The Fine line That Separates

The Ochoa Dojo had gaffer tape line on the floor at the very edge that separated the small lobby and the practice area. There you were taught the ceremonial bows you had to make, first sitting and then standing, and the words you had to say and the words you had to hear before being given permission by one of the teachers to enter. They would tell you that once you stepped over that line you left behind your status, cares, worries, and notions of whatever you thought yourself to be in the world and entered a discipline with its own rules, etiquette and morals: the way of Goju. You had to start at the beginning; you had to learn how to walk, talk, see, and hear in a different way. You had to see yourself as a child and slowly nurture your body and mind to form yourself anew. You had to shut up and listen, pay attention and see, follow and learn. Whatever you were outside that Dojo – whether doctor, teacher, lawyer, or engineer, bus driver, housewife, opera singer, or janitor – you left on the other side of that line. All dressed in white Gi, what distinguished one from the other was the color of their belt, their rank. The most inspired words could not deflect a blow or correct the symmetry of a kick. Whatever you were on the other side of that fine line that separates the Dojo from the world you ate and worked and slept in would not help you get over that next routine, or lift your aching body off the floor during push-ups. That you learned mingling your sweat with the sweat of others, finding out things about yourself that you would otherwise not know, working through the pain and frustration of learning something you never knew before: karate. And sticking to it. At the end of a session, you retraced your steps to the edge of the line, bowed and left the Dojo and reentered your world and assumed whatever station you had in life. But you see, little by little you took the Dojo with you to that other world, but the world stayed on the other side of that fine line that separates.

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