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Okinawa, October 10, 1944, a six-year old boy was awakened by the deafening blasts of an aerial bombardment. Terrified, frozen with fear on all fours, he could not find his mother. During the chaos of invasion, then occupation, the family survived but was separated with one of the family members tragically lost. Miraculously, they were reunited and after the war migrated to Argentina where they lived peacefully.
The young boy, Zenko Heshiki, now a grown man went to New York to study engineering but soon began studying Karate and assisted in teaching classes. In his own words: “I don’t remember having a particular interest in Karate when I started.” Nevertheless, in 1966 he decided to open a dojo. The more he studied, the more he read books on martial arts philosophy; however, the more he read serious texts by D.T. Suzuki, Miyamoto Musashi, and Yamaoka Tesshu, he realized that his Karate practice was lacking; something vital was missing. In 1968, anxiously, he travelled to Okinawa in search of a teacher who he found in Master Shoshin Nagamine, founder of Shorin-Ryu Matsubayashi. It was during this time that Heshiki Sensei realized what had been missing in his Karate practice: Zen, more specifically zazen (sitting meditation).
Back in New York, with a renewed enthusiasm, Heshiki Sensei integrated zazen into the Karate curriculum. From this point on, and continuing for decades he trained intensely in New York, Okinawa and Hawaii where he and his family moved to in 1977. Sensei Heshiki found Chozen-ji International Zen Dojo in Honolulu, taught Karate classes, and trained under two Roshis (Zen masters), Tanouye Tenshin and Dogen Hosokawa.
In the author’s own words: “The reason I decided to write this book is to share my experiences of Karate-Do shugyo (forging of mind/body/spirit through zazen) with sincere practitioners of Karate throughout the world who, through the years of strict and hard physical conditioning, discovered with nagging inquest that there must be more to Karate than mere self-defense or tournament sport.” With his deepening understanding of his teacher’s dictum, Ken Zen Ichi Nyo (Karate and Zen as One), he gave seminars in New York, Ohio, Hawaii, Florida, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Dominican Republic.
In 1993, the young terrified boy who had survived the horrors of war, relocation to a foreign country, adapting to a new culture and its language was ordained in Hawaii as a Zen priest in the Rinzai sect of Zen with the Buddhist name, Genshin Zenko. In his new role as a priest, he became even more resolute to bring Tao (Chinese), Do (Japanese) meaning Way to the world.
As Master Nagamine would often say: “Karate-Do is a lifelong marathon”. Sensei Heshiki’s ‘marathon’ continues as Shihan (founder) of Chozen-ji Ryu Kempo Karate.