Somewhere I have a purple belt. Its not really a good shade. More of a turdmuckledydone purple. I wouldn't wear it, even if I found it, because its been so long that I forgot how to tie it.
The whole knot-structure-thing of your Karate belt is sort of important and means something. I used to be real good at the belt-tying. But its been a long time and I don't remember.
I was good at the kicks, too. And flexible. The best thing about Karate, aside from the whole wailing on people for fun and profit aspect, is the stretching. I used to be able to stand with my back against the wall and lift my leg straight up (with help) to touch my toe to the wall behind my ears. That was a long time ago, too.
I took Tae-Kwon-Do for a semester in college. The little bantam rooster who taught the class was really interesting. He used to strut around with his chest stuck out so far I was afraid he was going to crack a rib. And the hair helmet - ooohh golly. It was bad.
We spent the semester striding purposefully up and down the gym floor. Step. Punch. Step. Punch. Step. Punch. I didn't learn a lot, but the things I did learn will no doubt come in handy if I am ever attacked by the cast of West Side Story.
After that, I started taking Kenpo Karate at the YMCA. Sharkey was the instructor. He was an odd little man. (That seems to be a running theme for Karate instructors.) He was good though, and I paid this man to beat me up on a semi-weekly basis. You know all those blocks that you spend hours working on - blocking kicks, blocking punches, blocking anonymous phone numbers? Well. Yeah. They work, but you're still getting hit. Just not in the spot the attacker was originally aiming for. My shins and forearms were continually decorated with incredibly deep and colorful bruises. I appeared to have tie-dyed appendages.
Karate was great exercise with Sharkey. He made ya work for it. Image doing aerobics while somebody punches you in the gut.
I can't remember why I stopped going.
A couple of years later, E. and I (remember E.?) decided to take Karate classes together. We could only find one guy in town who was teaching at the time. His name was Jessie. He taught at the oh-so-appropriately-named Barnyard Academy. E. and I and her 17 year old son signed up for lessons. We thought we were signing up for a class. We weren't.
Jesse would meet us at the Academy/Barn and worked with the three of us. He taught Brazilian Ju-Jit-Zu. Have you seen the Ultimate Fighting Championship? That's the stuff. Jesse would wax eloquent, sort of, about "shoot fighting" and "UFC" and his big plans for bringing the competitions to our fair city. We would smile wanly and nod.
He taught us some pretty neat stuff. We stuck with it for a while, then E.'s son was the first to go. I don't think he was ever very comfortable grappling with his mother and her weirdo friend. Then E. lost interest and stopped coming. I came for a couple more lessons after she left. I was younger then. And single. And thin. Each lesson started with Jesse saying "Ok. Let's work on our ground moves. You get on the ground. I will get on top. You try to get up." I was not too bright, but I finally caught on. No more Jesse.
The best instructor I ever had was a med school student from the Caribbean. He was tall and lean and had a really cool accent. His med school was temporarily housed at the local university after hurricane Hugo wiped out their campus in the Caribbean. He worked out with Sharkey and often taught our class. He approached Karate like dancing and always had us
fight with music. I loved it.
One day he had us working on our kicks. He held a big pad out in front of him and we kicked the crap outta him as best we could. After the workout, he sat the pad aside, bowed, and said "Ahh, Miss Rachel - you kick like a MAN!" *sniff, sniff* That's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me.
The most valuable thing I learned from all this was that to defend yourself, you have to be willing to touch the other person. And it is going to hurt. The hardest thing for me to get past was my extreme dislike of being that close to someone I don't know. Perhaps this doesn't make sense, but to be effective, you have to step in close to your opponent . You have to risk getting close enough to make an impact. You cannot protect yourself from afar. That gives your opponent too much room to prepare and to plan and to build up strength. You have to be willing to get dirty. To touch somebody.
There's probably an object lesson in that. Figure it out for yourself.