My Teacher Told Me

By Master Travis L. Willis
Central Florida Chayon-Ryu

My teacher told me - a story about training on a mountain when he was young. I wanted to do it too, but there were no mountains nearby. At the time I was working in a Houston skyscraper so before work and at lunch, I would go up on the roof and practice Chayon-Ryu.

My teacher told me – I should practice in the dark because it would be good for my balance. So I went to the local tennis court and I would wait until the lights went out and I would train.

My teacher told me – a story about trying to kick a rooster while gathering eggs for his mother. Smiling he said, “The rooster started chasing me so I tried to kick him. I was 2nd degree black belt and I couldn’t get him.” He went on to tell us how he developed our rooster block from what the bird had done and told us we should observe nature to find self-defense. Early the next Saturday morning I was sitting in my back yard drinking coffee, enjoying the sunrise, and watching my wife’s poodle puppies playing in our deep grass. They were taking turns attacking each other. When the bigger puppy charged a smaller one, I saw a familiar technique. The little puppy waited until the last second and then avoided to the side. When the bigger puppy stopped, the little one jumped on him.

My teacher told me – I should stay mentally focused on whatever I do in order to succeed. So when I trained in my yard, or the tennis courts, or even at work, the sour onlookers would tease or jeer at me but I stayed focused on my training.

My teacher told me – as I moved up through the ranks, about proper breathing, body shifting, one unit motion, and many other principles that I should apply to my martial arts…and I did. Then one day he told me to visit other schools. At first I didn’t understand but he explained that I would appreciate more what I had…so I did.

Many years later as a 2nd Dan, I visited the school of a friend who was also a 2nd Dan. He was a nice guy with a good attitude but after only a few minutes, I noticed some problems. His students were not breathing properly and their movements were off. They had no unit motion in their forms. After the class we, along with some other Black Belts, were visiting in a friendly way. The others were discussing how they felt that the “Kihop” was old fashioned and not effective. I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I spoke up giving the knowledge about proper breathing I had gained in Chayon- Ryu. I guess I got carried away because my comments turned into a private lesson about the importance of good martial art principles. I taught about breathing and unit motion while doing forms and explained, “That’s why your students are so tired. They aren’t breathing properly.” I returned to his school about a month later and when he saw me come in he ran over and bragged, “Look at them now!” I noticed they were all breathing properly and their forms had improved from the principles I had taught their teacher only a short time before.

I am now a 5th Dan and I still tell my teachers’ stories as well as many of my own. The value of the principles I have learned cannot be measured.

My teacher is Grandmaster Kim Soo and I continue to pass on his teachings. I am so very glad that I listened to the stories and the quiet comments he gave me. The best classes aren’t just exercise.

Now, after teaching these things for over 20 years I can confidently say that over 500 students have benefited from my teacher’s ways. And there is at least one small Shito-Ryu school that now does things the “Natural Way”