Across The Pond…

My first encounter with Grandmaster Crimi and Hikari Ryuza Bujutsu was, like so much since, astounding. I was tasked with being Grandmaster’s interpreter during his visit to the school in Paris where I first learned ju jitsu from Grandmaster Stefano Surace. When my French friends and fellow students returned Grandmaster’s bow with a Gallic shrug, Grandmaster’s explosive reaction not only got everyone’s full attention, but gave me a particular, and doubtless unique, set of linguistic challenges completely to convey his meaning! Of course, Grandmaster got his message across fully without any assistance from me and, now I come to think of it, this was an early lesson that, while it is obviously good to learn other languages, martial arts are a universal human language with no need of interpreters.

Since that first meeting, in spring 2006, I have become an interpreter in another sense, as Grandmaster’s teachings slowly gained a hold on me and as I began to ponder these more and more. Another key moment came a year or so later, when Grandmaster visited Paris again, and we spent the best part of the day talking in a cafe that boasted striking interior design and authentic Parisian plumbing, a perfect choice to give Grandmaster unexpected insights into la vie parisienne. As Grandmaster covered life, the universe and everything, I remember having the simple yet astounding thought that things may well be very different to how I imagined them to be. I now think of that thought as the seed for all the adventures that have come since; it’s a thought I’m still pursuing and will carry on pursuing for the rest of my life and I can’t thank Grandmaster enough for having planted this seed in me. I don’t know how I would have had the thought and what has followed without meeting my teacher.

Some part of me then felt the call to California and I first visited what has since become my home from home in 2008. I have been coming back with increasingly regularity since then, initially as a guest and subsequently as Grandmaster’s student. I’m deeply grateful to Grandmaster, Professor, the yudanshas, and the family at the dojo and beyond for welcoming me with such love. Each visit has been different and I never know where Grandmaster is going to take me but I do know that the experience will be unforgettable. Indeed, the most extraordinary experiences of my life have taken place with Grandmaster.

I read recently that ‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly’. Grandmaster has of course seen thousands upon thousands of caterpillars like me yet he gives his all to help me progress, to become better in all ways, since his teaching is all-encompassing. Naturally, being a caterpillar, I often struggle even with the thought of change (which can indeed seem like the end of the world from the caterpillar’s point of view), yet when I look back to the man I was and how I have changed under Grandmaster’s guidance I feel my spirit strengthen for the path ahead.
It is remarkable to meet the kind of martial arts master – the sage on the mountaintop, so to speak –who I used to think was the stuff of legend, even more incredible that he should accept me as a pupil. Yet, as I am beginning to realize, this really has nothing to do with me but it has everything to do with a spark we all share, a spark that a true teacher like Grandmaster sees in others and can help coax out, for the benefit of all, so that more of us can let go of whatever strand we are clinging to, and learn to spread our wings.

Hugh Roberts
Professor Of French Literature
Exeter University, UK