Old Dogs, New Tricks

"...learning a different martial art is quite like learning a new language."
Dan Djurdjevic
Dan wrote a very interesting post on his blog (link above) riffing on a question I posed to him. It basically had to do with the difficulties in learning other martial arts beyond one's original or primary martial experience. It is something I have had to deal with and, in my case, a situation which I was not able to overcome at all. The reasons are many but all point to a fact I had to face even in learning the basic Goju syllabus. I have a hard time learning anything at all.

This fact became more obvious when I returned to dojo practice for the third time with Jaime Acosta Sensei. When I left Kimo Wall's Kodokan school I was a senior brown belt, yet in the intervening years I only practiced Sanchin, Tensho and a few of the basic Kihon katas. Coupled with the fact of my age, the physical conditioning drills and the katas presented a problem of overcoming both pain and the problem of retaining the sequential order of the katas I was striving to learn. I hated to be reminded of how dumb I really was. Plus youth could not carry me over as it once did.

Everything was more or less ok until I had to learn the classic Goju kata syllabus. I was becoming dyslexic in my "adulthood." Everything took longer to learn and cement in my brain. I neither fulfilled mine or others' expectations about my return. I felt a disgrace to the Ochoa class of '74. I no longer mentioned my karate past and tried to keep a very low dojo profile.

I had to forget the old Jorge and familiarize myself with this "new"gray'haired blubbery bastard Jorge that I had unknowingly become. Karate is a continuous rediscovering where you are in the cosmic scheme of things in a very gut level sort of way. No longer could I easily do a lotus positition and raise and swing myself on my fingertips. Aches and pains arose that stayed for weeks on end. My old nemesis, the 10 step push-up, finally vanquished me forever. My feet went to sleep while in zazen, from which I could no longer leap to a shiko dachi but rather groan my way painfully upright, praying I would not faint in the process.

Learning Goju anew was in effect like learning a new language, one I thought I knew but was not more fluent than a tourist fingering his pocket dictionary of pet phrases. So it was with a wisdom born of failure that I read Dan's post, knowing full well that I could no more learn any other martial art than sing in the opera.

I had my hands full learning Goju. I had to learn who I was and what I was willing to sacrifice, which was some shaky point between my dreams and my shortcomings.

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