Fade to Black

Don’t use the karategis anymore. They hang together like ghosts in the closet. Don’t use the obi either.

At a 45ยบ angle, the invisible dojo lies over the living room floor. Silently at night in darkness I do the Goju katas as I was taught, in the background Pandora plays selections from the Buddha Bells channel.

The guy to the left in this old faded photo from the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s is my last karate sensei long before I knew him, when barely an adolescent, when he  practiced Isshinryu karate at a local military base, Buchanan. More than 50 years have passed. Because time does pass. And not in vain.

Don’t know if I do the katas right anymore, there is no mirror to correct myself. There is no one else telling me to slow down or turn this way or that. It is only me, my head, my body that tries to teach itself. Feeling my way through the katas, feeling them change, feeling myself change, but

not knowing exactly how. It is all feeling, breathing, and stepping. The music plays on.

A faded photo lost to time, barely discernible. Creased and white and threadbare as a sensei’s obi. Sai to neck, cat stance. Sensei Acosta has been practicing karate since his early teens. Last time I saw him in the dojo he was sipping lukewarm green tea and holding  his bamboo stick. Last time I saw him on the street he was smoking a sad cigarette and sipping black coffee. He does Thai massage. He gets by. He says he no longer goes to dojo. He says. Mean, motherfucking samurai.

Some still practice. Some still go to dojo. Some now have garden dojo like the old Okinawa teachers. All that is fine. Some only sweat when they go to a seminar every two years. Some tell old dojo yarns across a table full of beer bottles. Some look at their old dojo photos and reminisce. All this is fine. Everyone has paid their dues.

But Karate goes underground for some. I don’t do kumite anymore. Just the katas like an endless dream. Been years since I touched my toes, ages since I felt a blow. Yet the body moves in tandem with the kata in a darkened room, and somewhere in the pot belly something tenses then relaxes in Sanchin. Practice for that one sure blow or kick. Do the kata of hidden intentions. There is no time for fancy footwork. Laugh at myself as I slip further away from any hope of perfection. The music plays on.

Fade to black.