Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Karate If You Can

Sometimes in the Fall, when I have my bedroom windows wide open and a delicious breeze blows off the body of water that is 3 blocks from my apartment & the scent of burning leaves perfumes my sleep and bedroom I dream about karate. In my dream I’m a much better karateka or student than I ever was in real life. In my dream I’m kicking and flying through the air like some Hong Kong martial arts superstar. In reality I studied karate for 4 years and reached the level of green belt which is 3 belts (and for me many years) below a black belt. This did not come easy for me. I began karate. Not as a youngster but when I was 43 years old which is quite old to begin the studying of this difficult martial art. Now why, you might be asking yourself would a 43-year-old man want to suddenly learn to do karate. Very simple. I wanted to learn how to fight. I wanted to learn how to defend myself if attacked on the street. In other words I wanted to learn how to kick ass. The summer of 1990 saw a dramatic increase in attacks and crimes against gay men, and these attacks made me angry and scared. I wanted to make sure that I would never be a victim of this kind of rage and physical prejudice. In the past I had come very close to being gay bashed but my luck held out and I walked away unhurt but shaken. The idea that I could be hurt simply because of who I am was crazy to me and I knew that I had do something to protect myself from such attacks ever taking place. The few times I had been confronted by these cowards and most likely closet cases, I had stood my ground, and they backed down. But what I often asked myself would I have done if they didn’t back down and attacked me, tried to hurt or even worse tried to kill me. I didn’t know the first thing about fighting or defending myself. So one late summer afternoon over lunch with “T” I told him that I had decided to learn karate, and later that week I went searching for a school. Happily that was quite easy, as there was a well regarded dojo a few blocks from my loft. So began my journey in the sometimes strange secretive and very strict world of traditional Japanese karate training. As I said I studied (lasted is more like it) for 4 years before I decided that I had enough of the bowing, strict obedience (I had problems with some of the higher belts who were to my mind complete assholes) and the pain that I felt after every class. The promotions we had to take before going to a higher level were all day affairs and unbelievably difficult and stressful (how I managed to get through 4 of them I’ll never know.) I also drove my friends crazy as the karate “thing” took over my life. I made them come with me to karate tournaments, I frightened the daylights out of them as I demonstrated holds, kicks and punches on them and their hair would stand on end as I let out with loud kiais which is a blood cuddling scream used to shock our opponents and throw them off-guard. I also of course developed huge crushes on some of the teachers and some of my fellow students, and in the warm weather the heat was unbearable, as the dojo was not air-conditioned. I had reached a glass wall in my training. I simply could not improve my skills. My mind wanted my kicks to be high and strong, but my 40+ body had a different notion. For sure the experience was well worth the pain and money and I learned how to defend myself which was the reason why I took on this responsibility in the first place. I just hope I never have to use it.



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