Essays by Patrick Auge Sensei Shihan - Black Belt Essays - Other Essays

My Life and Budo: my autobiography
By Bernard Monast

A) History

It all started on a Saturday in the summer of 1963. A friend and I were visiting the YMCA in Windsor, Ontario. Noise coming from the basement got our attention. We went downstairs and saw people wearing white keikogi and hakama. They were throwing each other then would apply standing controls and pins on the ground. We observed for about ten minutes then left. We made some comments but never talked about it again. However, the thought of learning self defense remained anchored in my mind.

When my family moved to Ville Jacques Cartier in the Province of Quebec in April of 1964, I found myself in a totally unknown environment. A classmate of mine whom I had just met asked if I would be interested in signing up for judo. We ended up joining the Saint-Lambert Judo Club, where a Mr. Jarredelle was teaching. Classes were held twice a week in the basement of Saint Lambert Church. It was only for one session. The following year, I resumed my study of judo with Mr. Lamartine for about one year. During the fall of 1968, from October 29th to December 21st, I took tae kwon do with Mr. Chul Y. Kim. His school was situated at 4510 Saint-Denis at the corner of Mont-Royal in Montreal, on the same floor as Mr. Villadorata’s Aikikai aikido school. I observed several practices that did not convince me that aikido was the right martial art for my personal development.

In 1972 I entered Edouard-Montpetit Community College and joined its judo club where Mr. Serge Berthelot was the teacher. That was when I started competing. Until 1975, I trained seriously with that teacher, who also taught us some basic aikido techniques.

In early January 1978 destiny let me meet Augé Sensei and Sugiyama Sensei at the University of Ottawa. That was for me the real beginning of my study of budo. Regular and serious weekly practices as well as monthly clinics and summer camps became a priority in my life.

After graduating in law in 1980 from the University of Ottawa, my family and I moved to the Montreal area where I completed my bar as requested by law. Then in order to complete the mandatory six-month training period in order to become a licensed attorney, I moved to the city of Granby, where I have since been living. As there was no place for me to practice aikido, I looked for a place to continue my training. On Paré Street, I finally found a serious karate school. I started my study of Shotokan karate at the beginning of June 1981 with Jean-Marc Landry Sensei. Since that time I have been practicing Shotokan karate and I have been continuing nowadays with Jean-Pierre Cusson Sensei. As much as possible I have been attending clinics and training camps in Canada as well as in the US.

I will indicate that during that period, I continued my study and practice of aikido and attended all monthly clinics as well as all Yoseicamps organized by the IYBF. In August 1989, on Augé Sensei’s request, I opened the Granby Yoseikan School of Aikido, which has been active since that time. After Augé Sensei and Sugiyama Sensei moved to the Los Angeles area in 1993, in 1995 I had the opportunity to attend a clinic there with two teachers from Japan, Tezuka Shihan and Kenmotsu Shihan, both direct students of Mochizuki Sensei. Since March 1999, I have been visiting Augé Sensei twice a year in order to receive his teaching. I must emphasize that Augé Sensei has been coming to Canada several times a year in order to teach us at weekend clinics organized by the IYBF.

B) Application of the principles taught by my teachers

For many years I have been diligently practicing in order to maintain a good mental and physical condition. It was my first objective, not different from most of our beginning students’ mind-set. That is what helped me clear my mind before exams while a university student. To tell the truth, it was the main goal I had decided on when I started my study of aikido. When I started judo, I had no specific goal. Due to my young age, I had neither enough understanding nor maturity in order to comprehend the benefits of budo study. However, I recognize that judo was the beginning of my journey onto the martial path, though it may have been unconscious at first.

As a matter of course my goals and objectives changed with the passing of years. At first budo was a physical activity that helped me relax and clear my mind. As the years went by and with Augé Sensei’s teachings, I started to understand that there was something beyond a merely physical activity; something that specifically – and without understanding why, helped me overcome some difficulties.

After I left the Ottawa area in 1980, I could not benefit directly from Augé Sensei’s teachings besides my participation in the numerous clinics, Yoseicamps, and teachers’ camps organized by the IYBF. Moreover I must mention that I did not have the opportunity to go to the Yoseikan Honbu Dojo in Shizuoka, Japan, in order to study directly under Mochizuki Kancho Sensei. However, Mochizuki Sensei came to Canada in order to teach us in 1979 and 1989, which is when I had the privilege to meet him and receive his teachings.

When I met Augé Sensei, I had definite and almost unalterable opinions regarding everything. Whenever I visited the Ottawa area to attend weekend clinics, I often had the privilege of meeting with Sensei. The rigidity of my thoughts and opinions was quite remarkable as well as how I applied the learned principles. However, Sensei had told me that with time I would change and flexibility would prevail. I admit that I was quite skeptical since I was unable to understand Sensei’s message at that time. But with my continuous practice and study I started to assimilate the principles Sensei had been teaching me.

