In a nutshell, I would describe myself as a late bloomer. At the age of 45, I lost my job due to free trade and decided I no longer wanted to dismantle the American Manufacturing Infrastructure. You see, I was raised to build things not destroy them and my employment evolved over the last several years to moving all manufacturing to a “low cost” manufacturing sites. In other words, take the jobs that we had here in this country, package them and move them offshore because “The Corporation” would be able to compete in the new global economy. What this meant to me is that I was involved in sending our technology, our American “know how” offshore. I experienced cognitive dissonance and it was no picnic. In other words, the little Devil in my brain that said “do it, do it” was winning over the Angel in my brain that said “Is this what you believe is right.” In reality, it was not my decision, my part was to go the work everyday like all the other drones and do what I was told. Like all of us, we need to eat and pay the bills. This was NOT what I signed up for! Finally I was relieved of duty; laid off and told my services, my expertise was no longer needed. They would get it cheaper somewhere else, besides they knew I was no longer goose stepping to the rhythm of corporate greed. My heart had left the building.
It was time to retool myself and go somewhere that my heart was fully beating again; a place where I no longer questioned the moral implications of my efforts, a place where what I did improves the lives of others. I decided to pursue a Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and help others recover from the onset of disability whether it was a result of illness or accident. Part of the retooling of myself was also to regain the energy level and the love of life I had left behind when my last employment sucked all pride from my soul. I decided to pursue Karate training at the “ripe” young age of 46. I jumped in with both feet not knowing where this journey was taking me, but the comfort of the dojo, the camaraderie and the quest of knowledge that permeated the environment were too much for me to resist. During my endeavor martial arts of training I completed a second MA in Career and Technical Education. The day I received my Shodan Belt was one filled with pride that exceeded more than that of my graduate work. It was holistic, it was not easy but I had wonderful teachers guiding me along the way with true interest in my success. That’s what made the journey so enlightening, the caring and feeling of family. The path was mine, but I wasn’t alone.
I now work as an independent counselor performing Situational Assessments with individuals that want to return to work. Some experience mental illness, some traumatic brain injury; some have been diagnosed with a death sentence but want a full life to enjoy. These individuals drive me to help them in ways that keep me humble. Rehabilitation Counseling concentrates on a concept referred to “Transferable Skills.” Transferable skills are skills that one can pick up from previous work and transfer directly over to a new line of work. Many of my clients can no longer perform the essential functions of the job they once had due to their disability. I must look at their previous job task and determine what skills they used and how they can apply them to a new appropriate line of work. Do they need training, or more education? How about assistive technology? How do I do this, what training do I have that prepared me for this important task?
The answer may astound you, it is not the degrees or certifications that I have obtained. It is my Karate training that has prepared me. Who would have thought? Yes, the academic component equipped me with knowledge, but my Karate training is what really prepared me for this very important work! It is Karate that gives me patience, for I know what is given to me. It is Karate that gives me perseverance. It is Karate that gives me passion. It is Karate that taught me courage. It is Karate that taught me to be non-judgmental. It is Karate that taught me humility. It is Karate that taught me body connection, balance and efficiency of proper movement. I use this knowledge of the body when my clients have trouble moving. I use this when they are scared, when they are angry, when they are lost, when they are frustrated, when they are sad.
I now stand before you a seasoned citizen at the “ripe” age of 55 only ten days away from 56 exceeding the speed limit; honored with the task of convincing you I have ascended to the rank of Nidan. My studies have helped me grow as a person, a teacher, a counselor, and an advocate. The terms I learned in academia exist on the dojo floor, but they are truly practiced. I see experience disconnect in what I have been taught in school and the practice of my profession and that troubles me. I experience a real acknowledgement and consistency in the study of Karate. That comforts me and grounds me throughout my life. Karate is a “Transferable Skill” that will never leave me. That I am extremely thankful for as I humbly stand before you.
Robert J. Nunez