Of the many things in life that make our trips around the sun worthwhile, one of the most joyous parts of being alive are the relationships we have with other people. People enter our lives for a number of reasons. Some people are a part of our lives for a lifetime. In other cases, people, enter our lives for a reason. This reason may be because of a business venture, or it may be out of a chance social encounter. People also are a part of our lives for seasons, in that they may remain with us for predestined amounts of time before we go our separate ways.
Is it possible to form bonds with people we barely know, or for that matter, people we have never met in person? I think so. People can have an impact on us, their physical presence notwithstanding. Presently, we are witnessing the love and disdain concurrently being expressed for political leaders of all stripes by our fellow citizens. How many people actually get to meet, in person, the President of the United States? I never have, and to be brutally frank, I have no desire to meet any politician. But there have been occasions in life that I have met people very briefly that have impacted my life in very positive ways. There have also been people that have impacted my life that I never had the pleasure of meeting in person.
In my case, one person that I met very briefly two years ago was Martin Kove, who famously played Sensei John Kreese in The Karate Kid. I was the odd man out as a kid because I was on the side of Cobra Kai. Kreese was in my view a real karate man. He was tough. He was direct. In his own way, he also expressed love for his students by teaching them that the world was a place in which toughness would be a prerequisite for success. When I had the chance to meet Martin Kove, I found him to be a warm and patient man, much unlike his character in the movie. We spoke at length about many topics. I’m sure he had other things to do during the event at which we met, but he spoke with me genuinely. Having worked with criminals my entire adult life, I have learned to detect phony dispositions in people. It has become an instinct as I have grown older. Martin Kove was genuine. He was kind. I hope to be able to meet him again soon.
A person that I have never met that equally impacted how I see life will forever elude me due to his recent passing. Sean Connery is beyond argument one of the greatest talents to ever grace the silver screen. Mostly known for his role as 007 in the James Bond films, Connery was a true master of his craft. One of the major faults I find with many actors is that they make the role they are playing fit their personality. The character takes on the persona of the actor. Connery made us believe that he was the character in which he was playing. Aside from 007, two of my all-time favorite films were The Hunt for Red October and The Rock. These roles were quintessential Connery performances. He made us believe that he was the Captain of a submarine. We witnessed a true man of action on Alcatraz. He became what he portrayed.
Three aspects of Connery’s life drew my admiration aside from his talent on the screen.
Connery was proud of his heritage. I read that he had “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his forearm. Reportedly, he was a supporter of Scottish independence away from the British Crown. You can disagree with politics. You can disagree with past practices and actions of a group of people. That is irrelevant. What is admirable about Connery was his devotion and loyalty to his heritage. He was proud to be from Scotland.
Connery and I were also sailors. I was privileged, and honored, to serve in the United States Navy as an Intelligence Specialist, and later on as a Master-at-Arms. Connery as a young man served in the British Royal Navy as an Able Seaman. I have often wondered how his real-life experiences possibly impacted his astounding performance as a submarine Captain in The Hunt for Red October.
Many people did not realize that Sean Connery was a Black Belt in Kyokushin Karate. Ironically this is something else that he and I shared although we never met in person. Anyone who has ever trained in Kyokushin can attest to the rigors of the process leading up to the Black Belt exam. Connery though was no ordinary Black Belt because he trained personally with the founder of the system, Mas Oyama. Oyama was one of the most feared yet respected instructors in the history of karate. Connery not only trained with Oyama; he achieved his Black Belt under Oyama. There is no acting involved in this accomplishment. That was a product of brute will and determination. Connery through this accomplishment displayed that he was gritty, determined, resilient, and above all, tough as nails.
Without fail, there were those who chose to besmirch aspects of Connery’s life. Many accused him of abusing women. He was accused of being toxically masculine. I cannot confirm or refute the claims that Connery may have abused women at some point in his life. He was a human being like all of us, and I am quite sure he had his faults. He had demons like we all do. But Connery exemplified on and off the screen what defined a man and above all, a gentleman.
I never had the opportunity to meet a man that I admired on this side of the veil. I am able to find common ground with a man that I never met based on common experience and beliefs. In your life, take inventory of the people that you have met. Take time to think of those that you love and care for on a daily basis. Reflect on those people that you have never met but have had a positive impact on your life. We are all a sum of our parts. The relationships we have with people, good or bad, make us who we are.
To Sean Connery, the fellow Sailor: Fair Winds and Following Seas.
To Sean Connery, a Brother Kyokushin Black Belt: Osu!
Your life left many people stirred. Your passing left us equally shaken. May you rest in peace.