My friend and instructor Jim Robinson tested for his 7th Dan in July. The testing was in Memphis, and there was no way I could be there. When our mutual friend Diana Hampo told me she was putting together a celebration party for Jim, I suggested that she compile a book of letters and photos from his friends and students.
There are people in our lives that make a difference. They challenge you, push you, force you outside your comfort zone. We may not realize it at the time, but they are part of the fabric of who we are and who we become. Jim Robinson is one of those people in my life. My challenge to you, dear reader, is to reflect on those people in your life that made a difference, and let them know. A phone call, a letter, an email, it doesn’t matter. Don’t take them for granted,or think that they must know how you feel. Tell them!
This is my letter.
It’s not often that we have an opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to us. I’ve been guilty of telling others of your impact on my life, but I never told you.
You were my first instructor. You were the person that challenged me to do that which I thought was impossible. You were stingy with your praise, generous with your criticism. You lit a spark inside me that is still alive 35 years later.
I remember you trying to teach me new techniques. Smiling at my ineptness and shaking your head, walking away. All that did was motivate me to try harder. It never was the trophies that motivated me to compete. It never was the color of the belt that motivated me to test. It was your approval that mattered to me.
You taught me to never, ever quit. You taught me to set an example for lower ranks. To be stronger, tougher, and never stop if anyone else in that room was still going.
Remember that attitude instructors had? Not only did your students believe you could walk on water, you did too. You were so darn arrogant.
I remember the trip to Lansing, Michigan in 1977 or 1978 to compete in Nationals. A group of us borrowed Ron Turchi’s van and made the drive. There is no way to describe the pride we felt when we watched you compete. The fierceness of your techniques, the way you could side kick straight up in the air, and hold it.
You weren’t the biggest guy in the ring when it came to sparring, but by golly your opponents knew they had been in a fight when you got done with them.
I’d never gotten rid of that martial arts spark. I bought the school that you taught me in. Your spirit was all through that school. I found myself using the phrases you had used with me when teaching. “The reason you twist your wrist when you punch is because it takes less effort to twist a screw into wood than hammer a nail.”
We had lost contact, so it was surreal for me that day you walked in the door, the first time I’d seen you in twenty years. Those visits to the school, the phone calls, you working out with us in class, meant so much to me.
My sister Tracey and I sat on the floor and watched you compete a couple of years ago. She looked at me and said “It’s like old times again, isn’t it? Watching him compete. Being proud to be his student.”
I watched you test in Dallas for your 5th. Remember working on yourself defense demonstration? The cowboy hat?
And full circle for me. I tested for my 5th in December of 2009. You were on the panel. What a very special honor for me, to have my friend and instructor still a part of my life. Over thirty years Jim.
The influence I had, the lives I changed, were because of you. The ripple of your influence spread out over and over throughout the years. I’m just one. I wonder how many of your former students are out there, proud of what they accomplished because of your tutelage.
I’m sorry I could not be there to see you test. But know that I was smiling when I saw the pictures. And if I could be there now, there would be a big hug for my instructor and friend. Love you Jim.