In Memory of Sensei Leon Pantanowitz

Good-Bye Sensei,

The phone rings and then the sad news. Sensei Yehuda Pantanowitz has passed away. Well, when they told me the sad news, I felt that my heart stopped beating and my pain will never go away. I felt little pieces of me falling, shattering. Shards falling on me, too sharp to put back together. I still hear his voice coming in the Dojo, “Good morning, Dojo!” and at the end of all training, “kulam bahutz?” (everyone out?)

I remember the first day I saw him. A great man, with a smile on his face. He said to me, “I hope that you will find a home with us.” I want to tell him that I found not only a home but a beautiful family, too.

Sensei Yehuda was for me a spiritual father and I’m sure not only for me. I look the martial art with new eyes. He talked about Goju-Ryu like a sort of fairy tail, with passion. The way he talked about things was always intense and people around him were silent. Everyone was listening, paying all their attention. I was able to listen for hours. I remember our morning training: 3 hours of practicing and one hour of discussion about the Goju-Ryu style. The history, the secrets and Sensei’s Okinawa stories.

“Goju, is not only soft and hard, it’s many things…”, and he asks me, “What difference do you see?” and then he takes his hand, wheezing air on it – the first time with his lips together, the second time with an open mouth. And he says, “You see, this is the same air, but it’s different. When you are able to understand the difference, you’ll be a black belt.” He smiles at me, and we keep training. It was his way to explain things, with imagination and poetry.

It’s painful, all of this happened so fast. But, I understand anyway that this is not the end. His spirit lives inside each of us. We had this opportunity to learn from him, to be a part of his history. And through us he will live for eternity.

Did I say that I love you Sensei? Did I say that I will miss you every single day of my life? Did I ask if you were proud of me? And if not, I promise that you will be! Because, it was a great honor to be your student. Your teaching made me stronger, made me a better person. And today, I’m a part of your future history.

Now you are near from the sky, teaching the angels Sanchin and Tensho. Trying to make them understand that they are two different kata (smile).

I will keep training hard and I know that you will be there, with all of us, because your spirit will be here forever and ever.

Good-bye, Sensei and see you in another life.
Love – Kathy

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