The sound of one hand clapping
I now train alone. Solo. I slowly diagrammed the available space in my very small living room and traced the trajectory of every kata in my Goju syllabus accordingly. It wasn’t easy and it took me some time before I was able to memorize my surroundings to the point where I could forget about them safely and not end up tripping over a rocking chair and flying headlong into my bookcase. But it wasn’t always so.
There was a time towards the end of my dojo experience when I had to allow an hour and a half to make the trek that involved taking a bus to the end of the line and then walking to a plaza to board a “pisicorre” (which is a local mode of transportation to the outer barrios), whose name literally means “step and run.” This was in late afternoons on weekdays and mornings on Saturday. I was able to do this because I was then working freelance. The problem always was hitching a ride back after 9pm when there was no viable public transportation. It was a necessary madness. All this stage transpired in my early 50’s. Life, if anything, was getting harder by the year. Serious injuries distanced me from practice (Terrazzo Tile Dojo) and eventually I had to leave freelancing and take my old “day job” back.
That was the end of those late afternoon treks, there was just no way I could make it back to dojo training even if I wanted to. In the intervening years I tried mixing practice in other small Goju dojos nearer my home but the experience proved to be not worth the effort. It was then I tried to practice at home in an outside terrace. I would do the full class, imagining I was in a dojo, the whole enchilada. I knew of the dangers of solo training and, sure enough, trying to simulate the energy of a full dojo alone in a darkened terrace brought problems of energy control. I didn’t have the protection of my fellow karateca’s energy fields around me. My energy flew around loose in the air and sometimes came down on me like a wallop from a 10th Dan hanshi.
I realized I could not go back to formal dojo training. The thought of giving up the practice of karate (once again) was not an option. I didn’t come so far and through so much shit to now let it all go to hell like so much else in my life. I had made too big an investment. Karate was as intrinsically threaded to my sense of self as writing is and has been. Surfing through the net and seeing others in similar predicaments and others who complemented their dojo practice with their own small home dojo setups, I slowly began considering practicing alone, if just to keep my hand warm, stay in the game so to speak.
And like I said, it wasn’t easy. In time all karatecas see that their practice slowly curves inward as a natural evolution from their young “outward” experience. Then an old sensei said, “Jorge, you’ve been in this a long time, this is just the next step.” This blog, my YouTube videos, it all came from this solo experience. I don’t miss the dojo much, although I appreciate the years and friendships, fully aware that without this foundation what I do now would not be remotely possible. I know now that I cannot go back to the old dojo because my dojo is right here, in this same space where I write this.
So now it all boils down to me. Alone I must do honor to my style of karate, to my teachers, and all whom I have practiced with. I must generate this commitment within myself. All the years and sweat, faces, and memories whir around me as I do kata in my living room dojo.
Rooted to the floor, it dances in my fingertips.