BOB HOLLINGER - THE JOURNEY
West Reading, Pa., USA
A World Surrounded by Sports
Blessed. Here is where it all began, and I could not be more proud of how I grew up in Reading, PA, mainly on the basketball courts of 5th & Chesnut Streets. It taught me confidence, strength, passion, the courage to stand up for myself and a sense of loyalty. I remember going with my father to see a George Dillman karate class when I was 12, and though my father told me it would be OK to join, I knew he could not afford it so I said I wasn't interested. I was lying.
I visited my alma mater Wyomissing Area High School last year and had a rush of pride when I saw a plaque with the names of the Track & Field record holders in school history. Almost 40 years later my record of 6'7" still stood. And I smiled again, remembering the days so many years ago when I could fly, taking off from just in front of the foul line and dunking a basketball, and in college high-jumping 6'10". Still smiling, though differently, that since then I have had countless surgeries on my knees and ankles, but I am still training karate with the same passion........yes, blessed.
Morocco, North Africa - Peace Corps
How Tough Am I?
I remember like it was yesterday, the summer after graduating high school and my mother, God Bless her, and I had lunch together for maybe the only time out just the two of us. It was a Chinese restaurant, and I ordered a hamburger. She looked at me disappointed in my order and said, "Bobby, oh Bobby." She went on to tell me the world was bigger than West Reading, bigger than Pennsylvania, and bigger than America, and that of all her five kids she wished for me to challenge myself in big ways. To challenge life. To try new things, new foods, meet new people and see new places.
To suck the marrow out of the bone of life. I could go on about a fairy tale story putting an orphanage on my back, MES basketball team of Essaouira, Morroco, North Africa, to become national basketball champions of the entire counry, but it's only important to say that this was the best, toughest, most fun and most important stage of my life. I challenged myself. It would be almost 20 years till I came back "home" again to live. In 1999 I returned stateside to Morro Bay, California, with a wife and 3-month old daughter Rina, who is now in high school and has a younger sister, Misa, entering middle school this year. This summer as we do every summer we visited Japan, and Mom, you would be happy to know I took Rina to Cambodia & Thailand with me. To see new things, and new places. To try new foods. The legacy of love. Still blessed.
Seventeen Years in Japan
The formidable years of my life from ages 23 to 40 were years of transformation and growth, and like most of us, filled with highs and lows. My first visit to a karate dojo in Tochigi, Japan, I was introduced to Takahashi Sensei. I had a beret on and a toothpick in my mouth, and I was quickly reprimanded. Who was this little guy to challenge me? But I showed up the next day to train. And I rained hard. This was the start of my karate journey. 17 years later I would leave Japan not the same man. The most telling saying in Japan to me is, "The nail that sticks up gets knocked down." It was years of up and downs, but learning that life wasn't all about me. The Japanese Spirit. The Japanese Heart (Kokoro). Japanese Budo and the Way of the Martial Artist. I won't tell you I understand the ways of the Japanese heart and mind completely, only that I am not the same man who arrived in Japan in 1983, and that I am still striving to learn.
Blessed on the journey.
Many people came in and out of my life during those years, and I travled to many far off places in the world. But for me it all comes back to Mr. Mikio Tanaka - my Sensei, who I think of often, especially when I train karate. And with a smiling and thankful heart, as without these special people I would not be enjoying the life and love I have today. So from my heart, I thank you.
Family - Karate - In America
Blessed. To have lived the life I have, traveled to the many countries I have, and seen and done the things I have, the last 15 years with my family. And hopefully there is still a lot more cans of fun to open. I never would have imagined the happiness my family and I now share when I was young. My lovely, fun and patient wife Kayoko and my two amazing daughters Rina & Misa have given me heaven on earth. Blessed to still be teaching and training karate at the level I am, though getting older is no fun. Blessed to have visited Japan every summer since returning to America 15 years ago and it will always be home. And now, Blessed to be able to share karate with students in America and thanks to Sensei John McAuley and my karate students and friends who have donated, we are paying to help a wonderful group of young people at the Schools of Hope near Chiang Mai, Thailand, train Toyama-kai Karate every week.
The photo to the left is me sitting next to Tanaka Sensei with brother Hayama Sensei standing behind, and brother Hayashi Sensei on the other side, after receiving my promotion to Hanshi, 8th Degree Black Belt. This was in 2010 after 28 years of training, in Tokyo, Japan. Though I was honored, not at the promotion or level, but more so that these great men have become such an important part o my life and my family, in hopes thy will be forever.
I hope you enjoy the other pages and photos on this website, and you are always welcome to train karate with my students and I in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Continuing to be Blessed....
Please click on pix below to enlarge