As I was walking down the street after work, in that final stretch of pavement to my house, I ran into an old dojo friend. I spied her from afar, in the midst of a group of people in front of a local political organization. As I neared the group she turned to go up a flight of stairs. I called out her name. She turned and swiftly ran down the stairs. We embraced in the joy of finding each other out of sheer happenstance. She had spied me too but could only comment to someone nearby that the manner of walking of that guy up the street reminded her of an old karate buddy. We laughed. We exchanged the usual karate courtesies and quickly asked about each other’s practice, the thread that binds.
She now practices with a few other “old” dojo mates in a public park close to the beach in a part of San Juan called Ocean Park.
She is an old Kimo Wall alumnus, getting her black belt in the Violeta Dojo in the ‘80’s. I had known her since my university years in the late sixties and early seventies, but just as a campus activist. Although we had friends in common, it wasn’t until we practiced together in the dojo that we became friends; the thread that binds.
Then we met again some fifteen years later in the Las Cumbres dojo where we finally got to know each other well. She was and is far my superior in technique, endurance, and commitment. We practiced often and practiced hard … the thread that binds.
It was surprising how without having talked about it we had reached the same lifestyle conclusions regarding the practice of karate. We have practically no knowledge of each other’s lives except for the surface details, and yet we feel a tie that supersedes these limitations and forges a unique bond: more than thirty years of practicing in the same style of karate. This has its particular glue and vision shared. We probably have more in common than we suspect.
This is not the only experience I’ve had of this nature, just the most recent. And it confirms a belief I have of the transcendence of practicing the martial arts. It is truly a lifestyle. It is truly a way of seeing the world that transcends the kata and yet resides at the very core of the kata.
I experience it in no other of my endeavors, except maybe for poetry.
It is the thread that binds.