In Memory of Sensei Leon Pantanowitz

Dear Sensei,

Four years have already passed, and it still seems strange to refer to you in the past tense. I was requested to write a few words in your memory, and as I keep thinking what comes up are beautiful and comforting pictures.

I’m sure that most of us here share with me the same memories – the excitement and fire in your eyes when you’d tell us stories about training with Sensei Higaonna and Sensei Anichi Miyagi; the smile and the joke you’d tell when I was wearing a certain shirt; your many stories about karate; about nature; on events from your life that you’d share with us over a beer or a cola at the pub on Wednesday nights; your “Old Faithful” – how you’d sing at the end of every training session and how you’d sigh – half seriously, half kidding – and say,
“Oh, the heartache and suffering that human kind must endure…”

Many of your students knew you from the time they were children and teenagers, and also to others you were our spiritual father. You would advise, nudge and push us forward but also scold us when we didn’t invest enough in our training. You help many of us in every area possible, giving direction in matters of study, work and personal relationships. Every time I think about you I feel sorry that you didn’t live to see the happy events in my life and the lives of your other students: weddings, births and career successes.

If you ask everyone who knew you, even those who knew you only for a short time, what their impression of you was, the answer would always be, “A special person, charismatic, with a big heart and a twinkle in his eye.”

Even today you remain an example for me to follow. At every crossroad in my life I remember the story of your life, how, in addition to devoting yourself to raising a wonderful family you developed a successful career in the pharmaceutical field and then afterwards found the courage to dedicate your life to the thing you loved – karate – and reached the pinnacle of world success as an assistant to the head of our organization.

I try to learn from you your uncompromising honesty, self-will and determination, goal-setting and putting things in the proper perspective. Many times today in the course of training, teaching and thinking about the dojo and the organization, I think about what you did in similar circumstances, what you would do if you were here, and what you would say about what we’re doing.

The karate that you gave us is a tangible treasure. The hard training you put us through not only strengthened our bodies, it toughened us up to be able to deal with the challenges of life. We have to look back and remember where we were when we started to train in order to understand the path – do in Japanese – we have travelled.

The last time we met you requested that the dojo and the organization continue. From that time we have invested all our energy in your request. We are trying to fit into those big shoes of yours in teaching, administrating, organizing, travelling to Gasshukus as you wished, to learn from your teacher, Sensei Higaonna and to bring back another bit of knowledge.
I pass on your request to all of those who gather here today to remember you. Please, help the organization to grow, try to come to training sessions and to special events, tell your friends and acquaintances to join us so the organization will flourish.

You are not with us physically, but you are with us in spirit, and just like kata Sanchin is a kata of the mind, spirit and body, we will be the body, and you will always be our soul and in our spirits, and you will be with us always and forever.

We miss you.
Your Students

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