Southeast Regional Festival in Tampa

An-shu Stephen and An-shu Rumiko Hayes brought their “Nine Cuts – Nine Powers” 2011 teaching theme to Tampa, Florida, to join Mark Sentoshi Russo and Helen Jotoshi Russo in inspiring over 100 practitioners from around the world. Fellow instructors John Mantoshi Giancarlo, Laura Lintoshi Giancarlo, Scott Akitoshi Bragg, Christopher Agetoshi Gayle and Chapel Hill Quest Center’s Hardee Hakutoshi Merritt also participated in the instruction of grappling and striking counters from the To-Shin Do 4th and 5th Degree Black Belt curriculum. “Kuji 8 – manifesting what you need in the world” was the overriding theme.

Special congratulations go to Mark Sentoshi Russo for earning his To-Shin Do 8th Degree Black Belt after 45 years in the martial arts and three decades of training with An-shu. During the belt award ceremony, Sentoshi Russo recounted how he met An-shu in the early 1980s and how that experience changed his life forever.

“I’d been studying martial arts since I was 8 years old. A lot of different types. I actually got highly accomplished in several martial arts, and in my twenties I was a very successful tournament competitor. But I began to get bored with martial arts and more importantly, I was very concerned because I started to lapse into what I would call a depression.

“For some reason marital arts had been in my blood since I was very young. My parents, being good parents and having my best interests in mind, kept saying things like “when are you going to grow out of that?” But I knew, since when I was about 15, that I wanted to make a living teaching martial arts. I didn’t see a lot of real successful martial arts business people that I respected, and I started to slip into this depression, and the teacher I had been following started to disappoint me and became less and less available.

“As fate would have it, a friend I had at the time was the editor of Black Belt Magazine and he lived on Clearwater Beach. He said, “Who do you want? I can get you private lessons with anybody.” And he threw out names that were legends in the martial arts community.

“A month or two prior to that I had happened upon one of An-shu’s books. In my ignorance and arrogance I flipped through the pages and said, “This guy’s got no power, this looks horrible. Look at the body positioning. Just terrible.” It didn’t relate to anything that I’d been taught yet. But somehow I was intrigued.

“So I said to my friend, “What about this Stephen Hayes guy? Is any of that ninja crap for real?” I’ll never forget his response.

“Oh, yeah, Steve!”

“The next thing I knew I was on the phone with Stephen Hayes. My leg was tapping nervously. And he said, ‘I have family down in Naples, I’ll be down there in a couple of weeks. Why don’t you come down and we’ll meet?’

“So we met and talked a little bit and then we got down to business. He said, ‘Ok, why don’t you punch me or something and I’ll show you some things.’ I was kinda cocky and said to myself, ‘Alright, I’m gonna punch the guy.’

“The sky went by, the trees went by, I’m laying on the ground with my face pressed into the grass and I remember it being the happiest day of my life. I knew right then that this was what I’d been looking for.

“And the reason I tell this story is because, honest to God, I was depressed. I thought that what I felt was going to be the heart and soul of my life this time around was beginning to look like it was a false dream – that it wasn’t going to happen. And then, as fate would have it, I found An-shu.

“There’s a Japanese term for this. Maybe some of you can relate. You have somebody in your life – they’ve changed your life so dramatically that I call it a ‘life debt’. This is something you can’t ever repay.

“In Japanese this kind of person in your life is called ‘on-jin’. So you may want to think about who is the on-jin in your life. Maybe there is more than one. Take some time to thank that person.

“I very much feel like I’m living my dream. My life is working out very much the way I intended. I have manifested things in my life that at one time I would not have believed I was worthy of or capable of manifesting. And all that can be traced back to my luck and fate of meeting this on-jin, Stephen K. Hayes.

“Thank you very much, An-shu.”