Back In It

I’m moving on the tatami again and it feels fantastic. Inhale on preparation, exhale on execution. The fist will seek the centerline at the earliest possible moment. Hands and hands start and stop together, but hands and feet only stop together. Harmony of breath and movement. These are just some of the basic principles we work every time we move.

We have two visitors in class this evening who have signed up to begin as white belts. Two other karateka are at work, another had a meeting, and so class tonight is just Nate and I. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Hanshi give his opening speech about the nature of our training (art, life, science), the kinds of arts we learn (Shuri Ryu Karatedo, Shintoyoshin Kai Jui Jitsu, Kobudo), the ranking system, dojo etiquette, and a brief explanation of our lineage.

We stretch and take our time and when Hanshi’s speech is over, I’m not certain what we’ll do next. Then it dawns on me: demo time. He calls Nate and I to the front of the dojo and has us face the visitors, then stand in kibadachi. He calls out commands in Japanese, sometimes in English, and we move accordingly. Basic punches and blocks, etc. Nate and I are going full force, full speed, and sweating within minutes. Hanshi asks us to demonstrate ippon #1 and then we move straight into kata. From start to finish, he has us run every single kata in the Shuri system that we know (7), full force, full intensity, full focus, and in synch. It feels fantastic to be showcased and to get to work alongside Nate (a 2nd degree blackbelt) in such a fashion.

Next, we move on to kimenokata, the jui jitsu aspect of our training. When Hanshi has Nate and I face off, I know exactly what he’s going to have us do next. It’s his favorite trick to keep up his sleeve: Show the newcomers all our formal moves and training, and then take it to the street level with some contact and take downs. Better yet, feature the female kyu rank in the superior position of taking down the male dan rank and you’ve got a standing ovation every time. The two visitors have no idea what’s about to happen, but Nate has me in a double lapel grab and I’ve made my entry step and strike, just starting to break his balance. Hanshi calls: “Kake!” (“Execute!”) and I foot sweep Nate and get him into an arm bar in quick second. It’s all moves we’ve done again and again, but for folks who have never seen anything like it, it’s thrilling and surprising all at once.

Nate and I stand up, both victorious in our demonstration, and continue to follow Hanshi’s lead. We go through every one that we know, including a cross mount and arm locks. Two hours later, Hanshi has two new recruits, Nate and I are happy as puppies who’ve been let out to play all day, and I remember why it is I love to train so much again.

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