Rarely in life do you we get to meet one of our heroes. Mr. Miyagi was one of mine.
1960’s pop culture brought us the Kung Fu cinema. These humorous Spaghetti Western style shows were a mix of bad comedy and poor special effects. None the less, they influenced a generation of children, and I gladly bear the badge as one of the many.
Then in the 1980’s, cinema moved to soldier of fortune men brandishing slick black guns. We wanted big bangs, explosions, and the good guy to walk the line between psychotic killer and knight in shining armor.
The late seventies were also dominated by the Happy Days TV craze. An actor by the name of Pat Morita caught my eye. I remember him as the lovable diner owner. His broken English and quirky smile was a great enhancement to the all white middle class 1950’s style cast.
Half a decade passes and I find myself once again enthralled with Mr. Morita’s new character. Martial Arts Master, Mr. Miyagi—cool beyond belief. Not your kick butt ask no names styled after the Kung Fu craze of earlier years, but a believable and venerable man who played benefactor to a struggling teenage boy.
Mr. Morita changed my life. Tall words for a man I never met. The martial arts always fascinated me, and I dreamed of the day I too could study the ancient wisdom. Not the ways of breaking boards and being the tough guy, but the simple wise soul that Miyagi Sensei represented.
1983 was momentous to my life. I started studying martial arts. The stiff white uniform, smell of sweat, and Tiger Balm drove my life. More than thirty years have passed since that chilly winter day that I first walked into the dojo. The joys and pains from training have been constant companions. Like old friends that each takes their turn shaping my destiny.
Miyagi, Mr. Morita has left my life. His memory is warm, and forever bound to the catch phrase: “Wax on; Wax off.”
My life now revolves around work. That early morning endeavor we adults cherish and loath. One of my fun tasks is writing about my martial arts. Friends describe these writings as a chance to sit with an old-timer and listen to him ramble about the good old days.
I knew I had readers from the far corners of the world, but was surprised by the reach of my articles when I received an email from a Mr. Oscar Alvarez asking me to help introduce his Indiegogo campaign for Pat Morita.
I considered the question for about two seconds. Yes, heck yeah. The man had shaped my life. What better way for me to say thank you.
I already knew of Mr. Alvarez’s work from a Netflix film titled: “The Real Miyagi.” It turns out, he and Mr. Kevin Derek have rejoined to dig deeper into the other side of the story and are now turning their camera and questions to those who knew Pat Morita.
Mr. Morita spent the last years of his life writing his story. Struggling actor, Japanese internment camp survivor, spinal tuberculosis success story, all shaped a man that quietly shaped so many of us. We of my generation remember his timeless story as the venerable man who stepped forward to help those in need.
I now step forward to lend my hand.
John Wilkerson is a marketing professional and freelance writer who dabbles in creative fiction.
He teaches martial arts, writes about martial arts at OldManKarate, and manages one of the largest Martial Arts discussion boards on LinkedIn.
He can be reached through his website: JohnWilkerson.com