I was fortunate enough to meet Professor Jane Carr as a little girl in the 70’s, and even then, I could tell that she was an incredible martial artist! I remember looking up to her in awe, and in seeing that kind of exceptional skill in a woman when I was so young, during a time when there really weren’t that many female black belters on the mat, really made an impact on me.
Other than seeing her at events, my earliest clear memory with her was when she was a judge at one of my earliest Kata Contests. I was an orange belt, and the Kata Contest was held in a gym, using fold up gym mats on the basketball court. My tournament partner threw me Tomoe Nage, which, for those who aren’t students of the art, is a throw in which your partner plants their foot at your abdomen, sits down, and launches you over their head. It was my favorite throw as a Junior because we got to fly. Well, in THIS tournament, my partner threw me off the mat and onto the hardwood court.
Now, I tell this story because years later when I took my dojo 3rd degree black belt exam at the Redding Jujitsu Academy as her student, I couldn’t throw Obi Hane Goshi on my colleague, Sensei John Pfund to save my life. Sensei John is a grounded, strong, formidably-sized individual, and I was failing miserably…over…and over again… at throwing him this technique. I felt pretty defeated because I felt that it was one of my better throws, and of course, I wanted to make my Sensei proud. So after reflective discussion about my dojo exam, Professor Carr made it a point to share HER memory of the childhood Kata tournament that she judged so many years ago. She recalled my landing off the mat during a tie-breaker in my division, popping right up after the fall, standing on guard to face my partner, and continuing unfazed. She told me later that she was impressed with that and remembered thinking, “Hmmm, this one’s gonna go far.” That was her way. She was always encouraging, reminding me of who I was, and that I could draw on the inner strength that had gotten me this far.
Professor Carr told the story of a little girl at a Kata contest overcoming pain and potential embarrassment because SHE understood what it was like to overcome and excel in the face of adversity. Even in her 70’s and 80’s as she fought incredible joint and arthritis pain, she worked hard to stay in shape and remained active until the very end. I remember when she received her rank of Judan, 10th degree black belt; she showed me books on leadership that she was studying. This, and becoming more proficient at shooting pistols—which she did, in perfect Professor Carr style! She trained hard at Front Site and placed 2nd place in a shooting competition, literally blowing away the competition! This was a woman with incredibly high standards for herself, and indeed of all of her students, because she was continuously raising the bar for HERSELF!
She really did have high expectations, and I can say with experience, that she expected even more of her female students. I remember her telling me very seriously when I became her student, that “as a woman in the martial arts, we had to work twice as hard to be considered half as good.” That was okay by me because she wanted us to be the best example of what it was to be a practitioner of our art, and like her, do it with integrity and hard work. And this was possible because she was an attentive, superb instructor; an exemplary mentor; a woman of honor; and an exceptional friend.
With Professor Carr I, like her other students, felt seen. She took the time to get to know each one of her students, and know us well. There’s not a single one of us who didn’t feel her support and belief in us to our very core, and that’s because she had vested quality time with us and got to know each of us personally. I’m sure you will hear many of us say that she was more than a mentor, more than a Sensei.
She was a friend.
She was family.
Ohana–in the truest sense of the word.
She wasn’t all flowers and fluff, although she was a class act; she told it to you straight up, and you bore it because, dammit, she was right!
Professor Carr became my Sensei in 1996, but in the end we became more–each other’s potential escape destination during the devastating Carr and Camp fires of 2018, we were investment confidants, fellow gardeners and art collectors, women who experienced things only other women could understand, and passionate lovers of our beloved Danzan Ryu Jujitsu and our students. She was so much more than my feeble words can convey.
So, I’ll leave you with a Professor Carr quote that my students hear me say often. “Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you CAN do!”
I will always love you, Prof. Thank you for your many gifts.
Professor Delina Fuchs