A Special Visit From An Old Friend
By Sensei John T. Hooker - Urban Goju Karatedo, USA
There once was a Great American Sensei, who was also a father, a war hero, community leader and to many, a friend. It would take far too long to tell the entire story of this old time, rare breed of Martial Artist. One who’s name to this day still commands the utmost respect and honor. There were not many who could or even would stand up to this man, regardless of the situation. He was one of the toughest ever to wear a Gi. One can always tell the quality and strength of a teacher, just by watching and observing the students or the son. All of whom pass with flying colors on all fronts.
This man's name was Hanshi Peter Siringano Sr. 10th Dan and founder of the Goshindo Kempo Karate & Samurai Jiu Jitsu Association in the mid 1950’s. This well respected organization still operates today under the very capable direction of his beloved son, Hanshi Peter Jr. 10th Dan.
The Hanshi had been ailing for some time now, he was growing very tired of the constant battles with death, although he kept winning, we knew it was taking a great toll. Maestro Urban, who was very fond and close to this man knew and felt this too. Shortly after Hanshi returned to his Staten Island home from the hospital, I called Maestro Urban and told him of an idea I had and if it was okay with him if I began the preparations to make it happen. He said yes and I immediately contacted Hanshi’s son, Peter Jr. and informed him of the plan, asking for his permission and confidence, as we wanted very much for it to be a complete surprise. Little did I know that this would work out to be one of the most special moments in the life of each of these great Sensei’s.
I left work very early one afternoon and began my journey towards the Maestro’s home in south Jersey. I arrived on schedule and as usual, I found Maestro Urban fully dressed and ready to turn around and go back. He was dressed very formally, in a suit with his cape, top hat and cane. I could tell that this particular mission was a serious and important one to him. All he carried with him was a scroll neatly rolled up, he had thought of an idea to help enhance the visit. It contained one of his favorite stories in which he had written called “Sharp Shooter Woo”. He was to make a very rare and personal visit to an ailing and old friend, and read this story to him and his son. To Maestro Urban, the visit was important and had a sense of urgency as well. We both knew somehow that this very well could be the last time these two of a kind, would spend this type of quality time together. What an honor and extreme privilege it was for myself and Hanshi’s son, Peter to be a part of this historical moment.
Two hours in the car had passed and it was now later in the afternoon when we arrived at the Staten Island home of the Siringanos. As planned, we were greeted very quietly at the front door by Peter Jr. The welcome was very warm and emotional, as Maestro also held a real fondness for his son as well. We sat quietly at the kitchen table and Peter went into the back of the house to inform his father that he had a visitor. The Hanshi had no idea at all that Peter Urban himself was sitting at his table in his trademark eminent and stoic fashion. Peter Jr. and I had seriously discussed this very moment that was about to happen given the condition of his father’s heart. We all knew that this would be a real startling and emotional moment for him. One that would have great range of emotion, in a very short period of time. The joy that we knew he would feel helped us to decide that it would be OK. You have to remember, these men go back over 40 years, through thick and thin. Peter Jr. made sure that he came through the door way first, as he would not want to miss the look on his dad’s face for anything. It was too special and private a moment between them to even consider taking pictures. The look on his face was indeed something special to see, he was very taken back and his smile and eyes (now filled with tears) lit up with extreme joy.
The very big hug they gave to each other with a loud “OSU!” told Peter and I that yes, this was a very good thing we were doing for both of them. The four of us sat down around the table and enjoyed tea and a snack. What made it worth the effort for me was to have Hanshi look over intensely at me and nod his head with a smile, as if to say quite simply, thank you….. The conversation was to say the least, fascinating and incredibly interesting. I wished I could have taped it. It is very rare to be able to sit and just listen to two great teacher’s converse on their level. We knew to just let them talk and laugh and remember together all the great old times, one last time.
Maestro then pulled out his scroll and began to read the story of “Sharp Shooter Woo.” Anyone who knows the story, understands it and knows that it is far more enjoyable when the author himself reads it, only as he can, full of inflexion, color and gestures. I was amazed at the intensity and quiet that filled the room, Maestro Urban’s voice tends to have that effect. Hanshi did not take his eyes off him as he read the story, the respect between these two men was at a level rarely seen. We all enjoyed the reading, nodding our heads at a specific message, smiling and at times laughing along with the author. Maestro Urban’s stories possessed a great range of emotion, along with a heavy lesson to be learned. The surprise ending was enjoyed by all.
Not to long after, we began to say our goodbyes. These two men would never allow any visible display of sadness or negativity as they both lived their lives in an upbeat and positive mindset, always. Still, the good bye was an emotional one. They both were already comfortable and secure with each other and Peter and I were just like sons to each of them, so our presence did not effect their real emotions from being on display. They both promised they would see each other again soon, hopefully at a tournament or function of some kind. Hugs replaced bows for that moment and we were off, heading back home, with a real nice feeling inside that we did something very right and good for a very special and rare breed of Sensei.
Hanshi Peter Siringano Sr. 10th Dan, died in the months to follow and I was so glad to be a part of that day and that effort, one evening in Staten Island. Hanshi Peter Jr. 10th Dan and I, remain close to this day and he will always have my respect, support and friendship.
Sensei John T. Hooker: 8th Dan
Urban Goju Karatedo, USA
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