10 Questions with Sensei Darren Marshall
By: Sensei James Ryan
St. Catharines Wado Kai Karate
“Enjoy every waking moment. Learn to be aware of your surroundings. Empower yourself by being aware, alive and enthusiastic.” – Sensei Darren Marshall (Godan), Toronto
I first met Sensei Darren Marshall on a karate-related road trip down in Atlantic City with a large group of people that I essentially didn’t know, but for whatever reason, Sensei and I just seemed to hit it off right away. Then a short time later, by total coincidence, he and I both wound up volunteering for the Archive Committee together and we’ve been communicating on an almost daily basis ever since. We had a great time training with Mr. Bill “Superfoot” Wallace down in Radford, Virginia last summer (2017), and I had the privilege of attending his black belt workout in March (2018). It should also be noted that Sensei Darren (along with Sensei Gary Nicholls) won the Master’s Cup at the National Tournament in Simcoe (May 2018). One thing’s for certain – Sensei Darren knows his stuff. Enjoy!
1: How long have you been training in Shintani Wado Kai and who was your original instructor?
DM: I’ve trained my entire adult life and for most of my childhood. Sensei Ron White from Wawa (Ontario) was my first real instructor and instrumental in my direction during my later teen years. Although as a kid, Sensei Jack Gingras, Randy Quarrel, and a few others – I can’t remember – trained with us often in the ball fields and in their yards when we were kids. We all lived on the same street, so when they’d practice, we would see them and just show up. During my senior-level coloured belts, I started to train under Sensei Rick Leveille by way of our monthly black belt workshops. Sensei Rick has always been my Sensei throughout my adult years, and his direction has continued throughout my black belt training as well. In addition, Sensei Danny McCoy would come home sometimes, and I never missed an opportunity to train with either him or with Sensei Bruce Perkins whenever they’d come home to Wawa.
2: What do you remember about the first time you ever met Hanshi Shintani?
DM: In one sentence – his ability to show genuine interest and set you at ease knowing he was actually listening and cared about what you had to say. Hanshi Shintani had a way of making you believe you were important, as if we were all just seeds waiting to take root somewhere, and the feeling I always had when we were together was that he was so excited to see our growth and hear of our experiences that it made me want to do better… always striving to go to the next step. I first met Hanshi in 1993 and continued with every opportunity to be around and learn from him. That’s primarily why I moved to Lindsay in 1995. It was closer to Hanshi, but mainly because the South Eastern Ontario region was undeveloped for Shintani Wado Kai.
3: What inspired you to want to become a part of the Archive Committee?
DM: I think what inspired me were my own experiences in Shintani karate – my earliest memories of watching people practice. Sensei Jack Gingras, for example, was sparring with one of his cousins in the backyard, right next-door to my house. They were both battling full-out and by the end, they were clearly injured from their training. Then the oddest thing happened… even though I thought the world was ending and war was headed for this five-year-old (me), I watched one of them get up. He then reached down and helped the other one up – then they hugged, and I could see their smiles through their puffy faces. They were smiling with love and gratitude. It was so confusing for me, but I remember wanting to know that feeling. As I look back, that memory makes me wonder about all of the other amazing stories out there. That’s why I joined the Archive Committee – to try and capture some of these stories of development and growth, so the membership understands the history of the area they study in. By understanding the old (history of Shintani Wado Kai), you can better understand the new, and who we are today. It allows the newer generation to understand and appreciate the growth of the Federation over this vast country.
4: What is the role and purpose of the Archive Committee?
DM: To document the past 60 years of growth in the SWKKF, throughout Canada and Internationally. To compile and record historic events, along with key individuals who have contributed to the overall success of the SWKKF. To document a lineage of people and events from our inception to present day. By understanding the old, we can better understand where we are going now and in the future.
5: How does karate help with self-defense?
DM: I believe that karate and self-defense are two separate things. Karate requires perfection of technique, and modern-day karate has many avenues of study, from sports competitions to kata applications to physical fitness and strength, and of course, culture and spirituality. Self-defense is about getting home safe to live another day – every day. However, karate can help self-defense by way of superior technique, understanding and movement. Until you train your karate with real adrenal stress, you will not experience the true nature of the study of what we are doing. Yet by doing karate, there are similarities in the kata which I find work with self-defense in real life. When I teach self-defense to karateka, I always equate the self-defense movement to where you can find the principle in the kata(s). That way, once a karateka has developed good technique and movement, he can remember the various defenses for common attacks through the associated kata. It’s up to the individual to practice, but once you associate the self-defense movements with your kata, you won’t forget them, or at least, you’ll have a much better chance of retaining the knowledge so you can train at it when time permits.
6: What’s the number one rule of self-defense for a smaller, weaker person?
DM: In the words of Sensei Rick Leveille, “Don’t be there.” Self-defense is about awareness and avoidance, if needed. Most situations can be avoided by just basic awareness, and when need be, physical avoidance, such as crossing the street. It’s when you don’t have a choice that I would say the number one thing to remember is; get hands in the face. Impede vision as much as possible. Everyone will stop what they’re trying to do if you get your fingers in their face, if only to get your hands away. It gives you a fighting chance and it takes anyone’s mind off of the attack or grievous harm, and puts the attacker in a defensive mode as they try to get your hands away.
7: What should new students look for when choosing an instructor?
DM: In my opinion, I believe that an instructor, versus a teacher, is the difference. Go watch a couple of classes and see if the instructor: 1) knows what he or she is instructing, 2) seems committed to his existing students, 3) has an ability to put the training into context (his or her own experiences), and 4) they can teach various demographics. Most clubs have a strong demographic with kids, teenagers or adults. Each is an indicator of the instructors. A healthy club will always have an invested interest in the students achieving their goals, and a good instructor or teacher will be able to guide you to the next steps in your journey. Teaching morals, values and being invested in a student’s future is a must for me.
8: What’s your favourite martial arts film of all time?
DM: I loved the Street Fighter series out of the 70′s. The Street Fighter movies starring Sonny Chiba as Terry Tsurugi, and they have some other really great high-ranking martial arts Masters in full-out footage as well. Love those movies.
9: If you could recommend one martial arts book to anyone, what would it be?
DM: Bubishi by Patrick McCarthy (translation). It opens your mind to so much.
10: How can people get in touch with you if they want to learn more about what you do?
DM: email: Marshallmartialarts@gmail.com
Phone: (647) 223-8800