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Meet Your Fellow Karateka - Jim Rielly

by Nancy Beckerman

Below is an interview with our student, Jim Rielly (M.D.). He's fairly new to our dojo, and has studied at several other places in the past. His answers to the questions are very enlightening, and it's great to have his perspective on our dojo, our Sensei, and karate in general. It makes me appreciate what we have right here at our fingertips; how lucky we are!

1. Where else have you studied Shotokan karate, and for how long?

I started karate as a freshman in college at Boston University with Tabata and Matsuyama Sensei. Matsuyama Sensei was from Waseda so I joined their club when I went to Tokyo as a home-stay student. I took a hiatus during medical school and residency then started back with the JKA in Atlanta under Takashina Sensei, who has since passed away. He was part of Okazaki Sensei's group and I got to train with him quite a bit as well. I went back to Japan for another 5 months and trained at JKA Headquarters.

2. What led you to the Takahashi Dojo?

I moved to the NY area and looked around for 5 years for a club until I found Takahashi Dojo online. I wanted a traditional dojo like the ones in Japan. More importantly, I've been lucky to have been taught by some of the world's most accomplished Sensei and I hoped to find a Sensei with that kind of experience. I came to watch and, as soon as class started, I knew it was what I was looking for so I signed up that day.

3. How does our dojo compare with the other places you practiced?

I can honestly say this is the best instruction I have ever received. I've been fortunate to train with some great Sensei but have never had the consistent, individualized attention that I get at each class here. There is only a handful of Hachi-dan in the world and few teach regularly. I don't think most students here appreciate how rare this is.

4. Has the study of karate affected the rest of your life, and if so, how? Has it helped in your professional life, or your personal growth?

The dojo was where I found all my friends when I started college, and ever since many of my friends are classmates. These days, it keeps me sane; I'm a bypass surgeon and a good workout is the best way to get rid of all the stresses that entails.

5. Do you find the attitude of our students different from those in your past experience?

Thankfully, most students in traditional schools are there for the right reasons and not to become bullies. Just take a look at the Dojo Kun - they emphasize character over ability.

6. Is the actual practice (i.e. the katas or the kumite) very different from your previous practice?

Most kata have minor differences from JKA and Waseda but once you know the bunkai, it all makes sense. JKA doesn't do weapons, though, so that's all new to me.

7. Is there anything you particularly like about our dojo (your favorite thing)?

I like the workouts with lots of basics that leave you so hot your face turns red, and sparring. I also like seeing people of all ages working out - every person has different abilities, and those abilities change with time (my creaky knees didn't always creak!). Sensei takes that into account in what he expects from us and how he teaches us, and it's good to know I can keep doing this for many more years.

8. Is there anything about your previous dojos that you would like to see implemented at ours?

In college we used to pair upper ranks with lower ranks so that you had "your" senpai to show you the ropes, give you tips, anything from how to tie your belt to watching your kata before you tested to pointing out things after class for you to work on. I liked that and stayed close to my senpai for many years after I left Boston.

9. Is there anything else in your experience that you can think of that would be of interest to our students, many of whom have only studied with Sensei Takahashi?

You will never have access to this kind of training anywhere else, so make the most of it. Come every time you can, give 100% and appreciate the level of instruction that you get here. Your hard work will be rewarded.