Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On my Brief Karate Career

In honor of my cousin Ginger's "promotion" to her orange belt, I thought I would treat you to a story. It is a true story that took place in a land not very far away in a time not too long ago...

I was working with a girl who was working her way through college one course at a time. We got into a discussion about what credits would likely transfer from our local community college to a state university. We settled on PE credits and I agreed to encourage her by signing up to take with her a class of her choosing. I wanted to back down on that promise when I found out she wanted to do karate.

Before I get into the details of the class, let me tell you about my instructor. First off, he was a young, skinny guy that I imagine had a hard time impressing girls in high school because he was probably off in a corner practicing his kicks. He wasn't bad-looking, or even nerdy-looking, just wimpy-looking. He kinda reminded me of one of those socially awkward video game geeks. The obvious difference is the video game geeks are black belts in their virtual world, and this instructor is the kind of guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley but you realize that after the first (and likely fatal) punch is already thrown. So, we've established that he's kinda weird, but he's a black belt.

What I didn't expect from this guy was an ego that would rival that of Paris Hilton or Nicole Riche. I can understand wanting the respect of your class, but constantly reminding them that you are the instructor, you have a black belt, and you could kick their you-know-what before they even realized a punch was thrown is a bit much and does not exactly command respect. One day, he stood in front of our class and talked about sparring. For those of you who don't know, sparring is a form of fighting where you get points for hitting your opponent. Think the final showdown from the movie Karate Kid. However, we didn't actually hit one another hard, just making contact to earn the point. After explaining it to us lowly white belts (who were treated much like the untouchable caste of the class), he proceeded to tell the entire class (all levels together) that no one under a brown belt had EVER scored a point while sparring with him. Since he was so experienced and had such cat-like reflexes, he was able to block or dodge every kick or punch thrown at him. We were reminded of this great skill and the greatness of this man by his own testimony again and again.

I can't say I enjoyed karate. I purposely wimped out when our instructor asked us to do push ups on our knuckles. He said it was to flatten them out so when you did things like break wood they'd all be even or something, but I was just planning on getting through the semester, not break wood. Besides, I already had my college degree, so if he wanted to fail me in a lousy 1 credit hour community college course--more power to him!

The highlight of the class was the final one for obvious reasons-I didn't have to return. As I recall, my coworker skipped that class because she knew it involved our first experience of sparring. She was scared to death of trying that. Me? That's about the only part of the class I was ever looking forward to. Well, I was looking forward to it until I learned that the person we'd be sparring against was our egotistical instructor and the audience would be the entire class (white belts, yellow belts, orange belts, green belts, purple belts, and brown belts). After all, the other students could not possibly spar with inexperienced white belts. Their reflexes were not as fast and they were more likely to get hurt since we white belts could not control our punches well.

Of course, our instructor got up and gave us the cat-like reflexes speech and the "don't feel bad if you don't score a point because, after all, no one has ever scored a point on me" speech. After putting the fear of the black belt in us all, he asked for volunteers. One particularly eager kid who clearly had a passion for karate, yet started karate when he was in his 30s, got up and sparred with our instructor first. It wasn't horrible. It wasn't a train wreck. He got hit a couple of times (but not violently at all), and he eventually sat down. Nope. He didn't score a point because...well, you know why.

When our instructor called for another volunteer, I figured I'd volunteer to go second because: I wanted to get it over with, and if I made a complete fool of myself I had the hope that no one would remember because I'd gone early, and hopefully someone else would make a bigger flub.


Please note sitting there in the back of the gym was my (at the time) fiance, Mr. Bean. He came to watch me do this karate thing that he'd heard so much about.


So, I get up and sparring begins. I make a halfhearted effort with no real results. Our instructor stops the sparring and encourages me (like he did my classmate) to try a combination of kicks and punches. Then, he made some under his breath snarky comment about it not really doing any good anyway because no one had ever scored a point on him or something to that effect. You can imagine I'm sure.

You know how in the Care Bears cartoons the Care Bears would all get together and say "Care Bears, stare!" and their powers combine and then would transform the situation they were in to make a happy ending? I kinda felt like that. Or maybe like the light of heaven shone down through that gym ceiling and a revelation fell on me. Or maybe it was more of a "I'm gonna knock this guy down a rung if it is the last thing I do!" Whatever it was, it overtook me. I threw a combo. Nothing. I threw another combo. Nothing. Third try: a charm! I punched my instructor with my left hand upside the right temple. Point for the white belt.

Wait! What's that Mr. Instructor? No one under the rank of brown belt has ever scored a point on you when sparring? What was that? I can't hear you!

Oohs, aahs, and spontaneous applause erupted in the gym and the instructor just looked at me dumbfounded. Knowing my work there was done, I bowed out of respect and said, "Am I dismissed?" to which he nodded while picking his jaw up off the floor.

Our heroine exited from the gym with her adoring fan (aka fiance) at her side, head held high and never to adorn a karate outfit again except at the occasional Halloween party. And Mr. Bean? He knew he'd picked the right woman to be at his side should he ever meet a scary guy in a dark alley.



Ginger said...

I bet some of his ex girlfriends have gotten some punches in! I'll ask my karate teacher if there's a special block to keep someone from dumping a drink on your head.

Christy said...

You go girl! I would like to have seen that. Although, you write very well, so I feel like I kinda did see that. ;0)

Heather @ Not a DIY Life said...

Awesome!! Great story and great story-telling!

Grandnut C said...

That was totally awesome. You go girl!