I {Heart} the Juka Silver

Today was one of the best days I’ve had at the dojo in months. It helps that I had a phenomenal acupuncture treatment about a week ago that I’m still benefiting from. Likewise, Saturday’s classes were challenging but not grueling. Physically, I bowed onto the tatmi in relatively good shape tonight.

For kid’s class, Hanshi really fired it up, as there are four lower ranks testing for belts on Thursday night. We worked basics, kata, and ippon for sixty minutes straight. No bullshit. The most amazing thing? My Juka Silver heavyweight gi. Lord help me, why did I wait so long to get one? (Oh wait, it was $142, that’s why!) This thing ROCKS! I can hear myself moving, feel the wind and weight of it, and every move I make is punctuated by the sharp lines of the gi fabric (canvas). Even as the other blue belt and I worked kata in kid’s class, Hanshi leaned in my ear during one stance he had us hold, and whispered, “Nice gi. Looking sharp!”

During Tai Chi class, I bowed out to walk the creek walk in downtown Tinyville (about a mile and a half), leaving my friend “Sarah,” to fend for herself as a new visitor at the dojo. She watched kid’s class and participated in Tai Chi.

By the time I got back to the dojo an hour later for adult class, she was eager to see more karate and likewise impressed with Hanshi’s knowledge, sense of humor, and dynamic personality. Sarah, as we’ll call her, is my friend from the Montessori School. She’s my age and she’s also a Capricorn (this matters: we’re both totally obsesses with efficiency, productivity, and leading meaningful lives) and she’s a kickass teacher. She’s a great friend and finally, we’re the same age and height, and after months of hearing me talk about the dojo, she called me up this week and asked to visit classes.

We bowed in for adult class and Hanshi asked Nate to lead us in warm ups while he talked to Sarah about the history of our style, Okinawan Shuri Ryu Karatedo. He described the belt and color system, the importance of tradition and classical training, and most of all, he told her that we are a mind-centered school where the learning is whole and balance by body and spirit. For the rest of the class, he had us work basic punches, blocks, and kicks from a braced horse stance. Then we did moving basics from one end of the dojo to the other. Finally, we concluded with every kata we’ve learned to date (I did as many as I knew, then the higher ranks continued without me for Basa Dai).

All of this was for Sarah’s benefit, but also to show Hanshi where we’re each at with our basics. As he was giving a speech about forms in ippon kumite kata, he interjected a sentence almost in a stage whisper my direction, though completely audible and in front of everyone, where he said, “And you. I like you’re technique. It looks good tonight.”

This is the Hanshi that I know. A sharp-focused, honorable teacher whose praise is sparce but always worth its weight in gold. This is the art that I fell in love with. Traditional movements, timing of hands and feet, spirited kiai’s and group training. These are, almost, the knees I used to have. A karateka can only hope and keep trying. Hope and keep trying.

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