It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it, overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son, Kevin, who was 12 that year was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended, and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in the spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids, all kids, and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.

That’s when the idea of his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.

On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition, one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

Author Unknown


January 2019

As this newsletter is coming to you prior to January, Mrs. Hughes and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2016.

          As I type I think back on the training that we have done in the Hackettstown area since 1979. A number of the original students are still involved in our training. The training has remained traditional in nature, which is uncommon in these days because most directors of schools look to make money, sacrificing the “art and the tradition of self discovery and intrinsic improvement.”

            One of the strengths of a karate training session is that the process is mental as well as physical, so the whole person benefits from the time spent in the dojo as well as during the disciplined practice at home. We cannot attempt to stay at the same level that we are at today. We must try to improve our abilities at kata, kumite, and self development.

            Another strength of traditional karate training is seen when the student can focus his or her energies on the inner qualities that set our training apart from other forms of exercise. Goal setting is not unique to karate training but is at times different because we cannot look at just the physical benefits of an exercise program. We must take into account that we want to improve ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Think about what you want to accomplish during this year and write it on a piece of paper – – – put it away in a safe place (with your monthly dojo newsletters) and look at it every so often to see if progress is being made toward accomplishing the desired goal.

            Accept the challenge of setting realistic short and long term goals. Be prepared to work toward the goal and step by step improvements will be made.


“Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfillment.” Og Mandino


Traditions for New Years In Japan

The New Year’s is a great time to celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of another year. For many, there are so many traditions associated with how they celebrate. In Japan, there are also customs and traditions associated with bringing in the New Year. Here are just a few of them.

Deep Cleaning

In Japanese culture, the new year must begin on a clean slate. As a result, Japanese people usually partake in something called oosouji, or “big cleaning.” A lot of times, every inch of the household is cleaned, including places that remain untouched other times of the year. On a personal piece of anecdotal information, I remember my family moving even the fridge during oosouji, and vacuuming under there as well. It was exhausting for me as a child, but satisfying now to think of a house well-cleaned.

Eating Traditional New Year’s food

Another big tradition in Japanese culture is eating certain foods, Toshikoshi soba is eaten on the eve of New Years, while ozoni and osechi are enjoyed the actual day of.


On New Year’s, there is a tradition of handing a bit of money in an envelope to the children. It usually isn’t much, but it is something many kids in Japan look foward to. Sometimes adults will get them to, but I remember it being something reserved for children. It depends on the household how otoshidama’s are given out.


Another fun little tradition for many is to go out and buy fukubukuro on New Year’s. Fukubukuro are essentially surprise bags that many retailers sell at different price points, that people buy without knowing what’s inside. Usually the collective retail value of the items inside are worth more than what the bag was bought for, but part of the risk is not knowing what’s inside. These bags usually sell out fast as there are lines of people waiting to buy one, and it is a pretty popular little New Years tradition.


One of the more traditional New Year’s customs is Hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the New Year. Many people go to visit a shrine on January 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, in order to pay their respects and also to wish for a happy and healthy year. The shrines tend to get very crowded, and families tend to all go together.


Another New Year’s tradition is to observe the first sunrise of the year. Although there are many people who won’t be able to wake up for this tradition, there are also plenty of people who enjoy partaking in it. There is something magical about watching the first sunrise of a brand new year.

There are many, many more Japanese traditions that weren’t even mentioned on this list. New Year’s in Japan is a huge deal filled with festivities and traditions. There are many festivals and music that go on, and specials on tv that air only once on New Year’s Eve. The customs vary region to region, and household to household, but we hope this list gave some insight into some of Japanese culture.



“Keys to success… Research your idea, Plan for success, Expect success, & just plain do it! It amazes me how many people skip the last step! Practice being a “doer” and success will follow you every step of the way!” — Josh S. Hinds



 As the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are approaching a quick reminder to see me to order equipment that may be desired by December 13th. All items are priced at our discounted rates.

            I have four (4) of Hanshi Duessel’s DVDs of the hand and weapons katas – ($40)

            I have a few of Hanshi Duessel’s Bo and Sai posters – ($15)

            Karate gi’s – sizes 00 – 2 ($20)   3 – 4 ($30)     5 – 6 ($35) – heavy duty gi’s by cost

            School Patch – ($5) – Isshin-ryu Patch – ($8)

            IWKA membership from Okinawa   ($35)

            Safety Hands and Feet – ($38) Head gear ($20)


There will be NO CLASSES on December 24, 25 , 31 and January 1.


