There are all sorts of people who walk among us on the Bellevue College campus. Most of the time, we walk past them without fully appreciating who they might be. Charles Nguyen, sophomore, is one of these students. You might best know him as the super friendly guy who gets along with everyone. Yet even if you do not know him personally, chances are, one of your friends might.
When I sat down and talked to Charles, I learned he is one of the youngest Karate fighters in his sect to earn a black belt. Shorin-Ryu Karate is an Okinawan martial art originating from the island of Okinawa, made popular in the US by its ease of implementation. In the school of Karate, the teacher is called the Sensei and everyone respects the Sensei for his knowledge and expertise. Plus, he can probably give you the worst a$$ whooping you have never felt.
The following is an interview is Sensei Charles Nguyen.
Me: Can you state your name, rank, and which dojo you represent?
Charles: My name is Charles Nguyen. I am a Shodan, or a first-degree black-belt, in Karate and I represent my original style, Shima-Ha Shorin-Ryu Karate from the Wheeldon Karate School.
Me: How did you first get into Karate?
Charles: When I started High School, I wanted to learn a martial art. It seemed very interesting to me. I had about 6-7 years of experience in professional ballet at that time and I wanted to move into a different kind of art.
Me: Who was your Sensei?
Charles: My Sensei is Roy Wheeldon. He passed away two years ago due to cancer and a blood clot. I am now training with his closest friends in Karate and his Sensei, Toshihiro Oshiro.
Me: Elaborate on your training. Was it a difficult path to take?
Charles: My training was very consistent and hard. After the first year, I bonded with my Sensei on a very personal level and we took training to a whole new level. We trained six to seven days a week, and each day would vary in hours. Usually training lasted two hours. Some days would be one hour and some would last three hours. I was excelling quickly in my training, which was proven in the tournaments and by critiques from one of the greatest Karate practitioners in Seattle. Though it was difficult, training went by quickly and I received my black belt a bit earlier than usual in order to teach for the school. Also, I had received help from the best teachers in the world. I would say that I got pretty lucky in choosing a teacher and meeting the people I’ve met in my Karate life.
Me: Did you ever think of quitting?
Charles: Not once have I ever thought of quitting Karate. Karate training is everywhere, from walking to eating to working to thinking. Karate principles can be applied in everything. Any kind of movement we do can be analyzed with a Karate mindset. Even if I did leave a dojo, my training could never stop. This is how traditional practitioners also think.
Me: How do you use Karate in your life?
Charles: Karate is a way to help me waste energy. Sometimes, it’s good to relieve excessive energy because it could easily be supportive energy for the wrong feeling. For example, if I was angry at someone, I would probably try to let it go within myself, but if I still kept in excessive energy, I might have redirected that energy into anger, supporting the wrong feeling and creating the wrong kind of actions.
Me: How many times have you had to defend yourself?
Charles: There are many times, emotionally, I’ve had to defend myself and others. There were a few times I had to defend myself, but I’ve never thrown a punch or a kick at anyone before. The most I’ve ever done is slip out of someone’s bear hug from behind, lock their arm and threw them into the water. Though I may have never taken a true offensive route, I believe that a smart and truly aware Karate practitioner should be able to avoid getting into a conflict in the first place. I may not be able to tell you a lot of stories about taking a beating or beating someone up, but I sure could tell you a lot of stories about how Karate helped me turn situations into close calls.
Me: Have you ever had to “put someone down?”
Charles: I have never put a human body down. If you’re talking about insects and bugs on the other hand, then I have done that a few times. They’re mostly spiders too. But that’s only because the girls I date hate spiders!
Me: How do your friends and family acknowledge your rank?
Charles: My family thinks very highly of it, and my friends give me a title for it as well, but I tell everybody that a black belt is just a belt. No matter what rank I may be, I’m still learning and I’m still teaching. Nothing really changes. Actually, when I was studying under my teacher, he forced me into becoming a black belt. I originally wanted to stay a brown belt forever because I really wanted to implicate that principle or belief or whatever you may want to call it.
Me: Is there anything else you like to say about yourself to the BC readers?
Charles: Please say hi to me when you see me! You may see me making balloon animals somewhere or chatting in the cafeteria! Also, add me on Facebook and tell me that you’ve read this! It’s good to make more friends! Thank you for reading!