Karate classes in Mississauga Since 1996

The Empathic Sensei

Everything I experience hits me deep, raw and intense. As an empathic I feel the energy of myself and others. As I age, this ability grows deeper and stranger.”

I walked to the entrance of the dojo and paused. My senses fired up, I can feel the electric charge of the class. Students talking, giggling, some practicing their newest Kata, some, standing still.  Students are social and others are being anti-social.   All this information gets absorbed and I haven’t even entered the class yet.

I’m listening and looking but more importantly I’m feeling. I sense the exuberance, and know instantly what I hoped to teach this evening will need to be adapted.  The dynamics of the students waiting for class to begin and all their thoughts and emotions hit me like a fifty-pound medicine ball was thrown into my solar plexus.

No-one can see this about me, they don’t know how I process all of their energy. I feel the tension between the newly separate couple: The hurt and protection one carries and the guilt and remorse of the other. I sense the envious comparison from one student to another, the look of admiration with a hint of jealousy. There is trepidation from the student who has missed a few weeks of class, arrogance from some and insecurity from others.

These energetic vibrations are noticed, no matter what kind of front my students think they are putting up. Not only am I empathic, I’ve been all of these students at one time or another in my training. So have you, you just may not have noticed. I know the ones who crave validation and the ones who’d rather hide in the back of the class.

The students happy to be there and ready to work fill up my cup. But even the ones who don’t want to be there, I know they will feel much better for coming to this class. The shift in perspective is the best way to move their energy.  Some of the students have left their problems at the entrance and I may also be tuning into that. Now I must leave my worries and judgments at the door, so I can enter the training space with a clear and composed mind.

My empathic nature has already used up a significant amount of energetic fuel, tuning into the students frequency. So, I take a deep inhale and place my feet together at the edge of the mat and with my hands along side my thighs I bow from my waist and enter the Dojo training space. My body, mind and spirit present and ready to give.

As an empathic teacher this is how I do it. I receive the energy and it gets down loaded into my frontal lobe. Then my senses take over, not my thinking brain, and I give the students what I believe they need.

On this night I’d planned on teaching application to their Kata. Mostly technical information I was excited to share yet the message I receive from the class is a need to get out of their heads and use their bodies. So we spar, and run, and spar and push-up and spar some more. They switch partners and mixing up the energy in the room until they are too tired to think. Now they are out of their heads exhausted and breathing heavy. Now it’s time! Time to teach, and learn. The lesson tonight, although condensed is about what the Kata can teach us about life.

Now, most of them will be perceptive, although I know a few would rather keep sparing. Perhaps they are the ones who need the kata lesson most. I talk about form anyway. The kata like life, when we go into that undertaking and do our very best we are winning.

We start kata with mediation, clear our thoughts, ground through our feet and become present. Once we announce the kata with intension and vigor the battle is ON. There is no going through the motions. We are on a mission, in this case to destroy and defeat, or the kata Saifa! I quickly describe the parallel of an opponent in the kata and the hurdles of life. They are both battles in which winning is a key ingredient.

The Kata represents them achieving a goal, working through a problem, or learning a life lesson. Yes, it is all of these things and more.

Even though they are tired, I see most of them getting it and harnessing their inner power of heart and soul. When they complete the kata, the students are spent yet calm and peaceful. Like the demons of doubt have left their body and mind!

The class pauses, holding the last move of the Kata ready and observing like an Karate statues frozen in time, a master piece. They have come full circle as they close. Hands, clap together, right palm inside left, turning their hands inward to finish what they started.

A collective exhale fills the space, along with the salty smell of sweat, their perspiration a currency of investment for the class.  My thoughts are clear and attuned to the new sensation the class is emulating. It’s a clear, calm and present moment. Time to end the class.

Have I done my job as their Sensei? Have I given them what they needed? Have they given me something I needed?

