Evolution of a Budo Banker

BudoBanker medium blank

From Non Traditional Karate To Traditional Karate

and finally to Business Karate

Andries Pruim | October 2020

Corporate Career vs. Personal Development

I was sitting at my desk at the Main Branch of the Commercial Bank where I was recently promoted to an Assistant to the Commercial Lenders, trying to make sense of the all the pile of papers in front of me. Being new to the position, I was desperately trying to learn all I could of the position as well as answering the demands of my immediate bosses who were a couple of senior Commercial Lenders.

Unfortunately, the business of lending is high stress and extremely complex with both of my bosses not being the accommodating kind so I was raked over the coals on many an occasion, for a variety of reasons.

On one particular day I was called into the Senior Manager’s Office and was once again being reprimanded for not being timely enough, when I decided I needed to push back and started to make my arguments. As I was just getting into details, the Manager’s assistant came into the office and quite excitedly explained how “Baghdad was being bombed”.

We all immediately stopped our conversations and headed to the conference room where we watched CNN become the news source everyone tuned into for this type of news coverage (at least back then!). After watching the newsfeed for an hour, we all went home under very reflective mindsets. For me, I was very much in flux as I realized that the world looked like it was entering another war which caused me to think of those that were now already fighting or preparing to do so. Here I was in a very safe occupation and doing what I would call safe work, namely Banking!

While past the age to be able to contribute to this effort in any way, what I found when I arrived home would also change my life. As my wife discussed the ramifications of the first Gulf War, we almost missed an unusual envelope that arrived by standard (snail) mail. While feeling a bit foolish, nevertheless once I saw what the document said, I was still somewhat dumbfounded as it was an invitation to attend an International Budo Seminar being held at the International Budo University in Japan. It was 4-day event and included 8 separate Japanese Martial Arts.

Normally I wouldn’t even consider a trip to Japan but with recent events on my mind, I felt it was necessary for me to take the small leap of faith and take them up on the offer. So, without any idea of what I was doing, I made the flight arrangements and sent in my registration form. This was it .... after 20 years of learning karate here in North America, I was finally taking the pilgrimage .... I was going to Japan!

Non Traditional Route

This decision for some may not be that life changing, but the route I took to my proficiency in Shotokan Karate was more along the non-traditional lines so going to Japan wasn’t really on my bucket list during most of my Karate career. While I appreciate the legitimacy that some students have being associated with well recognized Instructors (mainly of Japanese descent), during my pre-Black Belt (Mudansha) phase of training I was involved with a very independent school which had no relationship with any national or international association.

Ours’s was a modern version of Shotokan, which did us well in the open ‘Karate’ tournaments. These Karate tournaments did not exclude non-Japanese styles which allowed us to compete against (and in turn befriend) a number of Tae Kwon Do and American Style karate participants. My initial Non-traditional path was to be the first stage in my Budo development and it was a unique experience, especially considering the colorful characters involved in this side of the martial arts. My initial instructor was from the mid-west who learned his karate in the old-style schools and taught us the same way.

While the Shotokan Karate I learnt was top quality (as I found out later in Japan), nevertheless my Instructors were independent and enjoyed associating with as many other martial artists as they could. This allowed to me to not only learn a quality style of karate, but I was able to train with, compete against and simply associate with the likes of Steve Armstrong, Dan Anderson, Robert Hill, Gerry Gould, Robert Edwards and other Titans of the Pacific Northwest Martial Arts scene.

This path allowed me to view the martial arts world in a very inclusive manner where I enjoyed watching some of the best perform their particular martial art. It was wonderful and yet I felt I needed to discover more of my own particular art, namely Shotokan Karate. Initially I did this by starting my own school and researched my style by attending seminars and through books and videos. In addition, when trying to properly teach techniques, it is amazing what you discover as an Instructor when trying to get a concept across to students. The education a Sensei can achieve while teaching is instrumental in developing their understanding of their style.

136

My school starting prospering but never to the point that I would be able to make a career out of it, especially seeing my Banking career was taking off. For this reason, my Karate career remained a passionate hobby and something to offset the pressure packed nuances of the finance industry.

While continually enrolled in various Bank Courses, I decided that some additional research into my martial art would counterbalance the somewhat mundane banking courses. I proceeded to write 4 separate articles for Black Belt Magazine and was looking to other avenues of research when the ubiquitous Invitation to attend an International Budo Seminar in Japan arrived in the mail.

Investing into the traditional side of Karate

Once my mind was made up, I fully committed myself to this adventure especially seeing I had never gone off to another country like Japan on my own, especially one whose language I could not speak or read!

I mailed my reply, purchased my ticket and started my adventure to the land of Budo. It must be remembered that this was in 1991 and the use of English in Japan was not as prevalent as it is today. While I was able to get from the airport to the Chiba Train center, it was here where I almost cried. There I was, staring up at a gigantic map of Japan and its rail lines, but no English to be found anywhere.

