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May 242014

“Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to do this with your students one day.”

We were on mile two of the Totem to Totem half marathon in Ketchikan, Alaska. The clouds were low, the air chilly, and the water front to our right was a steely grey reflecting the drizzle that obscured our view of the mountain tops. Perfect running weather. Joshua smiled a “that would be cool” reply — his hands still deep in his pockets for warmth.

He started running months ago to prepare for his black belt test this coming fall and has already set a goal to run a half marathon after the test. Today, Josh is part of a relay team so I savor our six-ish miles…some in silence, some in silliness.

Looking back, he was so small as a new white belt (just nine or ten years old), and now he’ll be the first black belt from my dojo and almost sixteen. It’s amazing what time, hard work, and vision can accomplish. What’s best is not Joshua’s natural talent, or even hard work ethic, but that he chooses to use his skills to serve others. Our team is in Alaska, not for the race, but to work with our dojos in Ketchikan and Sitka.

The totem poles near the beginning and end of the race speak of the tribe’s history. They represent times of both hardship and victory, and were usually erected with a celebration involving the whole community. The group effort of story tellers, craftsmen, and laborers influence generations to come. The figurative totem the dojos here are developing depict service to their families and community.

There are reminders of the proud native Alaskan heritage everywhere in the town. They remind me of the traditions we observe and why. In our dojo, we pray together, find service projects to work on as a group, and at the end of each class, yell “I love you guys”.

Now, there are classes of new students who have no memory of our dojo operating any other way. I hope the “totems” carved by our group will be an encouragement and challenge for following generations of students.

p.s. My hero, Denny, who got me started running was there alongside Josh and me for the whole race. Running has carried on to another generation of students.


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