As we line-up I look into each of them and I see it. The fizzy buzzing of an hour earlier has become a lake of tranquil water. I exit the class attempting to leave any residual feelings on the mat, yet I know I will carry some of that energy with me. That is my lesson, learning to replenish my energy. For now I am their empathic teacher.  I sensed what they needed and gave the class every ounce of my attention.

I mirror my students. I was like them, I still am. Always a student and with gratitude I share the gifts passed down to me by my Sensei, now my Shihan.

Our time together is complete and I think to myself even if they are still heart broken, guilt ridden, insecure or arrogant, for one hour they were none of those things. We were a cosmic force of energy, a circle of giving and taking, teaching and learning, for both the students and their Empathic Sensei!


How to Be Present

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it

the Present!” – Kung Fu Panda

There were several life changing lessons I learned as a young martial arts student
that have stayed with me for more than three decades. One of those lessons was
about being present or in the moment!
Students would assemble in our line of senior belts to the right and junior belts to
the left. Our line up consisted of a bow and a series of commands.
“Feet together, and hands by your side,” our Sensei would command.
“Kiotsuke” which means attention. “Rei” means bow, Sensei would shout.
Then collectively the class would all say “OSU”.
This meant the class was now in session and we were to be present and focused!
When doing our basics, or Kihon, the students are taught not to anticipate the next
move, but rather to be fully committed to the move they are doing at that moment.
We practiced this class after class, month after month, year after year until we
instinctively embodied these skills.
In theory this sounds simple, and while there is beauty in its simplicity, it is actually
very challenging to maintain complete and total awareness and presence in the
moment. So how do we develop the powerful and important skill of being present if
we don’t train in the martial arts? It’s a life’s practice. We never really master this
skill, although we can develop and become proficient in being present.
Being present or focused on one thing at a time will vastly change our levels of
anxiety and stress for the better. Here are some ways to hone the practice of being
First, we must have acceptance for the fact that most of the time we are not present.
At any given moment there are several thoughts occupying our heads. This is
perfectly normal and accepting this fact takes some of the pressure off.
Begin practicing the art of being in the moment with small tasks that you enjoy.
Going for a walk is an excellent way to clear your mind and be in the moment.
Monks will use their daily walks to observe their surroundings and notice the
beauty of nature, and you don’t have to be a monk to practice walking and noticing.
Use all your senses; what do you see, hear, smell, and feel?
Journaling is another good way to become more present. You may be writing about
a past memory or a future plan, but you are in the moment while writing. When
your thoughts do drift, gently bring your thoughts back to your pen on the page.

Remember it is not a competition, you are exercising a new skill and it takes time to
Reading is another way to be in the moment. Reading the words on a page requires
focus or the words leave us and we don’t even know what we were reading. So I
recommend reading something that captures your interest and letting yourself
absorb the words.
Be social, finding a friend to spend time with will extend your awareness of being
present outside of yourself. Spending time with that person you care about and
really listening to them, notice their body language. Maybe they gesture with their
hands, or fix their hair every few seconds. We aren’t judging them, just noticing.
Breathing is another easy way to bring yourself back to the present moment. If you
find yourself getting stressed during your day, pause and remind yourself to breathe
deeply. Doing this for a few minutes is an excellent way to pull yourself back from
whatever future situation you just imagined.
Anxiety and worry are often brought on by thinking about situations that are out of
our control. We are creating scenarios in our minds that will likely never happen.
Trust me, I really understand this as a mother. Many times I’ve let myself worry
about my children needlessly. I ended up causing myself more stress than I needed.
We will all overthink or worry from time to time, and yes, you can control this by
catching yourself and bringing yourself back to the present. If you are having one of
those anxious moments, try one of the above-mentioned activities to come back to
the here and now. Go for a walk, write about your worries, read a book or talk to a
trusted friend.
We call this “Yoi” in our martial arts training, meaning ready or focused, and the
more you practice these skills the better you get. Don’t expect perfection, there is no
such thing, and that expectation will only create more stress or anxiety. Remind
yourself it is called practice for a reason. Even the most talented martial artists,
musicians, or rocket scientists must practice to maintain their skills!