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)
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
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.