I want to learn how to break blocks with my hands so badly. Last week I promised my sister that I’d go see my nephew’s karate presentation or ceremony, whatever, I went, but come on, why do you have to put on a show for every childhood activity? Can’t you just sign your kids up for something without having to make up some ridiculous pageant, sending out invites to your relatives, “Come over to the dojo to watch Ricky’s karate exhibition!”
And I don’t want to rag on a bunch of little kids, it’s too easy, everyone sucks at everything when they’re a little kid. I’m not taking a train forty-five minutes out of my way with the expectation that I’m going to be a witness to any serious martial arts. But everything that took place, I’m left asking, why set the bar so low?
It’s like they take turns chopping blocks behind the sensei, and dude, seriously, you want to be called sensei in front of all these strangers? Doesn’t that make you feel a little silly? Because, what’s stopping me front renting out my own storefront and putting on my own authentic looking white karate costume? And this sensei, he held up pieces of what had to have been balsa wood.
“Hiyah!” each little kid screamed out as he kicked it in half. Amidst all of that cheering, all of that, “Go Johnny!” and, “Thattagirl Kate!” I’m thinking, isn’t anybody else going to call bullshit here? I kept my mouth shut, you know, it’s not my kid up there, I’m not the one forking over thirty-five bucks a week so the sensei can fool a bunch of adults into thinking that their kids can break through wood. Wasn’t anybody else a little suspicious of how clean those break marks were?
But man, if I could find a serious karate studio, it wouldn’t be a studio, it would have to be like under a bridge somewhere, that’s where you’d find a real sensei, someone that the rest of the world totally disregards, only I’d be able to see his real talent. He’d make me do a bunch of these nonsensical chores, just like in Karate Kid, but even more tedious, and I wouldn’t have the benefit of a training montage to help speed things up.
And I wouldn’t ask, “When are we going to break some bricks? When are you going to train me to turn my chop into a piece of iron?” because I know he’d look at me and respond with some abstract proverb that wouldn’t make much sense just by listening to the words, but if I could get past what I thought the message was, I’d see underneath, these hidden layers of meaning, everything telling me, patience, in order to break bricks, we must first break … and it would be something, metaphorical, I’m not too good with the abstract, I just want to crush something, I want to feel those boards snap underneath my fingers, and I wouldn’t even say, “Hiya!” it would be something primal, something ancient, like, “Aaaahhhhhh!” I don’t exactly, and trying to spell it out here isn’t really getting the same meaning across.
But yeah, I’m so busy, with work, with my life, I don’t know if I have it in me even to go about looking for such a teacher. There are so many studios around, dojos, senseis, masters, I wouldn’t know where to begin. One time when I was in the fourth grade, I remember this one classmate, it was like three years past that phase where everybody in the class signed up for the same karate class, most everyone else had dropped out, but this kid, I don’t know, he stuck with it, karate lessons every week.
And everybody always used to make fun of him, we’d be playing basketball or baseball and he’d be like, “I can’t come to basketball. I take karate classes,” and everyone would laugh, talking about how the sensei didn’t look like a real karate teacher. I remember he gave a defense one time, he told us that, when looking for a karate teacher, his dad went to this one place and offered the guy a thousand dollars to buy his son a black belt. The teacher gladly said yes, to which the dad replied, “Actually, I think I’m going to keep looking around.” And finally he found a dojo where they refused to take his money, the sensei said something like, “I’d be happy to take your money, but your son must earn the black belt.” And that’s where he took his lessons.
And we all just started cracking up, this one kid Anthony got in his face and said, “That’s not true, nobody’s dad would go out and say that. You just have to take karate because your parents love having you out of the house every week!” and everybody kept pointing and laughing, surrounding him and giving him little punches on the arm, “Go ahead karate boy! Defend yourself!” and he sat there, he just took it, he didn’t know anything about karate, that dojo was like a martial arts themed daycare for fourth graders.