Years went by and I was finally able to understand what Sensei was transmitting to us through his teachings. By opening my mind, I could integrate some principles, the most important of which Kancho Sensei taught being “Flexibility overcomes Stiffness.” It started maturing in me and changed my perception of life, of things in general, and especially my opinions regarding certain subjects. It helped me improve personally in order to understand better the behavior of individuals whom previously I would have condemned without hesitation.

Respect for others is part of the important principles that must be promoted in our society. Consequently, self-respect is a prerequisite to respect others and receive theirs in return. These few words may seem futile to the majority of people. However, we can easily notice situations that are unacceptable to our standards but that go totally unnoticed from the general public. Indifference is socially spread. It’s unfortunate but undeniable. Quite frequently I have noticed contempt and lack of respect towards those who represent authority. Teaching respect as I see it is the first step in order to educate those who are receptive to it. Disrespect amounts mostly to arrogance. Let’s keep promoting and teaching respect.

While practicing what Sensei had taught me, it became evident that discretion and especially staying in solution mode were essential attitudes. One must maintain a high level of motivation, keep one’s interest in budo, and continue the mission one has committed oneself to. I must emphasize that during all these years I had to coordinate numerous elements of my life: privacy, family, relationships, work and retirement.

One my first challenges to overcome were to get to know and understand myself better. By applying the five-step method in order to improve oneself or change, I was able to question myself regarding several aspects of my life and my attitude towards my relatives, and also develop more empathy towards others. I will admit my selfishness when I ignored family members’ needs when my support was requested. Now I understand the existence of unavoidable priorities and that as a husband, father, grandfather and teacher, I must harmonize with my environment without being trapped by excess or finding myself being caught within a whimsical and irreversible zone of comfort. Humility has often been my main topic of reflection while applying that method.

In addition to that, Sensei has also initiated me to meditation. For more than six years I have been retiring at least twice a day for the purpose of getting to know myself inside. At bed-time, I have been using breathing meditation to fall asleep: it results in an inner feeling of wellbeing; it calms my mind and helps me relax my body. We become aware of the fact that the practice of meditation produces benefits such as the reduction of anxiety through stress management. Through that solitary reflection I can know myself better, see what part of me needs to be improved, and solve certain internal conflicts that have been undermining my personal development. With time we eventually get to the point where we are better able to control our minds and our emotions. Thus it becomes easier for us to meet the many challenges brought by daily life.

We can also practice meditation in motion while training. By focusing fully on every detail while executing an escape or a technique and while maintaining and developing a spirit of awareness, one can feel one’s own whole body in action as well as the power one can generate at that instant. This kind of sensation is unique and can only be acquired with time and patience. This should be the goal of every budo student.

Through teaching I have been able to realize that it is one of the best ways to learn and improve. Communication with others has never been a problem for me. My profession as an attorney made it easier for me to express myself freely. However, to be a teacher means that one has to be generous of one’s time and share it not only with one’s students but also with friends and relatives. Constant practice is an essential aspect of the study of budo. Without it, progress is impossible. We must set an example through our behavior by living according to our teachings.

For the last twenty-seven years, I have been working as a prosecutor for the Office of the Director of penal and criminal prosecution. Applying the law was my main priority. My greatest challenge was to ensure that justice prevailed while bearing in mind that it was also my duty to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, and remembering that by the justice system, the accused was also presumed innocent until proven guilty. I have always been careful in responsibly handling the responsibilities and powers given to me by the law. Through budo I have been able to comprehend fully the importance of acting with unquestionable honesty as well as protecting one’s credibility while in the court of our justice system. The same principle applies ipso facto to the teacher-student relationship.

By reflecting on my life I have also been able to admit that I have not always been an example of family commitment, but that with time I have managed to establish and maintain a balance that has been an important goal in my personal life.

Life always stores unexpected situations for us: this brings me to talk about my decision to retire early. It gave me a unique opportunity to become a full-time budo teacher and dedicate myself entirely to my students. Teaching gives us the chance to bloom, to evolve in the way we manage unexpected situations, to express ourselves positively, as well as develop our intellectual, mental and physical abilities. I sincerely hope that the time I have been dedicating to teaching will help me work on the goals I have set out to reach during my life-time.

As teachers we have a moral and social obligation to always teach what is just, honest and legal. I wish to express my gratitude to all of my teachers who have been helping me, advising me and supporting me during all these years while traveling this marvelous path that is budo.

Bernard Monast