Defending Dads

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Ryukyu Kempo in the Park

In previous posts, I have referenced the level of physical activity my neighbors get up to and how I try to keep myself and the kids involved. We have trained in the Japanese martial art of Ryukyu Kempo since we relocated here from New York. Our interest in this type of karate has more to do with the charisma, leadership, commitment to the arts and innovative training techniques demonstrated by our instructor than anything else.

Sensei Robert Tocher not only teaches the fundamentals of the discipline, he finds a way to work a variety of enjoyable activities into the training. He switches it up. While that’s good for everyone — martial arts training is often like military drill — it’s especially great for kids.

Two weeks ago, Sensei held class in a local park outfitted with various exercise stations. The weather was magnificent and the park was loaded with people walking, running, playing baseball and lacrosse, just living. It was a sight to behold for a kid who spent too many warm, sunny days watching crackheads line up for service and trying to, as we used to say, make a dollar out of fifteen cents.

Like me, Robert is a refugee of corporate America. He is the sole proprietor of his dojo. He built it from nothing. I watched him do it. During that process, he and I have become good friends.

It is my pleasure to do what I can to help him build his school. In service to that goal, I played videographer/photographer that glorious day. “The best things in life are free” might be a cliche, but capturing images of Robert leading 20-odd kids through a workout that was not only physically challenging but fun absolutely made my day.

Watching my kids take part in something so innocent and joyful took me to a place I had never been. For 50 minutes or so, I was 10 years old again, living vicariously through my own beautiful children.

When class was over, the kids took the opportunity to enjoy the park. As if the ball fields, the walking path, the exercise stations and the sheer beauty of the place weren’t enough, they had the nerve to have a pond stocked with fish and frogs. Unbelievable.

On behalf of all the kids and parents fortunate enough to take part in that marvelous day, I want to thank Robert and let him know what an innovator he is, not only as a martial arts instructor but as an entrepreneur. I admire his courage and drive and strive to follow the trail he blazes away from life in a box.

Sensei, please set three black belts aside for the kids and me…and maybe another for Joss’s pal Ashley. She gets a…kick…out of your class. Get it? Kick? Oh, never mind.

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