A Letter Home

February 26, 2018

Letter from Sarasota, Florida

To my karate-ka brothers and sisters back home in Toronto, I’ll be seeing you soon and sharing my experience of this, my very first Florida Winter Keiko. As I sit in my AirB&B rental cottage, all alone, my roomies, my co-renters, have all departed for their respective homes. I contemplate what I came here seeking.

My new organization, SMK (Sunday Morning Keiko), as I call it, my non-organization, for all those who yearn to be a part of a community of like minded individuals who are truly seeking perfection of character through the study of martial arts. A group who puts community first and foremost and does their best to check ego at the door. SMK is a non-exclusive karate community founded by Rick Hotton with the aim of advancing a spiritual as well as a physical approach to the study of karate.

My daughter recently published a report on her journey through India as part of a Yoga retreat. I was deeply moved by her words and it inspired me to write about my connection to SMK and the Florida Winter Keiko. This is the third Florida Winter Keiko, the first having taken place in 2016. This is the first time that it has been associated with members of the newly formed SMK group and billed as a seasonal retreat.

Sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Take a trip, think of it as an adventure and look for inner discovery. It’s also a chance to meet new people, to see new things and experience life from a different perspective. When I first heard about this years planned retreat – the Florida Winter Keiko, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. As one of the first group of members, this seemed the perfect chance to experience connecting with others who were also seeking spiritual and physical growth through our shared passion for Karate.

The Path – The Journey

What was I seeking? What did I discover? Self discovery, self defence and learning a better way to live this life. It’s the only one we have and I don’t want to waste mine on foolishness and petty parochial politics. “I ain’t no political man” as the song goes. I recently read an interview of a great karate master whom I respected for his immense skill and mastery. He has long since transitioned. At the time of the interview he was well into his eighties. He indicates in the interview that he feels he is still a student and searching for the true path. So I take that to mean, as long as we’re here, we should be on a path of discovery.

When the date for the winter keiko was first announced I was right on it. I was pulled in, drawn to attend. It’s nice that it’s considered a retreat.It’s wonderful that it’s in Sarasota, Florida. Especially for us Canadians who have experienced a blustery winter. I have never experienced a karate retreat before this one. I’ve experienced, camps, competitions, tournaments and many seminars. Never a karate retreat. If you ask our SMK founder, Rick Hotton to tell you what karate is, he will tell you without pause; “It’s Love!”

Friday Evening Dojo Training

From our pre-retreat meeting of SMK members, some of whom I was meeting for the first time, to our first seminar late Friday afternoon, there was a feeling of coming together as one. I met some very interesting people, open, caring and loving individuals. I felt an overwhelming sense of clarity, peacefulness and mindfulness.

The energy of a large group of people, particularly martial artists who have been training for a number of years  can be intense.  The energy for our first seminar had a positivity that set the dojo a-buzz. The training by the first instructor, Scott  Langley was all about openness. Not getting stuck in pre-conceived ideas. Letting your body move fluidly with complete relaxation. Utilizing the correct muscles to contract from one technique to another in a harmonious manner. The last part of the seminar was taken over by our host Rick Hotton and he stayed on the theme of relaxation in your karate and adding intention and being mindful of your centre to your manner of performing any technique.

Saturday Dojo Training

Our training continued on Saturday with excellent points for improved karate by both Scott and Rick sensei. The days training went by very quickly and came to an end with a feeling of satisfaction at having made a deeper connection with my own karate journey.

Sunday Beach Training

Yes, our last day we spent training on the beach, Lido Beach. A more relaxed atmosphere with Langley and Hotton both offering up a more meditative, mindful karate. Two hours of training followed by a barbecue on the beach.

From touchdown in Sarasota, to dojo training, to dining with new found friends, to beach training, to barbecues with new and old friends. To connecting with many new people right through to my final day exploring the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. My openness to change and profound discovery of another self, made me come to the realization I had been drawn to this retreat at a time of change in my life. A time to connect to my true self and to fully awaken to the journey. As I prepare to return to my home, I feel a sense of  peace. An inner-peace I haven’t felt in years.

Yes, a karate retreat. Mission accomplished. Karate is love!

Please join me on the next SMK retreat. I want you to experience a different organization. Perhaps, a non-organization will aid you in your journey along the path.

Thank you Sunday Morning Keiko.

In karate-do, I remain your humble agent,

Paul Yanuziello    

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