Below find excerpts from Hoosain Narker’s My Karate Odyssey.
The author starts off with a background of how his spirit was developed under the harsh “Apartheid” regime in South Africa. This spirit gave rise to his quest to undertake a six month journey across North and Central America (USA, Canada, Panama & Costa Rica) by road.
During this time period, in which he traveled a total of 48 000 miles (78 000km), he faced many adversities - a bus crash, travel pass declared invalid, visa hassles, language difficulties, the longing for home, different food, lack of finance, etc. Despite all this he persevered.
Throughout the book, he writes about the many places he had visited and the training at the many dojo and the impressions created. He managed to successfully compete in two events - a full contact, no pads challenge and a Taekwondo Hanmadang. The Journal concludes with profiles of about 70 of the instructors he had met and trained with.
Osu! The word Osu is taken from the saying “Osu no Seishin” which means to persevere whilst being pushed; to endure. Osu is made up of two characters. The first character means to keep, or to maintain. The second character conveys the idea of Shinobu, meaning patience. Therefore; Osu can also mean to be patient. The Japanese spirit is one of perseverance. Whereas it is easy for the untrained person to stop when things get tough, traditionally “serious budoka” know only that they must persevere under any kind of pressure
The aim of the budoka is to manifest the Spirit of Osu. It is the means by which practitioners of the martial arts can purify their character. There is no other way. One cannot achieve depth of character by relying on natural talents, on education, or luck. One must face trials to gain strength and wisdom. One must be prepared to fight on in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Even those people who do not pursue a Martial Art, yet achieve greatness in life, manifest the qualities of a warrior, the qualities of Osu, by being prepared to look trials squarely in the face and by never bowing to the weight of adversity.
Osu Shinobu implies a willingness to push oneself to the limits of endurance, to persevere under any kind of pressure. This strength of character develops with hard training.
Since starting on the long and often winding road of karate-do some 30 years ago, I had many opportunities to test this word to its limit. The following journal is but one part of my experiences. I am thankful that “Osu” has become a part of me. Without having this spirit ingrained in me, I might not have become who I am and I might not even have made the journey thus far.
Chapter 4 - The North-East
New York City’s vast Port Authority Terminal is a terrifying place to cope with on one’s own. I had no idea of the actual area of the place, but what mattered to us was to move our luggage from one end to another. The distance between any two points was alarming. The main concourse of the Port Authority Terminal is a wide, crowded, endless street of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, travel offices, bookstalls, information booths - and desks from which tickets are issued. At intervals one finds escalators to take people down to a lower concourse, or to bring them up, on a kind of conveyor belt system. On the lower concourse, there were coach exits, numbered from one to eternity and at every desk there were queues, neatly railed off from each other. Initially we carted our baggage up and down, but after having a meal (pizza and pop) and finalizing our departure terminal, we got a porter to cart our baggage to the bus. At the head of the first escalator we parted company, but by whatever route he took, he got to the terminal well before we did. We stowed our bags under the coach and boarded.
At the tournament, I had the chance to meet and interact with many Kyokushin notables such as Andre Coloumbe of Canada who had fought in the 1st World Kyokushin Championships. The day after the tournament, Kancho Matsushima gave a seminar and thereafter I got a lift to Methuen, Massachusetts. Mika-eel, with most of our acquired luggage got a lift to New York from where he would get a flight back home. It was sad to say farewell to him.
Liesha Petrovich Norway, Maine Kyokushin wrote
I just wanted to get a quick note out about the US Kyokushin Open that was held this weekend in Norway, Maine. I will post all the official results later in the week. We are still hosting Kancho Matsushima and are busy with classes and seminars.
