To Wink or Wet the Gi
We’re working wunsu kata, my second kata and not something traditionally taught to white belt students. But class is small this evening, just three black belts, a blue, and myself. My knee still feels internally incorrect, yet somehow I can move on the tatami tonight and so I do.
Hanshi explains the circumstances: “You learn your kata in order, you learn them because they all work off of one another, and you don’t learn a new kata before ‘approval’ of the previous katas. But sometimes, you can be taught the next kata before you have tested for the previous one and that’s what we’re going to do tonight.” He’s talking to me, since everyone else in the dojo outranks me bigtime.
We work the form, which has a blueprint that looks like a horizon with 5 equally angled lines coming off of it. From these 5 angles, we ultimately fight off 11 imaginary attackers in 38 moves. After the bow, seisho, and yoi (beginning stances), we do the mudra—in this case, a triangle that means mind, body, spirit. The first move whacks someone in the temple with a hammer fist. We call wunsu kata the strong arm kata because almost all the movements require the best effort with our arms, total precision and strength.
He’s coaching us through it step by step, though it all seems to fly over my head. There are outside knuckle fists and dragon fists and some funky single finger fist and even an over the head body toss—all of this very new to me—but I follow as best I can and give myself permission to hold one move, let the black belts go ahead as I watch them, then imitate their movements as best I can. As with shino kata, there are a million things to perfect in this short form and I’m already wowed and motivated just because everyone else is doing them so beautifully.
“And here’s the catch,” Hanshi says. He’s talking to me but he’s saying this in front of everyone. “I’m going to teach you this form and that’s an honor, that’s a compliment because it means that you’re ready even though you haven’t tested out of white belt yet. The flipside is that I expect you to test with this for your yellow belt as well and I expect you to do this because you can do it.”
We’re standing in a left front stance with a reverse punch aimed at the solar plexus as he paces in front of us and says this and basically I’m so excited I want to pee. I want to run and jump and give him a big bear hug. I’m crawlin g with energy beneath my skin, smiling and trying not to start squealing in a very non-karate-pitch and humiliate us all.
And what do I do with this energy? How does it make its escape?
No. I do not pee.
There he is, standing right in front of me, giving me the best compliment ever, and what do I effing do because if I don’t do something I actually will pee? I WINK. Yes. I wink at my very serious teacher in this very serious moment and I think what I was trying to say is THANK YOU but somehow, it came out like that.
Hanshi pauses for a millisecond in his speech, tucks his chin toward his chest, then continues. Embarassed, I immediately start pretending that I have something stuck in my eye. It’s stupid, but I do this and I keep doing this until I become convinced that he will believe I did not wink at him, rather, that I genuinely have to attend to my eye.
And on the way home? I laugh for the first time in a good week. The best compliment and the best relief all in one evening. Could I ask for more?