Shocked and paralyzed is just about how I've felt over the last few days. Norma, the IOGKF, the karate world, mankind has just lost a great contributor to peace, justice and happiness. I feel like I'm torn apart. Sensei Leon Pantanowitz was much more than a karate instructor whom I met a couple of times every year. He was a spring that would never stop giving me, and I believe everyone else, inspiration to new angles from which to view a technique, a kata or a training method. He would always speak fondly about Norma, Higaonna Sensei and the IOGKF. He was if possible just as keen on keeping traditional Goju-Ryu as Higaonna Sensei is. Sensei Leon was a man of principles, whether it was in karate or in life and most of all he was a man who sought for justice.
In my life I have met very few people who, like Sensei Leon, showed so much personal interest in me and my family, in my karate technique and in my country. When meeting him some odd place in the world, he would always ask to how everyone was doing at home, he always had that reserve of strength that would give you a feeling of being seen of feeling at home.
In 1997, a few months after my wife Christina had passed away, when attending the Israel Gasshuku, Sensei Leon and Norma showed me their love and kindness, they even invited me to their home for a traditional dinner during the holidays it might not have seemed as much, but it meant everything to me, to be given that kind of attention. Norma, I wish I could be there for You too, but know in Your heart that I'm with You in my thoughts as well as (I believe) the whole IOGKF and everyone who has ever met You two wonderful people. Norma, in your hour of grief, remember how fortunate you have been to have had a soul companion with a heart as big as Sensei Leon’s. I sincerely hope that you’re own strength and inner confidence together with fond memories of a great man and the company of your children, will make your further travel in life bright and happy.
There will for a long time be a "missing link" in the senior rows, when lining up for class – an empty space that will be difficult if not impossible to fill out.
When all this is said, I believe we should think of Sensei Leon as a precious gift we've all been given. We've met a person so special, a person who has shown us a way of thinking, a way of training, a way of sticking to his believes, a positive mind, a goal setter, a kind and caring person. Let him stay forever in our hearts to guide us when life is difficult and doubt is taking over.
Let's remember Sensei Leon and his way of teaching and story telling always with a twinkle in his eyes.
Let's remember the training sessions in the dojos of the world.
Let's remember his crazy training drills, his never ending search into Tensho and Sanchin with theories and explanations about motor units etc.
Let's think back on Sensei Leon with joy and happiness.
Let's close our eyes and remember a great man.
There are many things I would have liked to say to Sensei Leon at this moment, but I think, what sums it up would be: “THANK YOU, SENSEI"
In loving memory