Information about our style  and  Founder of Isshin – Ryu Karate

Tatsuo Shimabuku (also referred to as Soke) was born in Okinawa in 1906 and died May 30, 1975. He began his study of karate at the age of 8 when he walked some 12 miles to the neighboring village of Shuri to learn karate from his uncle. His uncle sent him home; obstinately he returned and was sent away several more times. His uncle finally gave in to his persistence and accepted him as a pupil.

For about four years, Master Shimabuku was privileged to study karate in the dojo of his uncle each day after completing the most menial domestic chores.   Having received a certain degree of skill in Shuri-te karate, he went on to formal training in Shorin Ryu. He met Chotoku Kyan, who was already famous throughout Okinawa as a karate instructor and became one of that master’s leading pupils. He also studied karate with Chojun Miyagi of the Goju style of karate, and Choki Motobu of the Shorin Ryu system. Later, he again took up the study of the bo and sai, as well as the tuifa forms from the instructors Taira Shinken and Yabiku Moden, who were responsible for providing Okinawa’s instructors with these particular skills.

Master Shimabuku’s reputation throughout Okinawa had reached its peak when World War II struck. During the early part of the war, he did his best to avoid conscription into the Japanese army by escaping into the countryside where he worked as a farmer. As the situation grew more and more desperate for the Japanese, and as the need to press the Okinawans into the service became urgent, he was forced to flee.

As his reputation in karate spread among the Japanese, many soldiers began a thorough search, as they wanted to study karate under him. The officers who finally caught up with him agreed to keep the secret of his whereabouts if he would teach them karate. It was in this manner that Master Shimabuku survived the war.

After the war, he returned to farming and practiced karate privately for his own spiritual repose and physical exercise. But as one of the island’s leading practioners of both the Shorin Ryu and Goju Ryu styles of karate, he felt a strong need to combine the various styles of karate into one. After consulting the aged masters and the heads of schools, Master Shimabuku founded one of the world’s major styles of karate, the Isshin Ryu system.

Isshin-Ryu Kata Information

Kata are sequentially designed, pre-determined defense, attack, and counterattack forms used against multiple opponents. In addition to giving students practice in “street” techniques, kata develops speed, breath control, balance, calm mind, rhythm, motion, and coordination. Until this century, kata was the only and ideal method of karate training.   Students learn kata in the following order:

  1. Seisan
    From Shorin Ryu. It derives its name from Master Seshan. Emphasizes a straight-forward stance, seiken tzuki blocking, the mae geri, and rapid technique
  2. Seiuchin
    From Goju Ryu. Emphasizes a strong, low stance in which the heels are shoulder-width apart and the feet are pointed out on a 45 degree angle. It also stresses reinforced blocks and punches, breath control, and powerful techniques.
  3. Naihanchin
    From Shorin Ryu. It is known for its “Toe-inward” stance (uchi hachiji dachi). Designed for fighting with one’s back against a wall or on a ledge.   Most Movements are performed in a lateral direction.
  4. Wansu
    From Shorin Ryu. It is referred to as the “dumping form” because of the throw it contains. The technical term for this throw is kata garuma.
  5. Chinto
    From Shorin Ryu. This kata emphasizes pivots and fighting on angles.   Chinto is one of the most difficult kata to perform while maintaining good balance.
  6. Kusanku
    From Shorin Ryu. It derives its name from Master Kushanku. Designed for fighting under conditions with limited-light, and teaches evasive techniques.
  7. Sunsu
    This is the kata that Master Shimabuku personally developed, and bears his nickname. It is the longest and most difficult kata to perform.
  8.  Sanchin
    From Goju Ryu. It emphasizes strong technique and breath control. The names means “three battles”, and refers to the control of mind, body, and breath during the performance of the kata.


“The little unremembered acts of kindness and love are the best parts of a person’s life.”   William Wordsworth


“A day will never be anymore than what you make of it. Practice being a “doer”! — Josh S. Hinds


“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”    Hermann Hesse


“Most wealth is inconspicuous. The man down the street driving the nice car and living in the mansion could easily have greater debt and a lower net worth than the stealthy and wealthy plumber who drives a beat-up truck but seems to work only when he doesn’t feel like fishing.”

Loral Langemeier