By Garry Parker.
This morning I spoke to my Sensei on the phone; we usually have our weekly conversations on Sunday evening my time, Monday morning Okinawa time. This week, however, he wasn’t home when I called Sunday evening, so I waited until today. The first thing he said to me after ‘moshi moshi’ – “Did you hear about Uechi Sensei?” I told him that I had heard, and of course the karate community – Uechi-Ryu in particular – has lost yet another treasure. He mentioned that it was around this time last year when his cousin -Takamiyagi Shigeru – passed from this earth. In fact, Sensei was here at my dojo in Georgia teaching the first day of our IOGKA Gasshuku when his cousin passed away, and he got the news later that evening from his wife in Okinawa.
As we continued talking about details of his upcoming visit to the USA next month, he came back to Uechi Sensei again. “You know, he was young; at 74, he was only one year younger than me”. We were both silent for a moment as we both gave our thoughts to mortality and the shortness of life. “Yes, Sensei, but you are healthy, and you already told me you planned to train until 90 and live to be 100.” I tried to make light of the conversation to keep spirits up and help lead the conversation in a more positive direction.
Not a chance. What Takamiyagi Sensei said next slammed me to reality in a flash. “I enjoy talking to you so often, and I’m glad we get to have the conversations…but someday, Pa-ka san, we will have our last phone call; someday we will say goodbye for the last time.” I didn’t reply, I just sat silently thinking for a few moments until I heard Sensei’s voice. “Daijoubu Pa-ka?” Hai, daijyoubu Sensei. Of course I know that we are mortal; I don’t believe that he or I will live forever; we will all pass someday, but we honestly don’t like to think about it, much less discuss it.
I don’t know how much time is left with my Sensei, but I do cherish every single moment of the past 25 years with him; I may have 25 more, or not. What’s important is to use the allotted time wisely. Ask questions, train hard, sweat, tell stories, have fun, enjoy yourselves, and the time spent together, and always remember to treat each moment as the last opportunity to spend time with your teacher, because one day..it will be time for that last call.