FOR nearly 50 years Ben Terekia has practised Kyokushin karate, and for much of that time he has been known as “Sensei”, or teacher.
He has taken groups of students away to train with other clubs and learn from other teachers.
This month – before lockdown – for the first time, his dojo (training hall) played host to visitors from out of town.
It was a special occasion for Sensei Ben.
Not only were the visitors paying tribute to his 48 years practising the Japanese martial art; they were in Gisborne to train with him and advance the “strong possibility” that his Turanganui-Gisborne Kyokushin Karate Club would join the Shinkyokushin network. The prefix “shin” means “new” or “real”.
Napier-based Sensei Virgil Troy is the New Zealand representative for Japan and branch chief of the World Karate Organisation Shinkyokushinkai New Zealand.
“New Zealand is part of the South Pacific region, which in turn is part of the World Karate Organisation,” he said.
Sensei Virgil brought through about 20 students from Hawke’s Bay to give them the opportunity to train with Sensei Ben.
“We have five dojo in Hawke’s Bay – in Napier, Hastings, Taradale, Meeanee and Havelock North,” he said. “We also have dojo in Auckland.
“We’re really excited to train with Sensei Ben because 48 years of knowledge gives you a real depth of understanding of karate.
“All instructors have their own unique way of teaching.”
Sensei Virgil said the trip to Gisborne had its origins in a call he received from Sensei Ben in April.
“He said he was interested in meeting and doing some training. We got to talking, and Sensei Ben came to Napier for one of our gradings a few months ago. I suggested that I bring some of my students to train with him.
“It’s all about developing friendships and relationships.
“We’d love to come up regularly and just train.”
The benefits to Gisborne students of being affiliated to WKO Shinkyokushinkai New Zealand related to closer links with developments coming out of Japan and internationally.
“Once our borders are open, I will be back to training in Japan frequently,” Sensei Virgil said.
“I come back from Japan and pass on to our students what I’ve learned. We keep up to date but also keep our feet firmly in the past and history.
“I go to Japan two or three times a year to train with them. They might have a new way of doing something, a new training technique, new philosophy. It might be any aspect of the training or Japanese custom.”
Sensei Ben’s karate journey began after he moved from Gisborne to Wellington, where he worked for General Motors.
One of his workmates was training in Kyokushin karate and took Ben along, in early September, 1973.
Ben started his training with New Zealand karate pioneer John Jarvis, who had spent two years studying with Steve Arneil (the then head of UK Kyokushinkai Karate) before travelling to Japan to train under Master Mas Oyama, who is credited with originating the Kyokushin “full-contact” style of karate. Jarvis was the sixth person in the world to complete the 100-man kumite (100 rounds of sparring), and was graded 5th Dan.
Ben Terekia has stayed with the sport ever since his introduction to it, and has been teaching others for “at least 40 years”, setting up the Turanganui-Gisborne Kyokushin Karate Club along the way.
“It is a fantastic interest and way of life, and right up there with the best forms of self-defence,” he said.
After his time at General Motors, he did a screen-printing apprenticeship.
Over the years he has also worked in security roles, where tact and diplomacy have been as important as the ability to look after oneself.
Nevertheless, his martial arts training has given him the skill and confidence to handle explosive situations before they get out of hand.
And while he has used his training many times in the course of his security work, he says the skills learned must only be used outside the dojo or competition hall as a last resort, when safer methods to resolve an issue have failed.
Kyokushin karate is a tough form of the martial art, Sensei Ben says.
“It’s very demanding — physically, mentally, spiritually,” he said.
Sensei Virgil says people can choose much easier types of karate.
“Kyokushin is known as the strongest budo karate,” he said.
“Budo means the way of the warrior, and in the code of the warrior you have integrity, respect, honour, compassion . . .”
Sensei Ben, 66, says a strong aspect of karate is the change it makes in people’s lives, generally for the better.
“It’s not 100 percent; some people go the other way.”
Sensei Virgil says that if a person has good inside, karate will bring out the best.