Interlude I: Comments on the Fly

Recent blog entries and exchanges by and with Dan Djurdjevic and ZENHG have led me to this interlude from my "karate memoir." They, and others too, have become an important facet of these recollections because through their comments and blogs they have provided me with more insight into just what my karate sojourn really was and is; the points and experiences in common and the different outlooks too. Most of us began in traditional dojos and from there we have embarked on intertwining but distinguishable threads. The breadth and depth of their knowledge of karate and other martial arts far exceeds mine.

Beyond my particular branch of Goju, I had very little experience with other martial arts, and even my knowledge of Goju was very circumscribed to my particular and limited dojo experience. The few magazines available on the Island were long on yarn and short on substance and it wasn't until the advent of the internet, and especially YouTube, that I became fully aware of the enormous variety even within my style. So I am still constantly amazed with all that I do not know. There is also the fact that I have ever only practiced karate in Puerto Rico and so my contact with other styles and approaches was very happenstance. My only formal departure from Goju was a year and a half in Tai Chi Chen taught by a former Goju black belt. The way my dojo was structured I was able to learn the complete syllabus up to suparimpei while still a shodan. Ranking beyond shodan was dependent on other criteria, particularly mastery of kobudo and stints with the main school in New York or elsewhere. I never liked kobudo and shunned it. So nidan I became out of sheer inertia. Katas beyond the syllabus was by invitation only and that realm of the heavens I never reached. But that was fine by me; I had enough on my hands as it was. Relegated to teaching kid classes for beginners, and the odd Saturday free-for alls, as penance proved to be a blessing in disguise. Forced to teach I learned by necessity how to extract the karate from a white belt's good intentions. I was forced to focus on their every move and thus became aware of my every move. It is true what they say that if you can't teach it , you don't know it. But put in a time frame, I was past fifty by then. It is hard. Doing full classes, and I mean on the floor, with green and brown belts 20 or 30 year my junior was getting to be a bit masochistic. I proposed a separate class for senior (in age) black belts and was laughed out the dojo floor ("whose says I'm old?"). Finally two injuries to my groin and a fall that collapsed my chest like an accordion convinced me that my dojo days were over.

I was granted an extended leave of absence.

(will continue...)

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