MOI Global member and Zurich Project participant Abdallah Toutoungi wrote the following letter to John Mihaljevic in preparation for their Zurich Project Podcast conversation. It is a profound letter about some of the major influences in Abdallah’s life. We are pleased to share it here with permission.

Taky lived with his parents and siblings on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State where he went to school, not as a Japanese, but as an American kid. Taky was totally destroyed emotionally when his family was ripped out of society and taken to the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II – and subsequently his family got torn apart.When he came out, he had lost all self-worth and was a broken human being – all sense of self-worth destroyed.

When Taky heard about Bruce Lee and his martial arts talents, he wanted to go and see this Asian kid everyone was talking about. Bruce was 18 and Taky was 36. Bruce was studying philosophy at Washington State.

Despite the age gap, Bruce played a big role in mentoring Taky and healing him emotionally while also developing Taky’s physical ability. This sense of purpose through martial arts slowly allowed Taky to recover his self-confidence. Taky was one of the first students under Bruce at the Jun-Fan Gung Fu Club. Even after Bruce left Seattle, Taky continued as an instructor at the Jun-Fan Gung Fu club until Bruce chose to close down all the clubs. This friendship was not only about martial arts; Bruce was also trying to be the best version of himself.

To this day, you’ll find every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, a select few – chosen by Taky – training in private at Taky’s barn-turned-dojo in Woodinville. The serenity, brotherhood, respect, and ability all on display.

The major lesson I took from my time spent training under Taky, is the value of Loyalty, Humility, Hard work, Perseverance, Brotherhood of man, and Friendship. When I was sick, Taky would take me out to eat Vietnamese Phở, other times when I skipped class, he would call and tell me to “…come and shake-off the spider webs”. His manner of instruction was so refined – I was not that good, so he would say: “You are a working horse, what I want you to be is a race horse.” Those words inspired me. “Stay light on your feet.” he would say. These words taught me how to be eloquent in my instruction to others. We would also go to Chinatown for Dim Sum for his birthday and visit Bruce’s gravesite on Bruce’s birthday at Lake View cemetery.

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