After what seemed like an eternity, a friendly local assisted me in getting my ticket and I was finally on my way to the International Budo University. This Budo seminar brought in experts from a variety of Martial Arts including Karate, Kendo as well as Judo, Sumo and others. It was an amazing collection of high-quality Martial Artists and seeing the seminar was for International participants of Japanese Budo, I was able to mingle with people from all over the globe.

I was able to not only witness some of the finest Budo Masters in Japan, I was permitted to try a couple of separate Budo styles as well as attend a number of college level lectures on various aspects of the martial arts. It was also here that I met my present ‘Sensei”, namely Hirokazu Kanazawa and Manabu Murakami, a relationship that endures to this day.

AKP and Soke

This trip changed my perspective on the Martial Arts or Budo as it’s known in Japan, whereby as I started to dedicate myself to the traditional form of Shotokan (especially considering Kanazawa Soke was a direct student of both Masatoshi Nakayama and Gichin Funakoshi). I thought ‘what a better place to learn the original way of Shotokan Karate’, but what surprised me as I was training at their HQ Dojo was how (business) professional Kanazawa’s organization (SKIF) was.

I have returned to Japan well over a dozen times and have enjoyed the hospitality of my now Japanese friends, but each time I visit the Honbu Dojo (HQ Dojo), I would always watch carefully how the front office was run and it was no different than any other large Japanese business.

It was apparent to me that while the school was as ‘traditional’ as you could get, the way the business was run was as modern as any other business, with a full-time staff that handled the organization’s local, national and international dealings.

With my ongoing education of how businesses are run (via the Bank), I was surprised to find that finding my traditional side of karate would lead to my third phase of Budo development, namely becoming neither a traditional nor a non-traditional karate practitioner, but rather evolving into Business Karate.

Karate properly evolves into Professional Karate

The third stage of my Karate Evolution began during a relaxing trip to Las Vegas one summer in the mid 2000’s. I was now at the stage in my life where I was looking at the Martial Arts with a new but different perspective. It was obvious from my trips to Japan that Traditional Karate did not mean non-professional karate, but rather treating Karate as a Service with the style of karate being the decision of the participant, whether it be Traditional or Non-Traditional or even the many Eclectic styles now out there.

This new philosophy of mine was fully re-enforced when I literally stumbled upon the MA SuperShow in the mid 2000’s as I was looking for one of the many buffets within the enormous Casinos of Las Vegas. While at first, I thought it was martial arts tournament, fortunately after talking with some exceptionally helpful MAIA personnel, I was able to walk the trade show floor, which as many have said before me, became an epiphany in itself.

Once on the trade show floor, I immediately started conversations with the various vendors and was so impressed with their passion for not only the product and/or service they were promoting, but with the martial arts in general.

Since then I have tried to both attend and promote the MA SuperShow as I was so impressed with the willingness of others to assist anyone whose passion was a career in the martial arts. Surprisingly for me, my evolution from a Non-Traditionalist to a more Traditional style of Karate was the main reason I became a “Budo Banker” as business has always been a part of Karate since it migrated from Okinawa to Japan (and even on Okinawa itself Karate has become somewhat of a tourist attraction).

AKP and Shuseki Shihan

Ongoing Personal Development

What became obvious to me was that while Business Karate takes into consideration remuneration for the skills sets taught, it also impassions the School owner to be true to both their students as well as their own martial art .... basically, a Win-Win scenario!

It should not have surprised me to find that once I started to look for the roots of Karate in Japan, it would lead me to the realization that Business Karate is Professional Karate and as long as we propagate our Martial Arts with honor and truthfulness, your development as a Martial Artist is along the same path as your development as a true professional Businessman or woman. 

What was acceptable as short as 25 years ago is no longer acceptable in today’s society, whether this be speeches, comedy or even teaching of martial arts. In fact, I was recently told by a very knowledgeable instructor that if your Sensei learned his/her karate in the 1970’s then never let them teach again ..... while this commentary was meant to be ‘tongue in cheek’, there is some truth as the way we were taught would lead to lawsuits in today business environment.

The on-going evolution of our Society means a similar maturation of our Industry, which means that the Business Karateka I became is what was meant to be for the Martial Arts Profession. We must all be professional in our careers and considering the trust being put in us by our Clients (both the Students and the Parents) it is imperative we reach for even higher standards.

My personal Evolution from a naive Karate groupie to a Professional School Owner took me on circuitous route from the offices of one of the largest Banks in the world to the hallowed halls of Japan’s Dojo’s, from the free and open spirit of the early Sport Karate crowd to the “C” Level Management of the Telecommunications industry, the Karate person I am today is a professional first and foremost leveraging ALL my life experiences to ensure my Martial Art is passed on to the next generation of enthusiasts with as much integrity and honor as it was pass on to me. This is what Business Karate is all about. In other words, we truly mean business when we chose our passion to be our career!

AKP and SMA