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Shotokan, Cancer, And Zanshin....

Funny thing about living a life as a martial artist, and as a cancer patient. Personally, I always willingly choose the former rather than the latter, but sometimes you simply don’t get a choice. However, you do most certainly have a choice about how you wish to deal with it. In the UK, 115 people die every day of bowel cancer. The average daily death rate is 1.370 and yearly 500,000 will pass away each year in a nation with around 60 million, apparently.

Now, I don’t do maths as a rule or indeed statistics, however, I do consider odds. Not in one of those awful late night gambling adverts that appear regularly to nocturnal creatures like me. No, I am talking about numbers, simple as that.

So, with that in mind how do you become a victim of death, compared to a survivor? Have to say a fascinating subject, and if I was not quite not so personally involved, I would be delighted to wax lyrical about it while musing in my smoking jacket whilst reclining on the chaise lounge. However, I am very much involved and that is fine. You cannot ignore reality nor fatality, and in fairness, I do not. One of the strange, but dare I say, also engaging facets of not sleeping at night any more is the true beauty of peaceful reflection and also education. There is actually a lot to be said for not being able to sleep, but you can learn and you can think think and reflect, and thankfully write. And what a gift that truly is.

So, taking a step back, how do I think that my life as a martial artist has maybe impacted upon my journey with this disease? Good question and probably no decisive answer at all. However, as I reflect on my journey with cancer I do feel compelled to stop and ponder on this whole journey. The more that I read and discover about living with cancer, and even more important and revealing has been the multiple discussions that I have had with members of the cancer medical community. It is a really confusing dynamic, if I am really honest, between on the one hand somehow being told that you are ok and the cancer after surgery and chemo has gone and then boom, in a few weeks guess what, it’s back and your life expectancy is suddenly not good any more. And then all of a sudden, you are back in serious trouble. The truth is, that actually from what I have learned, if you decide that you are going to be a victim then hey, guess what, that is what is going to happen, and irony of ironies, it is the same in my view in Karate.

When you study martial arts for many years and you apply yourself diligently, you come to understand certain things about yourself and what you have sought to learn. One of the odd things about studying a Japanese martial art is the fact that you would assume that culturally you would never understand nor “feel” the essence of what you might

think is an alien culture. However, in truth, this in my view is not the case. When you study something deep enough, it is possible to understand it and dare I say it even embrace it. So, that is what I have tried to do, and I genuinely believe that it has helped me far more than I could have realised, had I not been following the way of bushido, and for me personally Shotokan Karate Do.

Hard to explain and some out there will understand it but others may not and that is fine. As for me, the more that I immerse myself in my own physical training, be that in the gym or the dojo, indeed especially in the dojo, the greater the value of my Karate life becomes of greater benefit. Indeed, within all the Japanese martial arts and others beyond in fairness. There is a term called Zanshin. It has overall a similar definition. Most call it 'awareness', but there are subtle differences. For myself, it has been a solid tool in my armour against cancer. It has fortified me against some of the physical, medical, and emotional challenges that I face. But, if honest, without my experience and my own sense of Zanshin and just what that means to me, would I still be here now?

Well, according to the medical odds, hell no, I should have been dead in October 2018, but guess what, dear chums 59 and three quarters and still not out!

So, when I think about everything I find myself optimistic and buoyant. The future for me is a joy and a day at a time, is the order of the day, for that is the route to living a full and rich life, and I am blessed that I have that luxury.


Sensei Austin

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