Walter Godin was far from a saint, in fact from most people’s perspective, Godin would be more the Cobra Kai Sensei, than Mr Miyagi. Godin spent time in prison a few times, and he did have some definite violent tendencies , I know this for a fact. Though I saw Godin’s flaws, he always cared for me, and was a true leader and mentor to me (though not always by example). Even when I was very young, I knew I wanted to be tough and respected like he was, but I knew he had a bad side, that I did not ever want to emulate.
He was an extremely pragmatic martial artist. I remember once when I was young, and I wanted to do some weapon training like I would see other martial artists do, he told me the only weapons he believed in were; a gun, a baseball bat, and knife, and a roll of quarters. To appease me, we came up with a weapons kata which included a toy gun and a cowboy holster, and he actually helped me work on it. Godin taught and performed the street defence forms, called Grab Arts and Punch Tricks like his “partner” was his “enemy”. No one ever wanted to be his training partner, or even worse, his demo partner. He would even brutalize his board holders. I have seen him put his partners to sleep, bust their lips, break their ribs, and dislocated joints, and this was just in training, and demos. I saw him do a lot worse to people who he thought did him wrong.
It’s weird because even though objectively and logically, I knew what he was doing was wrong, and that I never wanted to do the things he did, or treat people the way he did, I still idolized him and I always felt he loved me like family. Godin was very charismatic and funny, but when he would snap, he would get very brutal. Then go right back to laughing and joking with people like nothing just happened 10 seconds ago.
I remember once he had me enter a sparring tournament. I was about 12 years old, and he gave me explicit directions to punch in the face. I was a little confused on the rules, but I did as he said, and I got disqualified. He later grabbed my hand, and brought me to the head of the tournament, an older Asian man. He told them that he thought it was stupid that I was disqualified, because in any kind of martial arts tournament you should be able to hit in the face, because that’s the way a fight was. The tournament director told him that he would not reverse his decision, so Godin called him a few choice words. Then grabbed me, and we left the tournament. He congratulated me for doing a great job. Another funny story, was when I was about 16 years old, and I had a no holds barred match coming up. He wanted me to stay at his house for the final week, so he could help me get mentally prepared. The reason he told me he wanted to stay in his apartment was he wanted me to stay strong, and not have sex for the final week before the fight… I was 16 years old!
I think my biggest takeaway from his yin and yang, was that I saw him as a very kind and protective mentor, someone that I always felt had my back. I looked up to him because he was so tough, and he got so much respect from the people that he dealt with. Toughness and respect was a really big deal for me growing up. I owe a huge debt to Godin because I think he shaped, molded, and brought out the toughness in me. I think I translated that into confidence, which I feel made my successes in life possible.
My students and I are a direct lineage from Walter Godin, and I hope he is proud of what we have become… The Pit Ohana.