It was a great pleasure to meet Hoosain Narker. He had the best knock out of the night. HE knocked his opponent out, he didn’t get knocked out! I believe it was with a drop axe kick, maybe Hoosain can explain it better. But the crowd loved it! It was the best point of the night. Narker of South Africa fought Joe Addesso of Montreal for first and second. It was an extremely strong match. You could tell that Narker was feeling a bit tired. Narker has been in the United States for the past several weeks touring. In an earlier match he had damaged his foot and Addesso took advantage of this. Addesso won on a decision. Great fighting.
Again, I will be posting all the official results and info from the tournament later this week. We feel that the tournament was our best yet and can’t wait to get started on next year’s event.
Chapter 5 - Going West
On Tuesday morning I left Baltimore for Los Angeles, California. It was a three day bus trip of some 3000 miles (5000km) that gave me the time to contemplate the various stages of my life. One of the sadder moments of this bus trip was passing through Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Many of the names had a familiar ring, i.e. Mesquite, El Paso, Yuma, Rio Grande, Chihuahua, etc. It was sad for me because my parents had us reading from an early age. Both my Dad and I were besotted with Westerns written by the likes of Louis L’Amour. Louis L’Amour wrote very graphic descriptions of the Wild West and traveling through and past some of those places brought a twinge of nostalgia as I remembered how my Dad and I would discuss the West. We would talk of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, etc. What he particularly liked was to get me to imagine I was a “Trail Boss” and I had to explain how I would have fared in various situations such as crossing a raging river. How he would have loved to experience travelling through these areas with me! I wished he was around to share this with me.
The trip was made pleasant by the company I had on the bus. Three of the passengers were also going to California and that made it fun. We developed a lasting relationship during that long trip and I am still in touch with them today. After leaving Baltimore, the bus went via Washington, D.C. The route that we took passed through Arlington and I had my first glimpse of the Pentagon, a place that I had only read about and seen on TV. There was construction going on there and large numbers of cars were in the parking lot. Driving through Virginia had me picturing the stately old mansions and the horse riding and then actually seeing that. There was so much that I had read over the years that each place brought up images in my mind. Early on my trip I had purchased a Rand McNally Road Atlas and as we drove, I would look at the map and see familiar names. Tennessee had many places that were so familiar due to Mr. L’Amour. My favorites were the Sacketts and those of you who have read of them will know of the Cumberland Gap Sacketts and the Clinch Mountain Sacketts.
Tennessee is the only US State boasting two cities named after Revolutionary War heroes. Knoxville was one of them, named after Washington’s Secretary of State, Henry Knox and the other being Nashville. Knoxville was shielded by the Great Smokey Mountain and I had it in the back of my mind to come back as I wanted to visit a very old friend, Shihan Allen Wheeler, an Isshinryu stylist based in Powell. But that was for another time, and so we travelled on. I was surprised to find that what I had perceived to be desert was not the image of a desert like the Sahara (sand dunes, etc.), but more an area in which vegetation was scarce. I had read of Texas being extremely hot, but as we only stopped occasionally I was not outside much and being in an air-conditioned bus did not allow me to feel this heat.
During a long stopover in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday night, I met Bradley and Elizabeth Webb. I had mailed Bradley just before leaving Baltimore and had called him before arriving in Dallas. They were so kind as to meet and whisk me away and this was really refreshing after the tiring journey. We also had time for a brief technical exchange which needs to be continued on my return trip there - for a more in-depth study. Brad is a top competitor in traditional karate with the ITKF of Nishiyama Hidetaka Sensei. Dallas will probably always remain infamous because of the assassination of President J.F. Kennedy and famous because of the TV Soapie “Dallas”.
