Martial arts was something I have been interested in for a very long time; the philosophy and power that surrounded it intrigued me to no end. My second year at Central Washington University was the perfect opportunity to experiment with such activities. I first trained in a Hapkido dojo run by local police officer Brian Jones. I went into this with the same mind set of most people who get into martial arts, that I would somehow go into a super sayan state of mind and magically become the greatest martial artist known to mankind. However, this idea was crushed two weeks into my Hapkido training when I missed the target on a jump kick and landed awkwardly on the outside of my ankle. Lying on the floor with a broken fibula and tibia and in complete shame of myself I tried to soak up the humility the universe had just shoved into my face. Eventually, I became better and learned to be light on my feet and how to fall, and never left the ground again unless I was being thrown or if it was necessary in a kata.
After a year and a half of Hapkido, the dojo closed and I was forced to look for a new training facility. One day while walking in downtown Ellensburg, I noticed an MMA gym was being opened. I forgot the name of the instructor but he was a 2nd dan in Judo, a near black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and seemed like a nice guy. This gym truly showed me how out of shape I was from my broken leg. I learned a little kickboxing but mostly we practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The gym closed after three months and the instructor became a coach at Yakima MMA.
Once again I had to look for a place to develop my martial arts. Walking through the CWU campus I received a flyer for Kyokushin Karate from Senpai Annika Nieber. My first thought was a general stereotype of a point sparring class where we stood around and punched in the air for an hour every other day. My first class with Shihan Quitadamo quickly turned my stereotype into another lesson in humility. In my first classes Senpai Ralph Bullock (a kindly older student) asked me to hit him as hard as
could. I threw my sorry excuses for punches and learned without even starting my first class that I didn’t know how to throw a punch and I was just defeated by a stomach. Forty-five minutes into the workout I realized how out of shape I really was. During a set of crunches during a torturous workout I was lying on my back gasping for air thinking, “I am going to die!” Then came the pushups. After what could be argued as a near death experience with sit ups, the thought of a pushup was absolutely out of the question. Lying in a large pool of sweat I looked up and was hypnotized by Shihan Quitadamo doing knuckle pushups on the hardwood floor and pushing and counting so fast counting in Japanese I thought he was speaking in tongues. We then lined up and started the real Kyokushin workout just as Shihan said we weren’t even halfway done with class.
Through the instruction and encouragement of Shihan Quitadamo, Senpai Ralph, Senpai Annika and the rest of my Kyokushin comrades in the dojo, I have surpassed more physical limits than I thought my body could handle and have grown in ways I can’t even explain without writing a book. The dojo atmosphere is inspiring to me and goes much deeper than a place to train, it’s a home filled with people I consider family. The Ellensburg dojo continuously welcomes anyone who seek to take the same journey of self-discovery. This courtesy and welcoming environment extends to the other dojos in Northwest Kyokushin, whether it be Sensei Campbell’s dojo in Kirkland or Sensei Keith’s dojo in Seattle; each has made me feel welcome and treat me like one of their students.
Kyokushin means ultimate truth. So far as I can tell, the truth is the closer I get to shodan the more I have to learn. Earning a black belt isn’t mastery; it is simply where my journey to finding the ultimate truth truly begins. I will take the lessons I have learned from Shihan Quitadamo and the rest of my Kyokushin family as I leave Ellensburg and start a new life in Walla Walla where no Kyokushin dojo is...yet! Osu!