Sensei Bruce Buttler is proof that martial arts can be a lifetime pursuit.
Buttler, an instructor at Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing, has been involved with karate for 28 years.
Even though he is 65 he shows no signs of retiring from the sport anywhere in the near future. In fact, he may find it more to his benefit t now than ever before.
Fighting the effects of aging is something he hopes to accomplish through his continued martial arts studies.
Buttler said he understands that, as he gets older, his physical and mental well-being will inevitably deteriorate with age.
However, he hopes that by keeping active both mentally and physically through karate, he can slow that process.
“What I’m finding now, in my mid-60s, is my body is going downhill and my mind’s not as sharp,” he said. “What I’m hoping and what I think is that karate will help that downward descent to be less steep.”
Buttler’s interest in karate did not begin until well into his adulthood. After enrolling his sons into Cheney’s Zen Karate and Kickboxing, he noticed how beneficial the sport was in terms of physical fitness.
So, at the age of 37, he enrolled in classes for the physical benefits of karate.
Despite his age, he still regularly practices karate, training and instructing at Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing.
With nearly three decades of karate experience, Buttler holds a third degree black belt in karate, though he noted his third degree was an honourary rank given to him because of his age.
In any case, it is an accomplishment that likely would not have been possible without the tutelage of Sensei Lyle Cheney, whom he and most of the other instructors at Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing received their black belts from. Cheney was a big part of the reason Buttler continued his training all the way to black belt and beyond, he said.
“He was an inspiration to me. He epitomized for me what I expected in a teacher. Patient, yet firm. High standards and always very respectful. I just thought he was a terrific instructor.”
Today, Buttler tries his best to emulate Cheney’s style of teaching as an instructor himself.
Buttler first started instructing in 1990 as an assistant to his wife, Sensei Geri Buttler, who had been approached to start a karate class in Lacombe.
The couple ran a class without a permanent space for several years before opening Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing at its current location along with Sensei Clint Robison in 2007.
There are a number of things that Bruce enjoys about teaching.
First, he said that teaching others has helped him to understand the art better himself. He gave the example of katas (solo exercises consisting of a set number of moves in a set order) saying that teaching a kata requires a broader understanding of it than it does to learn one.
“You learn a kata to a deeper level when you teach it.”
Another thing that Bruce enjoys is watching his students progress as karate practitioners (or karatekas as they are called) and seeing the “Aha!” moment when a student masters a technique or skill which is particularly difficult.
Bruce shared the story of one student who took over a year to learn his first kata, a feat most students accomplish in about three months.
“When he successfully did it, I almost cried,” said Bruce. “It was a thing of beauty.”
He said emotional moments like that make teaching worthwhile.