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A Path of Martial Training


The Journey Begins

Despite my interest, I was not able to take karate for a long time. Our family moved to the small farming town of Chesley. As a teenager, I met my future wife, Doreen. We were married in 1979, in our early 20s, and the next year Doreen took a fitness instructor course at the YMCA in Owen Sound. One day she brought home a course catalogue, with karate in it. I convinced her to take the course with me and she stayed for three weeks – I have never quit.

This 1988 picture shows Peter Zehr (far left) and
brother, Paul (far right), standing with Chito-Ryu
leaders: Shane Higashi, William Dometrich,
Yasuhiro Chitose and David Akutagawa.

My first Instructor was Sandy Henderson. He studied something called Chito-Ryu karate. Henderson-Sensei was an excellent basics instructor and I soaked up information like a sponge. But the karate moves were something I had to work at; they didn't seem natural to me at first. I would practise whenever I had a chance. Many of my friends and family made fun of my new interest, though a few were impressed by how seriously I practised. I studied under Henderson-Sensei until I was a brown belt and he had to quit due to back injuries.

When Henderson-Sensei injured himself, he turned the Owen Sound YMCA dojo over to me and another student, Wally Illman. To continue our training, we decided that we had to start visiting the Toronto dojo of Shane Higashi, the head of the Canadian Chito-Ryu Karate-Do Association.

Wally found all this travel and responsibility too much of a burden and quit. But I carried on learning from books and my many trips to Toronto. Higashi-Sensei taught me that what I had learned was not really Chito-Ryu karate but a form of Shotokan. He put me on probation for a year and said I could challenge for my black belt after this period, if I was ready.

Well, the time flew by and I attemped the black belt test. With the post-test critique, I was certain that I had failed. However, Higashi-Sensei told me to call him the next Tuesday. I knew that you usually had to wait for months to find out black belt test results, so I was sure he was trying to find a way to let me down easily. But when I called, Higashi Sensei told me if I had a black belt I could put it on. Dumbstruck, I phoned Henderson-Sensei with the news and he told me I could wear one of his spare black belts. I had cleared my first hurdle. Now my real journey could begin.


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