I have just about a whole month at home this March and I decided to spend some time repairing my brain and body, which can best be descriped through metaphors that include Rufflles potato chips. By that I mean, I feel crinkled and unhealthy and in bad need of some couch time…and by couch I mean a therapists’ couch. So I’m going to therapy to talk to my inner child, doing yoga, recording a new album, pretending I love vegetables, and taking classes in this and that.
Tonight, I went to a Shotokan class (an Okanowan martial art) at the same place I’ve been doing yoga. Now, I grew up in a Dojo (a karate studio). If you spent any time in the 90′s around Kendall (a part of Miami, FL) then you might remember me as the idiot/show off riding his unicycle the 2.5 miles to Karate classes 3 times a week. When I was seven, I had a crush on my brother’s best friend. She rode a unicycle and in a truly genuine be you/fuck you moment I begged my parents for one and then spent years dreaming of clown college.
My first Sensei never had any faith in me and reminded me of that everytime I passed my belt test. White to yellow, green to blue, and blue to purple. My first pride gear was given to me with skepticism and a sense of impending doom. I quit the week of my black belt test six years later. I had my reasons. Since then, I’ve joined and left many more martial arts endeavours and have had my share of Sensei stylings. I’ve had stern Senseis, friendly Senseis, and ROTC Senseis that liked to break the ice with some good ole fashion Racism and Homophobia. He answered the phone saying “God is Awesome at American Black Belt Academy”. That’s strip mall martial arts in Georgia.
When I walked in to class today, I felt pretty confident. Shotokan is really similar to the style I took growing up, so I figured I had some “wowing” in my future. Wow was right. The teacher was gruff, unfriendly to say the least. It’s supposed to be a community class but there was only one other student there and it was obvious that was silently being labeled a “cockblocker”. We spent the first minutes jumping up and down and stretching our groin. After that, we began 45 minutes of punch, step, punch, punch, step, repeat. Ugh, my feet were blistered from the repetition.
My Sensei growing up would hit us with a bamboo sword to correct our form but this guy preferred a more hands-on approach. About ten minutes into our lunges, he came over and without warning kicked me square in the nuts, or where I’m told they’re supposed to rest. I don’t think he expected to hit me so hard. I know he didn’t expect me to stay standing. I’ve seen my share of kicks to the nuts (I have an older brother and a mean streak), so I know about the falling, the wailing, the fetal position, the panting. For a half second, I thought about faking the pain but instead, I just stood there wondering intermintently about wether he’d was thinking I was a badass or whether enough feet to scrotal action had given him an acute awareness of ball-less-ness.
He stared me dead in the eyes, then grabbed my waist hard and squared my hips. He pounded my back and told me to relax my fist. Looking at it in writing makes it almost sound kinky. I can only imagine him reading this and watching in horror as his computer went flying off the end of his callused knuckles. Now THAT’s a kick to the nuts!
A few minutes later he came by again to correct my form, raised a pointed toe to my groin and asked me, “If I’d like another one.” I told him, “I don’t think so…” but in reality, I was willing to give it another go.
Part of me wanted to comfort him, to explain to him that I had boy bars on all my bikes growing up and that his foot was nothing in comparison to the combination of a steel frame and sidewalks cracked and lifted by the concrete-penetrating roots of the Banyan trees in my neighborhood. Rocks crush scissors. Paper covers rock. Boy bars to the crotch beat bare feet every time. In a lawless world it is nice to be able to count on the rules of physics.
A body in motion will stay in motion.
Until I don’t,