,kick,sweep,punch, palm strike
Filled with malevolent intention.
Until I joined the black belt hall
Sunday training sessions reined in rage.
Two rounds of the flurry** weakens me
In the morning of a crisp summer,
Wondering if I am fit for this,
To balance steps on this narrow path,
Along the rigor of the path I
Realized a core difference in skills
Perfect techniques executed.
Composure brings about control in strength
Enough to surprise even myself
Self improvement of mind and body*

Ready thoughts stream in a battle line
Every drip pours out of each small pore
Heiho*, vibrations are carrying
Sensations sensitive to the ear
Sound is sound even ronins make
Masterless samurai following
Nature’s guidance is one of a kind.
Or so humans believe is the scope
Mountains form mountain blocks as streams fall

And rush wilder than whipping wheel kicks
By fifteen, Motobu was for me
The Karate stance labeled deadly
Workouts thrice more difficult and yet
more satisfying than tiring
My hollow mind calm like a temple.
Joint locks restrain struggle and freedom
Heiho woven quickly, maturely
Sprouted seeds of animosity

Stalks of pure ki* over,above,under-rolling
For the first time appreciating
Life in God’s creation full of A.I.R.*
What is the origin of life?
Where do we fit in the universe?
Can we move without truly knowing?
Knowing purpose, telos, our free will
Ambitions relentless as fires
Burning upon funeral pyres
Control your breath to preserve the rest
locked in God’s hourglasses
Ki is what martial artists harness
Sitting in seiza* to contemplate
Earth is noisiest in pure silence
The world’s quarrels became mine and thus
begins my ultimate adventure
Acquired what I was lacking
Grace, Humility, Integrity!

You heated bones until they cracked
progressing spiritual forging
Hard as rock and smoother than water
Imagining living in the North
of Japan same as the Wild Wild West
Sigh! Exhorting strains of squeamish moves
Never truly sure what cozen tracks
lead to your final destination
Budo** in limelight is shunned out

Sensei please once more be my mentor
Meditation soothes fatigue for all
Pangs of hunger and pain are released
Arts filled with rhythm, syllables
No signal to end the harsh training
Only the invitation for more
As the sounds of the world are muted
For the lasting diligent moments
of concentration and ruthlessness,

No luxury of mercy exists
Summoning ancient internal strength.
All occurring in the black belt hall
Thwack! Sounds surpass the threshold of pain
In these damn ever so sensitive ears.
Rolling thunder strikes from all angles
My last day of training in season
Left me craving for more lessons
Does my wolfish manner make me one?
One true martial artist to the core?
Or have I staved off my true path?
A ronin left to pace his journey.


Additional Resources

Get AI Feedback on your poem

Interested in feedback on your poem? Try our AI Feedback tool.


If You Need Support

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741