Sunday, November 04, 2007

Karate Lessons


These are two photos taken by my grandfather of my Karate class in, I think, second grade (could possibly have been younger). Half of me is just barely visible on the left hand side of one photo. On the other photo I'm in the background behind the two instructors.

This was of course right during the time when "The Karate Kid" movie had just been released, and every young boy was pleading with his parents for Karate lessons.

I was actually not allowed see "The Karate Kid" at the time. (I wasn't allowed to see a lot of stuff as a kid). I didn't see the movie until about 5th grade.

Nevertheless I was thoroughly infected with the Karate craze that had swept the playgrounds and captured the heart of all my male classmates. My parents eventually gave into my pleadings and signed me up for Karate.

Like a lot of young boys, I secretly believed that inside me was one of the greatest action heros, and was lacking only in opportunity to display my skills. These Karate lessons firmly put that fantasy to rest. Like my experiences doing gymnastics or dancing or anything requiring coordination, I couldn't do anything right in this class.

Coordination aside, my biggest problem was just remembering all the moves. The instructor would demonstrate this long sequence of moves we were supposed to act out with our partners. I'd get about two or three moves into it, and then forget the rest.

For some reason I was the only one who had this problem. And in retrospect, since I have such a great memory for obscure historical facts and comic book characters, I'm not sure why I couldn't remember a sequence of moves, but I couldn't. (I could never remember anything from my science classes either. It must have something to do with the way my brain is wired).

Then I would begin to get a reputation as the kid who could never remember the moves. Other kids would say things like, "Look, I'm really tired to day. I don't want to have to tell you all the moves again tonight." Or instead of helping me remember the moves, sometimes they would just call out, "Sensei, he's stuck again."

(Our Sensei, by the way, in contrast to the soft smiling woman I was used to for elementary school teachers, was not always the most patient person with children.)

Also I had a tendency to daydream in class, often without even realizing I was doing it. More than once I saw my teacher glaring at me, and then suddenly realized everyone else but me had already assumed the fighting position, and I was off in outer-space somewhere.

For several weeks during this class we were supposed to be working on this long elaborate sequence of moves which we would use when fighting several guys at once. We were supposed to be doing it as homework, and from time to time my mother would remind me I was supposed to be doing it, at which point I would respond (partly truthfully) that if I couldn't remember the moves how was I supposed to practice it?

Then came the day when we were supposed to display the whole thing in class. When it was my turn I was terrified at the idea of telling the teacher I hadn't memorized it yet, and burst into tears instead. I was embarrased to find myself crying, and he was almost as embarrased as I was, and the performance was temporarily forgotten. (He did reprimand me later though).

The other thing that sticks out in my mind from these Karate lessons was when we were practicing sparing one day, and I actually beat the Sensei. (A huge boost to my self-confidence. It never even occured to me that he might have let me win until I reached adult hood). Obviously the weight difference would have made any real fight between us painfully one sided, but in sparing we were forbidden any actual physical contact, and simply pretended to hit the other person. I actually believed at the time that I was really unpredictable enough to take him off gaurd several times and earn enough points to win the match.

Link of the Day
Waterboarding: A Tortured History

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