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At the time...

At the time I first started to play Go there was very little learning material available in English. Today's players probably find it difficult to appreciate how desperate we were for Go material in English.

Occasionally a professional player from Japan would visit the United States and that was always a period of great excitement. Perhaps it would be the time when the mysteries of the game would finally be revealed to us. Perhaps it would be the time when we would really see an improvement in our game.

Sensei Masayoshi Fukuda, 6th Dan visited New York City in April 1951 and again in 1956. During his 1956 visit I had the chance to have a lesson and to gain some appreciation of the professional attitude.

At that time there were three of us from New Jersey who played with Fukuda Sensei. We belonged to the same club and regularly had games with one another. At that time Bill Labov and I were about the same strength. The third member of our group, Henry, took nine stones when he played Bill or myself.

Bill was the first to have a game with Mr. Fukuda. After the game he was elated. "I only lost by two stones. If only I done this or that I would have won." Next I played him and had the same feeling of elation, even though I had lost by only three stones. I was sure if I had only done this or that I would have won. Finally our nine stone opponent, Henry played a game with Mr. Fukuda. After the game Henry was ecstatic, he had lost by one point. He said; "Had I only avoided one or two little mistakes I would have won."

Every once in a while I think back on that experience and to tie it in with my other Go playing experience and what I have learned of Japan. Mr. Fukuda could have easily humiliated each of us, but that's not the professional way. His skill as a teacher came from being able to adjust his game so as to make the score close. His goal as a teacher was to encourage us and support our learning efforts.

During the past forty years I have learned more of Japanese culture. Recently there was a story in the newspapers about an American Baseball Player who had played for several years in Japan. He became upset when the team manager removed him from the lineup and wouldn't take advantage of his batting skill to widen the lead that his team had. Again, here is an example of the Japanese search for harmony. There is a message there for each us in the way to conduct our life.

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Robert A. McCallister

The author Robert A. McCallister can be reached at: mailto:robertmc@ntelos.net

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