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Will Yturriaga and His Journey to Becoming a Sensei

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Will Yturriaga and His Journey to Becoming a Sensei

Will practicing martial arts with his fellow sensei Derek.
(Courtesy of Will)

Will practicing martial arts with his fellow sensei Derek. (Courtesy of Will)

Will practicing martial arts with his fellow sensei Derek. (Courtesy of Will)

Will practicing martial arts with his fellow sensei Derek. (Courtesy of Will)

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The control, the passion, the concentration, the power. How is he so focused? So in control of himself? Will Yturriaga was fascinated by the ripped, powerful fighter on his grandparents’ tv screen, “I want to be like that. And I remember looking at my mom like, who is that man? And she goes, that’s Bruce Lee.”

Will got into a lot of trouble as a kid. As his parents were divorcing baby boomers, his family life was falling apart, “I really started to act out and get into some trouble.” Will wanted and needed help.

He had always been curious about martial arts. And After seeing Bruce Lee on TV and constantly listening to Buddhist monks chanting on his mom’s favorite radio station, he decided to try karate. But unfortunately, “the teacher there was a demon and he just beat the stuffing out of me.” He grew to hate karate and decided to quit, “So much for the so-called martial arts stuff.” A few years passed and he was still getting into trouble. Something needed to change.

One of his best friends knocked on his front door one day with a proposal, “hey, uh, I tracked down this guy, he’s the real thing. A real karate master, not a fake.” Will decided to give karate a second chance, a decision he wouldn’t regret. “The moment I got there, I realized my sensei was really powerful and really happy.” He had the same control and power he saw in Bruce Lee. From that point on, for 32 years, his sensei taught and guided him into the person and martial arts teacher Will is today.

I went into this interview expecting to learn about the different attack and defense moves in karate. He did touch on those tools but explained how there is more to it than the physical aspect. It is all about learning how to apply those lessons to real life.

Will continued to explain the difference between UFC fighters, for example, and martial artists like him: “human beings are a spiritual creation and we feel the need to discover a purpose. The Buddhist Teachings [within martial arts] are a vehicle by which you can understand your position in this world, why your here, and how to overcome difficulty.” UFC, on the other hand, is full of “secret techniques” where they are doing “all this fake stuff”. UFC is for the money, but the Buddhist teachings within martial arts helped reshape himself and his life.

Will proceeded to talk about how his sensei taught him how to control all the negative energy he have and to use it for good. Martial Arts was a way to take from that negative energy and, “put it towards something that you love.” He used this negative energy that every young teenage boy has bottled up, and put it towards the thing he loves: martial arts. “It took things from chaos into order.” Will was a totally different person. Things such as his manners became increasingly better. He learned how to control those guilty impulses, and put that negative energy into his training. A healthy and therapeutic way to control the natural “violent and aggressive biology humans” naturally have.

Another lesson he learned was to not “deny [this energy]. But acknowledge it. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to use it in a productive way?” His sensei told him, “You’re not going to look at the world as enemies. You’re not going to look at the world as me versus them. You’re going to instead take this energy in and expel it. And for every emotion, if you use too much force and you hurt your classmate, you’re responsible for that action. If you fail the block and you get hit, you’re responsible for that action.”

He was taken down a path that made him accountable for everything he said and did. And even though it seemed harsh at first, he realized this discipline is a form of compassion that kept him out of trouble and kept him from getting hurt. Along with these lessons, were the lessons of how important being truthful is, “He taught me that before you become any kind of thief or criminal, you must first learn to lie. So tell the truth, talk straight. Don’t have a cluttered mind where you’re going to tell half-truths or white lies.”

Will took these lessons to heart. They helped shape him into the accountable and responsible person he is today.

Will practicing martial arts with his fellow sensei Derek.
(Courtesy of Will)

But his journey to becoming a sensei and owner of his own martial arts academy wasn’t straightforward. He dabbled in many different regions of work, such as being a pilot and working for General Motors. But as a mechanic, he started losing business due to the new NAFTA implementation. He felt he had hit rock bottom, once again. A similar situation he was just in as a young teenage boy. But Will applied those same lessons he learned from his sensei to his real life. Sometimes you may get pinned down. You may be out of focus, but you have to get back up. And that’s exactly what he did.

He decided to pursue a professional career in martial arts. This has led him to pass on his sensei’s lessons and opening up his own academy, The Martial Arts Academy of Marin, to carry on the legacy and importance of martial arts in people’s lives. Many kids these days are in the same situation Will was once in at a young age. Now a sensei, Will wishes to guide these kids and shape them with the same morals he was once taught with.

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