Writer: Nancy Delong
Most young boys growing up anywhere in the world have their favorite action heroes. These heroes might range from any oneof the superheroes (i.e. Superman and Batman) to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Power Rangers, just to name a few; but the one hero that surpasses time and age, of course, is Bruce Lee. He is everyone’s martial arts hero and rightfully so. Sensei Fariborz Azhakh of Team Karate Centers in Woodland Hills, CA was no exception. Born and raised in Iran, he saw his first Bruce Lee movie at the young age of eight, and immediately fell in love with the power of martial arts and like many young boys, idolized his hero, Bruce Lee. In 1978, at the age of sixteen, Sensei Fariborz immigrated to the United States. He began his training at Steve Sexton’s Hapkido School in Canoga Park, CA. Master Sexton not only taught him the physical skills of Hapkido, but also taught him how to help others and what it meant to be a martial artist and a man of honor, respect, kindness, tenacity and compassion. Master Sexton taught him how to give and receive and to this day, Sensei Fariborz continues to pay this forward. In 1982 Sensei Fariborz took over the school from Master Sexton and renamed the school Team Karate Centers. Sensei Fariborz is not only an excellent martial artist, a 7th degree black belt in Hapkido, but also a true ambassador of the martial arts. He is always the first one to help fellow school owners promote and grow their business and their arts. He is a founding member of the Martial Arts History Museum, dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of all styles of martial arts and martial artists. He teaches his students how to give back and how to pay it forward.
On September 17, 2016, Sensei Fariborz had the honor and privilege of giving back to the martial arts hero of his youth. Team Karate Centers celebrated Bruce Lee Day to raise awareness and funds for the Bruce Lee Foundation. Students, family and friends of all ages gathered at the school to enjoy the festivities and to honor the legacy of Bruce Lee and to raise money for the foundation. “Founded in 2002 by Linda Lee Caldwell and Shannon Lee (Bruce Lee’s wife and daughter), the foundation was formed with a vision to share the art and philosophy of Bruce Lee with the world for generations to come.” The highlight of the day, was an appearance by Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon to speak on behalf of her father’s legacy.
“Hi! How’s it going today?
Thank you all, all of you for being here today. I mean it does my heart – it gives my heart so much joy to see every single one of you, and every single one of you (turns to the front of the room)! So many old friends and now new friends as well. It is my absolute honor to be here, to keep my father’s words, my father’s actions, my father’s life, my father’s energy alive today in the world and to give all of you access to that as well.
I want to thank Fariborz – thank you so much – for supporting the Bruce Lee Foundation, for supporting the legacy of my father, for creating this event, for having all of you here – it’s very meaningful to us.
We really, really try; really earnestly work hard through the Bruce Lee Foundation to create programs that can help people. It’s what I want. It’s my vision. I always say this, it’s kind of big and remains to be seen how successful it will be. But my true absolute passion is to heal the world. The world needs healing. We all need to come together in community and in love and I just want to say that is why it is my absolute honor to be here today.
My dad, as you know……who here has seen a Bruce Lee movie? Okay. Adults I’m just going to kind of take it for granted. Awesome! So my dad, you know how he was so energetic and had that intensity in those movies and you kind of got like excited just watching him, right? That’s because that’s who he was as a human being. He was giving himself to you in those films. His energy. And you can feel it. And the reason you can feel it is because he worked on himself. He had confidence. He was willing to learn from his mistakes. He was all about growing as a human being.
He also liked to help people. And you can feel that coming off of him in those movies and that’s why it’s so exciting. That’s why that intensity pierces you because it’s real. And we are all capable of that. We’re all capable of working on ourselves, and growing ourselves, and being kind to one another and working together to create not only amazing people as individuals, but an amazing earth. Right? An amazing place for all of us to be.
Now my dad he was a kid just like you guys, right? I don’t know that he knew when he was your age that this is where it was all headed. But, uh, you know, he didn’t start out a marital artist. He didn’t take lessons as young as some of you here. You know, he didn’t start taking martial arts lessons until he was 13. He was growing up in Hong Kong and he was getting into fights and he really wanted to learn martial arts and he started studying in Wing Chung Gung Fu with Yip Man. Do you guys know who that is? Yes. There’s been some movies made about him too, now right? He immediately fell in love with martial arts. He loved it more – I know he’s really known for movies and stuff like that – but he loved martial arts more than that. He really saw movies as a way to just communicate his love of martial arts to a bigger audience.
The reason he loved martial arts is because it taught him about himself. Not only did it give him confidence and discipline and make him feel strong, and all of that but he was able to learn about himself and grow as a human being through doing martial arts and by becoming somebody who was not only strong, who could not only be strong, but could also be compassionate.
So I hope that all of you are enjoying yourselves here today. That you are feeling like you’re really growing and feeling more confident and being more disciplined and all that sort of stuff with your lives through the study of martial arts. It’s such an amazing tool for making you be really in your body and really feel your own power. Because all of you are little powerhouses.
The lesson of Bruce Lee is this. See what one person can do if you’re committed to working on yourself and being the best version of yourself that you can be. And continuing to grow and learn all of the lessons, go through all of the struggles and come out the other side, you too can cultivate energy that is positive out in the world and you too can create something that nobody else can create which is the ultimate version of who you are. Nobody else can be you. Only you can be you. And then you get to share that with everybody else in the whole wide world. And then they get to go like, “Wow look at that person, they’re really cool.” “They’re really great.” “That’s a really real person.” “That person really gets it.” “That person’s awesome.” And all of you can do that and you’re on the path. And I support you! Energetically! And the energy of Bruce Lee supports you too. Because that’s what he wants for you. To be the best you, that you can be. So thank you, thank you, thank you for being here today.
Let’s also remember; and this is really important; let’s also have fun. Because if it’s not fun – you know what I mean? We all need to have that sense of play within it as well. That enthusiasm. And Bruce Lee was also fun. He was disciplined, he worked hard, but he enjoyed life. And so when we all rise up from here and go outside a little later and I know you already have been, but just continue to have fun and thank you for having me and thank you all for being here.”
It is not every day that we get to give back to our hero, especially one that is no longer living among us. Yet Bruce Lee’s legacy and spirit is strong and is reaching out to generation after generation. It is important for us to acknowledge those who have positively influenced our lives and to give back in some way. Sensei Fariborz is second to none in his humility, his generosity and his passion to highlight and honor those who have and continue to inspire him. Although he is a teacher, he is the first to admit he is, and will always be, a student first. Whether it’s a martial arts style or skill, or knowledge outside the school, he is always learning and studying, and encourages his students to do the same. Always remember where you came from and always continue to pay it forward.