Chapter 9 - To Canada and Back
The trip to Canada was smooth and uneventful. From Sacramento, the bus passed through the now familiar Oregon and we stopped at the same diners. As before, good food was available. We had a stop-over in Portland which is certainly another very beautiful City. In Seattle, I could take some pictures of the City as well as the “Sleepless in Seattle Tower”. The weather was getting colder. Whilst with Hank, his wife had purchased a warm jacket for me. I had also bought an “Indian Poncho” at the Grand Canyon which kept me warm. At the border post we had to disembark with all baggage, but I passed through without any hassle. Prior to coming to Canada, the newspapers featured stories of a terrorist who was caught slipping into the USA via Canada and it was reported that immigration would be stricter. Fortunately it did not affect me and on Wednesday I arrived in Vancouver, Canada. All I can say is that I am blessed - what else can it be? I arrived slightly after 10.30pm and the first person to see me was Christine Weltscheff - she had come to ensure that I would be met by Paul Hucul. Christine actually took the bus to see to my welfare. As Sara Aoyama wrote - the List enables us to learn more about each other - and here Christine went out of her way to do just that. I can definitely say that I feel that I have been blessed on this tour! Christine helped me carry my bags which had grown to 3 excluding the laptop, into the terminal where we were met by Paul and his wife Cecilia. Hank Prohm wrote something a while back “These are the kind of people I want to be like if I ever get around to growing up” - Paul made me feel the same way when both he and his wife insisted that they would give Christine a lift home even though it was totally in the opposite direction.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Martial Artists so much that it motivates me to continue spreading karate. Without a doubt it makes for better human beings. If we can all make that our aim in this New Millennium, we can certainly help make this world a better place for our children and theirs.
Chapter 10 - Be Positive
Be Positive - this is what I teach my students. After going through all the hassles in getting a visa for Canada and then eventually making it there only to be told that I could not continue, I had to re-motivate myself. My funds were getting low, I had been away from home for three months, but luckily for me, being positive is something that I not only believe in, but which is a part of me - no matter what. The following is what I give to my students so they too can develop a positive attitude.
A positive manner is not just something with which you are born. It is a process that requires a certain amount of work to start and to keep going. I’m sure you have often heard the phrase “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT” and this is probably true. But perhaps even more important - “YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK.”
Thoughts lead to actions
Actions repeated lead to habits and
Your habits create your destiny.
You become what you think, so if your vocabulary consists of phrases such as- “I CAN’T, I’M NOT AS GOOD AS, I’M TOO STIFF, TOO OLD, TOO SMALL, NOT CLEVER ENOUGH, it’s not your limitation that is holding you back, but Your NEGATIVE THINKING! It’s your attitude that’s letting you down and it is the person who creates that attitude, YOU, who DOES SO! You are the only one who can change it. The first thing you need to know and I am not saying it’s easy, but it’s easier than you think - is to eliminate all those negative words and phrases from your vocabulary, and your thoughts. So instead of thinking “I can’t” think “I can if I want to.” Stop apologizing for being yourself. You have the same right to “be” as anyone else, and the same right to a full potential.
Don’t cramp your style; be positive about yourself and you will soon see that others will begin to be positive around you too! Performance both in karate and outside the dojo will improve, because a positive attitude breeds positive results. You don’t have to believe me, try it for yourself and see. REMEMBER: “Argue for your limitations and sure enough they are yours” - Life is a self fulfilling prophecy. Make yours a POSITIVE one!
Many sayings abound freely, but there is one Japanese expression which originates from Daruma Taishi, the person who first went from India to China to establish Zen and who is believed to have taught the forerunner of Karate. I have modeled my life around this expression which is: Jinsei Nana Korobi Ya Oki - Such is life - If you fall down seven times, get up eight times. From this one learns that no matter how many times you fall down, you must get up again. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is very difficult, but struggle on and get up. Many times we face obstacles that make one feel that you want to give up, this is the time that we must gather ourselves and continue and we will find that we can make it. We must not be too afraid to do things, sometimes we make mistakes, but learn from them and continue, and you will succeed. In this way, one can be better than the day before!
