Cruising with a Samurai

I don't know how it was that I found myself one day hitching a ride to the Violeta Dojo with Jaime Acosta sensei. It was so long ago that all the collateral reasons have faded to just that fact of being in a car going to Old San Juan. It was the 80's and there was a lot of political turmoil on the Island and me and the sensei were on the wrong end of the political landscape of the times. I have left out the political realities that hovered in the background of my karate experience because I believe it would distract too much from the purpose of the blog and would prove meaningless to all but a few of us who lived it, and also, because in retrospect it was a very subjective view. But having said this, being in a car with a black dude with afro, on the Old San Juan boulevard that passed close to the hottest criminal and drug spot in San Juan was a situation rife with possible trouble and it happened. We were pulled over by the police.

At the time the police had a special squad they called (loosely translated) "Impact San Juan." The idea was to "impact" crime in the streets. What they really did was intimidate anyone who just happened to cross their path, especially if they were young. I had had a previous run-in with them a few years before when my then wife wrongly turned into a one-way street. They had yanked us out of our Volkswagen, rammed us against a nearby building and held us at gunpoint, whacking my ribs with batons as I protested them to leave my wife alone. The two friends visiting us from New York looked on in terror. So it was with a certain knowing uneasiness that I spied them alighting from their Land Rovers, pointing rifles as Jaime sensei pulled over to the curb.

True to form, they slammed us against the car, hand on head, spread-eagled, padded us down and wheeled us around. Then they questioned. We answered the necessary, steering clear of mentioning karate. I spoke nervously about visiting a friend at a local restaurant, while Jaime glared silently. I thought all the while that they moved around us that they had no idea what the skinny black dude was or what he could do. I prayed that Jaime would remain still. I prayed that the police would make no move to strike him, for I feared all hell would break loose, for Jaime had the stillness of the eternal second before battle. I saw his eyes follow their every move, calculating where he could do the most harm. I saw all this and found myself falling into that same state of minute assessments of intent and where the flow of violence would lead after the spark. They let us go.

We spoke not a word as we donned our gis. There was nothing to say. Practice of the kata awaited and we tread slowly onto the dojo floor.

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