|Pitts-Sensei, Roseberry-Shihan, Siebler-Sensei|
On my first day of Karate class, our Dai Sempai (the most senior student) John Pitts-Sensei taught class. After the introductions he looked right at me and said “I don’t think you know what you’ve gotten yourself into”. At that moment I knew he was right, but I didn’t know how right. His acknowledgement of my nervousness made a big impression on me that day. He can be an intimidating man, and it could have scared me away, but instead I felt the goodness of his heart, and I knew I was in the right place.
J.P. (as he is affectionately known) is the person who will take over the SRSK organization when Shihan retires. Technically he is already the head, but Shihan isn’t quite ready to leave yet. Sensei Pitts started training with Shihan in 1975, shortly after he graduated from UNL (where he was a member of the ’70-’71 National Champion Cornhusker football team!). He has been an LPD officer for about 37 years, and he’s now retiring.
After so many years in the cold tundra known as Nebraska, upon his retirement Sensei Pitts will be moving to Arizona, in just a couple of weeks. I’ve kind of been in denial about it, because every fiber of my being does not want him to go, it just won’t be the same here without him! He plans to open his own dojo there, and he will be coming back to Lincoln frequently to train, but I will miss him terribly. It could be much, much worse, because he was recently diagnosed with cancer, but thankfully he seems to be recovering well.
He’s been trying to get as much training in as he can before he moves, so he’s been coming in some mornings to teach a couple of students who can’t make it to the evening classes. Today Joe and I joined the party, and we had a lot of fun. He even took us over to the mat, and we worked on a joint lock takedown for awhile!
For me, one of the hardest parts of martial arts is when people who I enjoy training with leave. J.P.’s presence is so big that I can’t help but feel like there will be a huge hole when he’s no longer there. However, instead of being sad that he’s moving away, I am going to focus on being grateful that I had the chance to train under him, and do my best to remember all of the things he’s taught me. He’s an excellent martial artist, with a big heart and a warm personality. From my very first day of Karate, I knew he was going to be someone I greatly admired, and he has always treated me with the utmost respect and kindness. I might not have known what I was getting myself into on that first day, but because of Sensei like him, I’ve never regretted it.