Dwayne Weidendorf may hold a fourth-degree black belt in karate – but he’s the first to say that his latest venture, as author of Mojo from the Karate Dojo, is about a lot more than his successes in martial arts.
In the 162-page book – available online in kindle and paperback editions – the Peace Arch News/Black Press publisher has focused primarily in passing on life lessons that are universally applicable, no matter what readers’ individual passions and interests may be.
The principles he talks about are relevant to anyone building a pathway to success, whether one is an athlete; an artist or musician, a business owner or entrepreneur, or, indeed, in just about any walk of life.
“Karate is a lifestyle I built my life around,” explained Weidendorf, who has proudly achieved the rank of Sensei (or teacher) in the karate community, adding that the dojo of the title refers to the training place for students of the martial art.
His clear, concise and on-target writing style – and brief, highly-concentrated chapters – make for a book that’s a smooth and swift read, but containing much down-to-earth wisdom about finding one’s individual path through life; advice that will likely stay with readers and prompt frequent revisits to its pages.
“I enjoy writing and I enjoy reading,” said Weidendorf, a Langley resident, who has dedicated Mojo from the Karate Dojo to his wife Lorraine and their son Drew, 18, and daughter Bree, 15.
Ironically, he said, when he began writing he wasn’t aiming at creating a book of advice for the general public.
“This wasn’t meant to be a book,” he said. “I was trying to put a memoir together for my two teenage kids, so they could understand who their dad was, through his martial arts and publishing career.”
Weidendorf acknowledges that the project, some four to five years in the making, was shaped by three of his Black Press newspaper editors – Lance Peverley (former editor of PAN), Surrey Now-Leader editor Beau Simpson and former Langley Times editor Frank Bucholtz, who with his wife Bonnie, ultimately became the editors of the book.
“I’d asked all of them, ‘read some of this and tell me what you think’. The answer that I got back was that it was really good information that would be helpful to share with other people.”
But the toughest test, he acknowledged, was whether it would pass muster with Lorraine.
“My wife is my biggest critic. We’re polar opposites, but she’s a great reader – and I was relieved when she said ‘this is pretty good’,” he said.
And he’s pleased that his intended audience – Drew, a gifted soccer player, and Bree, whose interests run more towards musical theatre – have both been able to relate to the advice he’s offering, he said.
“They’re very supportive,” he said. “And they know that karate has been part of my life for over 30 years.”
There’s a general misconception, Weidendorf noted, that karate – as a martial art – is all about fighting, or that, in perfecting skills, the only intent is defeating opponents.
As he explains in the book, he is a follower of karate-do – based on a combination of Chinese characters representing kara (meaning empty), te (meaning hand) and do (meaning ‘the way’ or ‘the path’).
People with no knowledge of the underlying philosophy behind the ancient discipline may well be surprised to find a chapter titled ‘Refrain from Violent Behaviour.’
Many, too, are caught off guard by Weidendorf’s answer when they ask, somewhat skeptically, if he ever gets to use his black belt training.
“I tell them I use it every day,” he said.
While he chuckles at the frequency of the question, he’s not joking about the answer.
As he writes in Mojo From The Karate Dojo, “karate has given me valuable lessons throughout the years that have led directly to the successes I have had in my professional and private life…throughout my professional career as an executive, I have had the opportunity to work with several different successful business owners, high-performing executives and athletes. I have found there was a direct correlation between successful people and the core life lessons I have learned through karate.”
He uses his experiences in karate to explain such relatable principles as the power of positive thinking and the need to conquer fears; the use of repetition, focus and discipline to perfect techniques in whichever realm you’re striving to succeed; and the desirability of having confidence – but without hubris or ‘cockiness.’
There are also chapters emphasizing the importance of continual development and dedication, of giving back, being open to learning, of having a willingness to listen; of being aware of one’s surroundings and having a connection with nature; of being able to keep moving, while staying in a relaxed, loose state; and the need to be a able to take “a step and a half back” when faced with confrontational situations.
Weidendorf, who grew up in southern Ontario, would seem to be no stranger to success. He was only 24 years old – and a recent graduate of Laurentian University – when he founded a thriving weekly entertainment magazine that he sold, at a significant profit, just five and half years later.
At 29, he became the group advertising director for the Fairway Group and was only one month into the job when he was offered the position of associate publisher and general manager, subsequently overseeing eight community publications very successfully for the next seven years.
In 2006, when he expressed an interest in relocating to B.C. (a keen skier, he had fallen in love with the province during winter visits), corporate connections between the Fairway Group and Black Press smoothed the way.
Starting as publisher of the Langley Times, he now oversees PAN, the Surrey Now-Leader, the Cloverdale Reporter and the North Delta Reporter, as well as the Yukon News and the chain’s Vantage Way press facilities in North Delta.
But he still remembers vividly the seemingly insuperable challenges he faced growing up.
“I came from a broken family – a really broken family, very messed up,” he recalled. “As a teenager, I was on my own – essentially homeless, on the street. I learned to be a street fighter, to work two jobs so I could go to high school and pay my way through university.”
As a youngster he was athletic, but also undersized, he said.
When he saw the film The Karate Kid in 1984, he was “instantly inspired” to study martial arts to defend himself.
Karate changed his life, he said.
“Without it, there was no way I would have made it in life,” he said. “I would have been down a one-way street – and it would have been the wrong way.”
Bitter early experiences gave him the resolve to succeed – but also a desire to help others, he said.
“I do like helping people – that’s my goal,” he said.
“We all have challenges in life, and maybe this self-help book will help others meet their own challenges. If somebody can read this book and just get one or two things out of it that helps them find their own path, then I’ll be happy and I’ll have succeeded.”