Friday, July 07, 2006

I'm a Crazy Ultrarunner, and It's Sensei Chinen's Fault

Just the other day, I was thinking about why I love running long distances or enduring a challenging workout, so much. Part of my "work ethic" I was born with. The other part came from being around my dad and knowing both of my grandfathers, and how much they valued and practiced hard work.

But regarding my athletic pursuits, I have Sensei Teruo Chinen to blame. He taught me that I can go WAY BEYOND what I think I can do. He had (and still has) a knack for knowing just how hard to push his students, without breaking them.

I still remember the long Saturday morning dojo workouts, or the workouts during "Hell Week." I swear, they were harder than ANY 100-mile trail race that I've ever run. I was in such incredibly good shape back then, (and didn't even realize it). Many of us students would go to his house after an especially hard workout, and we would help him with a few "tasks" around his property, and then have a great meal and an impromptu party.

Alas, after a few years, I decided that I wanted to check out other martial arts. In the course of a decade, I practiced a number of arts, but all of the instructors paled in comparison to Sensei's intensity.

The style of martial art that Sensei taught was Gojo Ryu karate, combined with a good working knowledge of Aikido and Judo techniques. Basically, it was very good close-in street-fighting technique. (And we practised our Judo falls on real-world surfaces, not on cushy Judo mats). "There are no mats on the street," he would say.

No other style that I have taken subsequently has come close to its "real world" self-defense capability, save maybe Krav Maga. One time, 3 of us students went to check out the local "full-contact" karate, jujitsu, and boxing studio (where all of the cops went to practice). We each had our shot in the ring, but all three of us ended up being disqualified for various infractions. (We didn't know that they had strict rules in their "real world" fighting style). I was DQ'd for lifting a guy off of his feet by his groin, with a nice, swift kick.

Sensei Chinen taught me many other things besides self defense. I learned never to underestimate anyone, especially myself. He taught me to respect others, especially those that are more experienced in life. He taught me when to keep my big mouth shut. Heck, he even taught me how to "party" responsibly and stay out of "tenuous situations" that could get me in trouble.

Thanks, Sensei Chinen!


robtherunner said...

It's interesting to hear a little more about your background and how you got started. I always had an interest in martial arts, but never pursued it, however, I still have hopes that someday I will.

Now I know why no one messes with Bad Ben.

crallspace said...

Yay Sensei!

Man, I'd run but my manboobs can't take all that jussling.

Jeff said...

Great story, Ben. I need to get off my bike and run wit' you guys again.

lizzie said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. You did a very good post about Sensei Chinen. It's true that he knows how to push his students. He knows how to push me that's for sure. I don't know if he still does the Saturday morning dojo workouts. I never heard of them. Is "Hell Week" gasshuku? It starts this Monday and I'm exicited. I hear it's intense and painful.

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Yes, Gashuku week. It was the highlight of my Summers.

Donald said...

This is a nice tribute to a remarkable guy. Well done.

olga said...

Great words.
I once had a Sensei close to it, but here, in States could never find one. Although some workouts were hard, the ethics part was struggling a lot. BTW, for a year I was in kajukenbo (a HI street fight mix of styles), and we were doing judo part on hard concrete as well. Herniated 2 disks. Was ready for surgery after 6 month of pain. Went for Bikram yoga. Started running as a prove I have no pain. My story:)

Ben, aka BadBen said...

I had similar long-term results. I used to love the fight training we would do after class for sometimes hours on end. It took its toll. So I got into something that's a lot easier on my body in the long run, (pun intended), ultra-trailrunning.

a.maria said...

wow, i would love to have the experience of having that kind of coach/mentor!!!

lizzie said...

Do you still do karate Ben?

Ben, aka BadBen said...

No, I don't do karate, anymore. About 4 years ago, I went to Krav Maga for a while with my grown son; (just long enough to break his nose a couple of times). He's a tough guy, so no harm done.

I'm pretty busy, and haven't worked martial arts back into my life. I run for about 14-hours per week on rocky, rooty, and hilly trails. I also work 50 hours per week. I also volunteer for races and race-direct trail runs. I take care of 3 running-related web sites and 1 running blog for my group.

With all of that, I also like to spend time with my wife, daughter, son, and play with my grandson.

Happy trails,

chris farrell said...

Goju is my favorite style other than Shotokan, which I do right here in Corvallis.
Feel free to come check it out:

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Shotokan always has the "crispest" looking kata moves. Very enjoyable to watch it done well.

steve said...

I studied under Sensai Chinen in the early 80's and am totally spoiled by him. After I moved away from Spokane I have not been able to find an instructor of his caliber anywhere. If you have the chance to go to spokane and learn martial arts he is the best around.