My First Dirty Old Gi

When I started Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate in the Shoreikan School on Ochoa Street I was an economically-impaired university student and since I didn’t know any better, I bought the cheapest gi I could get, in an off-white color, and it got totally soaked in sweat 15 minutes into the exercise session. Plus, the sweat stains turned gray and resistant to any detergent. The different sensei berated me about it but since I had trouble enough paying the monthly dojo fees, a new gi was definitely out of the question. The problem was that it stayed out of the question for 8 years, through two different schools. The problem was compounded by the fact that I hardly had time to wash it between classes. Most of the time I just hosed it down and hung it to dry, but there were times when it remained bundled up and tied with my belt. Luckily the stink ran so high in that first crowded dojo that nobody would notice unless they got up close and personal. It continued that way, mended and remended well into my second stint in the Kodokan School under Kimo Wall Sensei, who would lend me one of his old gis when I had to give the kid classes as brown belt. By that time it was pretty worn out, most of the sleeves gone for patches where someone grabbed me too energetically or sent me sliding across the dojo floor. Finally it just fell apart during one real brutal practice session and Kimo Sensei peeled what was left off my back. I was forced to work extra at the dojo to pay for an old practice gi Kimo rummaged from his stash. I took it home and washed the by then multi-stained rags carefully by hand and heeded Kimo’s advice to keep it as a reminder of what it took to get where I got. I’ve had a lot of gis since then, none lasted as long. The bag where I stored it got lost in one move or another, although I still got all the belts, some given to me by senior students as was the tradition. I now got two very expensive gis that should now last me to my grave, but I miss that old dirty gi; it had my blood and sweat and that of many I practiced with at the time. It had a story, real up close and personal.

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