Outside the Dojo, Outside the Box

I left the Ochoa Dojo under a cloud of misgivings. Looking back I find it hard to pinpoint one or two good reasons for that decision. Toward the end I was in that limbo that comes from graduating from the university and having no viable alternatives. My then wife graduated and was working full time, which afforded me some leeway which I took to finish and publish my first book of poems. On the other hand, the Dojo, after riding the crest of the martial arts craze of the 70's, was falling into hard times. The sensei, a lot like me, were also at personal and professional crossroads in their lives. We were all very young, too young, methinks. Other issues were rising to the fore in the Dojo which I had no knowledge of then but that eventually would split the former Shoreikan Dojo into two opposing Goju schools; one group aligned with Kimo Wall in Kodokan, the other aligned with Kow Loon Ong in Chi-I-Do. Those caught in the middle got lost to time, drifted off to other schools, or came back into one or the other fold when the dust settled. But in the meantime, the Ochoa Dojo became the unfortunate battleground for opposing views of all sorts, political and personal. In this disheartening scenario, I learned I was to be a father and so I had other things on my mind, not the least of them was getting a job. I had been part-timing as a house painter, but with my new job at an Ad agency all thoughts of returning got complicated, there was no Ochoa Dojo when I tried to get back two years later. Eventually, two of the sensei went to the United States to study Quiropractics, and the third, Tony Sensei began touring with a latin jazz group as a conga player (Yes, the congas). After graduating Gusi Sensei remained stateside and, I believe, ran a small dojo, not formally attached with any given school. EfraĆ­n returned and set up a private practice as quiropractor and definitely left karate forever. Tony in time went into business setting up stage and sound systems, and finally a party rentals and supply company. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Just what did I do in those years outside the Dojo in terms of karate?

At first it was a relief to be away from those grueling two-hours, three to four times a week. I'd been at it for 4 years. I was a green belt, brown point, and knew all of one classic kata, Saifa. The only good point in my favor , karate wise, was that you could punch and kick me bonkers and I would survive. The training was that hard. But little else. The truth is, I missed the dojo and tried to keep up my individual practice drills, but it was hard, techniques started slipping from my memmory, kumites with invisible opponents were at best a form of kata. Seen from the present I see that although I had years in Goju much of what I learned was fading like a summer suntan in winter. When I relented and tried to get back there was no dojo, it had morphed into other locales that proved too far away to reach if not by car which I've never had. But truth be told again, I didn't try hard enough. I had always been outside the dojo inner circle and had no personal contacts with those chosen few. I took to practicing with whoever let me, my style or otherwise, and took the tour of the local dojos and it was out of this bleak sojourn that I learned a few truths about my Goju versus other styles. It was a haphazard path I chose taking my clumsy green belt Goju out to the street. I had to step out of my school and style to really appreciate what little I had learned. It was another humbling experience that would eventually prepare me to return to the fold, this time with Kimo Wall.

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