Chapter 14 - In Central America
I was in San Jose, Costa Rica, after returning from Panama and was doing fine; still surviving even though I had some hassles once again with visas and associated bureaucracy. Life and its experiences are sometimes paradoxical and on this trip it has certainly affected me. A week ago I was in Central America - filled with UNHAPPINESS, MADLY in LOVE and also SO HAPPY. Where to start - well, let’s start with the hassles I had in obtaining a visa for Panama. Due to not having a Panamanian Embassy in South Africa, I had to apply for the visa in the USA. You will recollect that I had experienced hassles in getting one and after nearly two months, with the dogged help of mostly Gary Gabelhouse and Scott Eby, Des Tuck, Lionel Worrell and Tom Ross (who twice faxed me the application form whilst I was in Canada). The visa was finally approved. I sent my passport to Gary from Omaha. He forwarded it to the Embassy in Washington who in turn mailed it to Miami. That was it, or so I thought, but more about this at a later stage.
The next step was to finalize my flight to Panama. The ticket was paid for in December but as I had to change the flight to a later date because of the visa problem, I never got around to collecting the ticket. A new reservation was made with no link to the previous pre-paid ticket. After trying for a few days to sort it out (with no luck), I again called upon Gary Gabelhouse for help. He spent two hours on the phone one day and managed to sort it out. Most of the talking was with staff that could barely speak English. Simultaneously Zenón Cortez B, our Panamanian Rep had also done similar work in Panama. The Airline wanted me to pay an extra $100, but Zenón got them to waive it on the condition that I fly out on a Wednesday, which I did.
Chapter 15 - Back to Florida & Points further
The morning after returning from Panama, Tony Martinez had arranged a get-together at the Shotokan dojo with Antonio Bustillo (Enshin), Fernando Aguilar (Kyokushin), Carlos Velez (Kyokushin – also a Martial Arts Journalist who wanted to meet me for an interview), Tony Rosa (Senior) and Tony Rosa (Junior.) We started at 11.00 am and before we knew it, it was well after 3.00pm and all we had done was shown and demonstrated differences in various techniques. During this time we also demonstrated kihon, kata and application. I was lucky to demonstrate so much. Antonio had competed in the Sabaki Championships, something which I had also done in 1988, so we could chat and draw comparisons. He used to be a Miami Policeman and was now a massage therapist (at the time we met, he was putting the finishing touches to his first book which has since been published). After a photo session, we went to Tony Martinez’s house where the discussion and socializing continued until about 8.00 pm.
On Thursday evening I took the bus to Huntsville via Mobile. The connecting bus at Mobile was an hour late and we left at about 2.30 am. About 60 miles outside Montgomery, close to a place called Georgiana, just as I was falling asleep, BANG; I awoke with a start as I hit the seat in front of me. My pillow went flying, there was a grinding noise, I thought we were going down an embankment and tried to see out of the window - it was nearly impossible as it happened so fast until we came to an eventual stop. The front end of the bus was smashed - fortunately no one was seriously hurt - bruises, a bit of blood, etc. Pure luck ensured it was the right side of the bus that was pushed in. The wreckage came right up until the first seat and the lady that was sitting there was in “God’s favor” - she escaped with minor cuts and bruises and at that moment, she only had a sore body. I was only two seats behind her.
We had hit a liquid nitrogen gas carrier but fortunately it was empty at the time - hey, we could have been frozen like critters and wouldn’t even have known what hit us. I am so very thankful, Praise the Lord! At the hospital in Georgiana we were treated like royalty. I must commend them for their service and the EMT for their quick response. The accident happened at about 4.50 am and by 5.00 am the first troopers were on the spot and the EMT soon thereafter. As for me, my back had some whiplash so I was wrapped up; my neck put in a collar and placed on a “boogie-board.” I was gently lifted through the window and taken to hospital. I stayed on the board until the doctor was satisfied with the X-Rays. I certainly didn’t enjoy being tied up like a Mummy. At the hospital, we heard the local radio station reporting erroneously that there had been seven fatalities - I wasn’t pleased at all as whoever counted the “stretcher” cases probably thought we were sent away in the “meat wagon”. I wrote these paragraphs whilst sitting in the hospital - in the crash my Laptop had taken a small flight, but fortunately did not suffer any damages - I ensured that it went with me in the ambulance. I couldn’t immediately call the guys in Huntsville, but managed to do that later. Veronica, the Greyhound Rep in Montgomery, came to take our statements. She was extremely helpful and courteous. The driver Mr Edwards, must be commended for his skilful handling in getting the bus safely onto the opposite median. The bus had come to a halt meters away from the pillars of a bridge. If we had crashed into those, more people would have been seriously hurt. I cannot say though whose fault it was. According to our driver, the tanker had just turned onto the road with no lights. Well, let’s leave that for the authorities to figure out.
