It’s all Goju to me

After the first few months in Jaime Acosta’s Chi-I-Do dojo in Santurce I began to get a proper perspective about the evolution of my old Ochoa group through the different Goju schools (Toguchi―Kimo―Kayo) which I heretofore was oblivious. I never fully grasped the differences, to the point of not even remembering the different insignias. It was basically, as I’ve said before, a Shoreikan style of Goju marked by Toguchi’s particular syllabus and training format.

I learned that most of the karatecas I knew were now in the Chi-I-Do organization, with the exception of Dionisio Pérez who was still practicing in Kimo Wall’s Kodokan school close by. Yet even most of his students had migrated to Chi-I-Do, primarily in the main Chi-I-Do dojo in Las Cumbres. It was all very confusing. On the floor it was all the same to me, give and take a few kumites, give and take a few katas.

The dojo had an extremely small student body stretching from five to twenty. It was precarious financially; you could neither grow because of the space nor pay the rent to the dance school with so few paying students. It forced the Sensei to give class to children and adults together, which is not always wise. The Sensei took the plunge and moved to yet another dance school recently opened that was closer to my house. I had never been a walking distance from a dojo and it was short-lived. But while we were in Santurce we did receive visitors from Las Cumbres and among them I saw familiar faces from the Ochoa years. The move to the new dance school facilities did not bring along with it the desired hike in registration. It had a lot of space but horrible parking options. We were forced to return to Santurce where I finally got my brown and black belt.

The school became better, tighter, more disciplined, but it was made up of old students that found their way back to the dojo now in their 30’s and 40’s. Young students were scarce. The few that came were forced by parents and these stayed but a short time before they got “bored” and dropped out. The computer game raised generations did not have the patience for traditional karate. Raised in the fast and furious pace and logic of electronic gaming, they had more short term obsessions than discipline. The only two young people, in their late teens, were Pablo, a black belt (whose mother was also a black belt) and Brian who took the black belt with me and my sister Rosa. These two would years later eventually drop out. Pablo, whose mother owned a small supermarket, left for studies and eventually ended up in his mother’s business. It was during this time that I met Ángel Santana, a senior black belt from the Ochoa years that practiced out of Las Cumbres. I hadn’t met him then because he practiced in the University dojo in those years. I realized that if I had remained in karate I would be where he was, although not technically perhaps (he is really good).

Circumstance finally forced Jaime Acosta to merge his small dojo with La Cumbres, which was, for me, way out in the sticks. The first day there Jaime Sensei sat us in a circle with the Las Cumbres instructors and black belts. They looked at us with disdain, amusement, and curiosity. I finally went back into a full-scale dojo with history, a history I had no part of, with its own anecdotes, players, myths, and “secrets.” All of a sudden I felt old; I shivered less with anticipation than with anxiety. I felt out of it before I began.

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