When I started in the Violeta Dojo I was in my early thirties, had two very young boys, and was at the onset of a marital crisis. Going to the dojo three times a week wasn’t going to help much. Yet I needed the grind and sweat, the extremeness of it to break the placidness of the everyday. I worked in a small, dark office translating legal opinions of the court to English. This is a painstaking, lonely, and tiring job. It was a far cry from my previous work at an ad agency where producing TV and radio spots for retail accounts at least got me out of the office for most of the day and sometimes part of the evening. Karate was one of the very few things in my life where I saw results and that had any sort of meaningful structure. At the time it seemed a reasonable alternative to going mad or ending up sprawled drunk in a blind alley. That was the consensus of all concerned: go back to the dojo and work it out through the kata, and the 10-step pushup (some things never change).
So much for spiritual enlightenment. I was a mess so I thought I’d throw Goju into the mix and see what happened. I’d get to dojo running from work, change into my fucked up old gi and rinse my feet (courtesy requirement), then enter to warm up, do my hojo-undo. That was a change. Kimo had the whole array lined in the back of the dojo and after teaching you the basics, would prescribe a routine suited to your needs and ability. The chi-ishi was what he’d start you out with. Kimo stressed this sort of training but only after he was certain you had the physical preparedness for it. At the beginning you did it under the supervision of a senior student or Kimo himself.
I slowly realized that I was more a white belt than green belt. Even though I knew the steps in my kata I was still a greenhorn. I knew nothing. Kimo tore apart my Gekisai, undid my Saifa, retooled my Sanchin.
Kimo told the story of how a black belt through sweat, use, and time started to fade, become white; and how a white belt through the same process darkened in time. The color of a belt just says at what stage of undoing you’re at.
I began my undoing.