And all this on the significant day of Eid-ul-Adha, the day of Sacrifice as observed by millions of Muslims around the world. In the Bible - this is the day when God sent a sacrificial Ram in the place of Ismael (Nabi Isma-il ASA) who was going to be sacrificed by Abraham (Nabi Ebrahim ASA).
It’s funny how life presents you just what you need at just the right time. This incident made me more aware of my mortality. Becoming aware that feeling depressed is, in some ways, a luxury. Many people assume that when they’re feeling down that their lives are infinite. We assume that we can feel crappy and sorry for ourselves, and that it’s totally OK, because we’ve always got more life. But, when it comes down to it, we all have a limited time here on earth. We may not see that next day so as to “have a better day”.
Many thoughts ran through my head. I was so lucky. The gas tanker was empty, which made it more volatile - it could have exploded. Everything happened so fast. I’ve thought about dying. It was an inevitable thought because of being on a long trip like this. What would happen - I was so far away from home - what anguish it would create for my family and friends back home. My mind raced in all directions and as the incident replayed itself in my mind. I realized how precious each and every moment is. Every day I say to myself, this would be a good day to do this or that, to be aware, to relax and really be present. And every day I find myself rushing around and not making time to really be here. The suddenness of the crash and the possibility that we could all have died made me become truly aware of my mortality. Maybe my time is coming closer.
I’m feeling quite sobered by the experience, yet also alive and gracious of this tremendous gift we have all been given. The opportunity to be here on earth and experience it in the ways we choose. I just want to say I’ve had so many incredible responses and e-mails of concern for my safety from friends and family from all over the world. It warms my heart. Thank you all for your love and caring. I have so much support from my friends and my family that I leave all my worries and troubles to the wind and simply live and do the best I can in every moment that presents itself. Due to the accident and the delay - I was not able to get together with Chris Button, Howard Upton, et al in Huntsville. I was sure they’d understand. It was my intention to make it to Shogiki but after chatting to him from the depot in Nashville, I continued my journey to Chicago. I arrived without any further incidents. The lady driver (Ms Anita Durr) that drove from Nashville onwards dispensed lollipops to the kids on the bus and when I told her I was one too, she gave me one. That boosted my mood somewhat - I was still on a wavelength of my own - when I told her that I was on the bus that was in the accident she took the time to chat to me, that and the realization that I was fine, really perked me up. All I needed was to have some TLC (Tender Loving Care) and the warmth of the lady driver provided me with that.
Even though I was feeling a bit down, I still thought of the Grand Ole Opry. I had read that no trip to Nashville would be complete without that, of course! I am not exactly a country fan, but what was fascinating to me is that they have been broadcasting the show LIVE on the radio since 1925. It is the longest running live radio show ever! I had thought of seeing the show in person, well, maybe next time. I walked the now familiar path from the depot to the Rail Station and I took the Metro to Geneva and hooked up with Zaahir Hendricks, one of my first students. Zaahir filled me with some excellent South African Rooibos (Red Bush) Tea. We also spent the afternoon chatting with family in South Africa (this was for a long time). Just being with a familiar person who cared really warmed me and I soon got my good spirits back.