Chapter 26

23 Oct

Shotokan Karate Part Two: How bad it can be

My brother and I dress up in our uniforms and tie our belts as we prepare for class. I show up my standard 15 minutes early as I do for any appointment, only to find no one has shown up yet. Wonderful.

I wait, and right at the time class is supposed to start Sensei finally arrives. His vehicle of choice is a shiny black BMW SUV. I don’t know what Sensei’s other job is, but he must be raking it in.

He lets us in, and we get to talking. He asks about my previous martial art experiences, and I tell him. He was interested in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He says, “Oh good, I won’t haf to show yuh prezhure points!” I think he misunderstood, so I try to explain what BJJ is, and that it is different. Sensei replies “I know whut Ji Jitsu iz.” Ouch. Sensei walks off to the back room for whatever reason, and I take a closer look at the dojo. I figure if I’m going to be spending the next year of my life here, I should be well oriented with my surroundings.

Along the wall are flags for America, Japan, and Costa rica (Or, what I assumed to be the Costa Rican flag). I recognized it to be standard fare, and continue my visual appraisal. Adjacent to the flags are pictures of some of his former black belts. One is a very beefy, muscley looking fellow, and another one is a scrawnier glasses man (considering who he was standing next to, he could’ve been normal for all I know). There is a clock surrounded by Japanese wood paintings. Along the glass which faces the parking lot, there are palm trees along the wall. I assume them to be for ambiance. Finally, resting next to the plants, is the CD player. He plays some smooth jazz, and my brother and I begin stretching.

About 5 minutes after class was supposed to start, more students began to pour in. I didn’t recognize any of them; maybe I came in after they had already left. They range in the ages from 4 to 10. Perhaps I didn’t see them last time because it was past their bed times.

At about 10 minutes after class was supposed to start old Japanese lady showed up. I will refer to her as Ginsu from now on. She walks in with her daughter, who is about 12/13, and is also a black belt. I sigh in my mind. Even I know that a kid black belt is a bad, horrible, crappy sign.

My sigh finds itself in the company of more sighs as two more blackbelt children walk in; one is short and portly, with a Beatle’s style haircut, while the other is tall and pimply, with neon blue braces. They look 10 and 11 respectively.

We bow in, and there is no warm up. Sensei is not wearing a shirt underneath his uniform, so I can see his grey chest hair and man cleavage. Lovely.

We begin by practicing our punches from Zenkutsudachi, then reverse punches from Zenkutsudachi. I do fairly well, or atleast I assume so, because the class is deathly silent. Sensei ninjas behind me and screams “Werr are te kiahs!?”. Sufficiently bewildered, I throw one crappy punch. This manages to be during the only time Sensei pays attention to me.

He looks at me, addresses me by my brothers name, and tells me to punch better. Wonderful.

After that we move on to kicks. I still have some manner of skill from the old kickboxing classes, so I feel confident my kicks will be impressive. We are told to throw Maegiri’s. I have no idea what the hell that is, so I watch the other kids to see what they do.

“[Brother’s name]! Maegiri!”

My little brother had been behind him, so he didn’t see his hesitation. I’m a little pissed off because he’s never told me what a maegiri is, but I realize now that maegiri means front kick. I throw my best front kick, and land in Zenkutsudachi, feeling proud.

“No! Wrong!”

Well god damn it. I should’ve expected that the style difference would be evident, but this man is getting on my ass without having shown me anything. Maybe he expects a certain level of understanding from a jiu jitsu man. Sensei shows me his kick, which, to be frank, isn’t that hot. He can’t kick above thigh high, and when he kicks, he grabs the bottom of his thigh for some reason. I assume he has some kind of injury or something, because he looks silly. Anyway, it’s more of a snap than a push like I was used to, and it hit with the balls of the feet.

After that, we do a combo of Punch, reverse punch, front kick. I throw a 1-2 front kick, and am immediately told I’m doing it wrong. Sensei shows me his exaggerated version, where he makes dramatic pauses between each punch and kick. I realize it’s less of a combination than just movements that happen to be next to each other. Sensei then gets angry that there aren’t enough kiai’s.

After all this, it’s kata time. My brother and I are just told to follow along. I consider myself a professional kata learner by this point, and I catch on quickly. By the 2nd go through, I have mastered the first form. I believe it was called Taikyoku Shodan.

After the kata is over, we bow, and class is finished. Except sensei asks me to see him back in the office. I’m guessing maybe dad forgot to give him the check last time, or something like that.

It turned out to be quite the opposite. Sensei sat me down for a serious discussion. He felt that his dojo didn’t have enough black belts teaching. He told me he saw I had skill, and that he wanted to promote me as fast as possible to black belt so I could teach. He sums this up with wanting me to sign some kind of contract saying that as long as I live and practice, I’ll teach in his dojo. I tell him that I need to talk to my parents first before I sign anything. “Ok, juss mack shurr it get done!”

I leave, and my brother and I both sigh. One down, 364 to go.

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