Choppy Seas

If I were to choose an image that best depicts my "voyage" in Goju Ryu Karate it is a lone skiff in the rough seas between the small isles that were the dojos I practiced in. In other words, I had to rough it alone with whatever I could remember from my last dojo. This is not to say that the dojo was not important, but that it was mostly, as is now, a solo flight.

A teacher once told me that he happened upon a small Buddhist retreat in Central America where he was invited to stay for a spell. When they learned that he was a sensei they asked if he could teach them some karate. He complied, starting them off with the standard syllabus as if he were teaching in his old dojo. He had only been able to teach them some very basic fundamentals, Sanchin and the beginner kata when he had to leave. Years passed and when he had occasion to visit the country again he looked up the retreat out of curiosity. He found them still practicing the little that he taught them, religiously. The forms had morphed into something vaguely resembling what he taught them ... but oh what kime!

A little can go a long way if practiced often and well. Unless one has a personal sensei, dojo practice is an essential part of one's formation as a karateca. But it is not an absolute, it is not indispensable in what concerns the inner core of the martial arts. The risk always in practicing alone is that you have no one seeing you from the outside and you can stray from the form too much. Luckily, I was a brown belt when I left the Violeta Dojo and had in me a good 10 years of dojo practice. But still it was hard not having someone look at my kata or to even look at the kata of others. Remember this was way, way before YouTube.

The reasons for this solo journey were many, I had a lot on my plate with my sons, a sick mother, and the fact that I had to hold down two jobs sometimes to make ends meet. But there was also the fact that dojo politics kept splitting the group and I lost touch with the people that could possibly tell me where to go and practice Goju. The people I could approach were nowhere to be found (I later knew that some had gone to New York to practice under Kow Loon Ong, others to the interior of the Island, etc.)

So I practiced whenever I could and wherever I could. Why? Because somehow the dojo lived on in me. It had become an essential part of what I was. Whether I practiced in a dojo or not, I was still a karateca. That much I knew, in many subtle ways karate had changed who I was, how I walked in and saw life. I don't know if I was a better karateca for it or not, these were just the cards I was dealt. There is a code that seeps into your skin.

Went through two relationships, the death of my mother, and three books of poetry before I found myself again in a dojo, tightening a white belt (again) over my gi.

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