On May 24th 2019 World Oyama karate SF was invited to put on a demonstration for Japanese Heritage night at the pre-party and on the field at Oracle Park before the San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game.
It was only black belts on the field but we lower belts got to participate in the pre-party demonstration and I got to break a bat again. I noticed there was a photographer in front of me who was taking pictures of me breaking the bat and so I looked for that picture and found it on the Japanese Consul General’s website.
It is 6:24 AM on April 27th, 2019. Although I’ve been waking up early I haven’t been getting up early in a very long time. I wake up at 3 or 4 AM but have opted to just sit there and think until I fall back asleep. When you first wake up is the best time for thinking because your mind has not yet refocused into the daily thinking patterns. It is ‘unbound’ and still on its way back from dreamland and it is at this time when great ideas happen as well as thoughts and thinks that just don’t occur once the mind has set back into its waking patterns. This early morning is also the best time to write for the reasons just given.
But I haven’t wanted to get up at these early hours ever since I took a new job late last year. My days are now busy with work, busy with notifications, busy with kids who constantly demand my attention. Busy, busy, busy. And so my mind tells me to just stay put, to enjoy the few precious moments of doing absolutely nothing. Once I set foot out of the bed the day will start and the ‘busy-ness’ will not stop until I am in bed again. So I lay there and I think and I fall back asleep.
Tomorrow is our dojo’s karate tournament called Fighter’s Cup. I’ve been trying not to think about it because it causes anxiety. But I’m actually less anxious about it this year. Last year I was the only one in my group and thus didn’t get to fight. I was happy about that at the time but quickly learned that the regret of not being able to fight is worse than the actual fighting. By not fighting I didn’t get a new video made, I didn’t get to talk about the fight afterwards, I didn’t get a medal, and I didn’t get to feel the sense of accomplishment and pride that goes with it.
So I’m looking forward to putting that behind me by fighting tomorrow. I’m not worried about the actual fighting aspect but I am worried about the stamina piece. I remember from my first Fighter’s Cup how much I felt like I was just going to die when I had run out of gas but had to keep going. That is the worst part for me.
Since Fighter’s Cup is tomorrow that means we do not have karate class today so I’ll get to play with Ren. Ren always likes to go to the park and swing so that is what we will do. We’ll go to the park, I’ll push him on the swing and then perhaps we’ll go to the pier and play a little Pokemon or take pictures of the ocean. We’ll do many things and try not to think about Fighter’s Cup.
It is 6:27 AM and I’m at the gate in Oakland Airport for my flight to Burbank. These past few weeks have been a daze and I haven’t had time to write. I’m so busy with the new job that time marches by in a blur and I have to catch myself and take a moment to be mindful and appreciate life and all the small moments that make up our experiences.
Aside from work karate has also been at the forefront so let’s start there.
We had our karate promotion test last Sunday and it had me stressed out for a couple of weeks. It was the first time my son and I would do the test with Saiko Shihan. He holds a yearly clinic and afterwards is the advanced belt promotion test. Shihan had also said that I would fight a knockdown champion, then Shihan himself as well as Senpai Takasan. I told him I was pretty nervous about that with the reason being I had expected it to be like Fighter’s Cup. I can do one all out fight against a good opponent but then my energy is completely spent. I had thought that I would have to go all out for five or six times which I wouldn’t be able to do!
So yes, I was extremely nervous, a bit scared and had tons of anxiety for over the two weeks leading up to last Sunday.
On Sunday I woke early and headed over to the dojo to help transport the mats to Pomeroy Center where the event was being held. The loading up of the mats was quick and we were at Pomeroy in no time. I walked into the gym and remembered very clearly how much I hate the smell of gymnasiums. They remind me of high school and the enormous shock when I experienced the difference between the level of training in high school sports vs grade school. Grade school training is relatively easy but then without warning it seems like you’re doing suicides for days and just want to die.
I think about all the late practices on the wrestling team where it is cold and dark outside with sweat dripping down the windows. Everyone else has gone home but you remain with the team becoming completely exhausted doing something that isn’t very fun, and you have to keep it up for five months.
So walking into the gym on Sunday and having those memories flood into my consciousness then coupled with my anxiety about what I was soon going to face was not pleasant.
The clinic started and as usual it was a great one and Saiko Shihan taught us many things that we usually do not hear during regular practice. I paid attention, tried very hard and before I knew it the clinic was over. I still had plenty of energy and was glad I’d gotten through the first part but now the test was going to begin and that is what I was scared of.
In short, it turned out to not be too bad at all! I had to only fight two black belts and it was not all out because there is an understanding. If you go hard the other will go hard and then there will probably be injuries. Everyone did try hard but it wasn’t full on fighters cup style except for one brown belt. Saiko Shihan saw this and his reward was to fight Shihan who beat the tar out of him. Shihan is such a nice guy but turns into a beast when it is time to fight.
It was over before I knew it and I was in shock that I only had to do two fights! I was so happy and during the after practice stretches wondered if it were only a break and then suddenly I’d be called to fight a whole gang of people. I was so nervous for so long that I’m still glowing three days later at the test being done.
The really cool thing about that test was Saiko Shihan himself stepped in while the kids were fighting the black belts and sparred with my son! That was the only time Saiko Shihan did that and we got it on video. He threw my son down a couple of times but Kai was a champ and kept going at Saiko Shihan. I told Kai how much he was going to appreciate being able to say he sparred with Saiko Shihan and that the video we took will be an absolute treasure to him later on. I also mustered the courage to ask for a photo which will go on the wall of our gym.
So why am I at the airport? Well, Saiko Shihan made a movie called Take a Chance which we saw along with the entire dojo a year or so ago.
Well, I got a notice from the dojo that there was going to be an exclusive screening and red carpet event in LA for the film and everyone was invited. I thought the idea of being on the red carpet would be a once in a lifetime event and as it happened my boss asked that I spend some time riding along with my colleagues to learn from them. I could kill two birds with one stone by heading down to LA to ride along with my colleague during the day and then go to the red carpet event at night. So here I am, and the boarding is about to begin.
As I mentioned previously I love the Cobra Kai series on YouTube. It makes me remember the ’80s very fondly and how I really don’t like the times these days. Part of it is that I’m older and just remembering my youth. The other part is that the ’80s seemed more exciting and ‘pure.’ In the ’80s MTV had made its debut, the bands played actual music instead of being corporate and thus profit driven ventures, guys drove around in T-Birds and Grand AMs blasting Def Leppard looking cool! It was a time when being awesome was in instead of this PC, metro-sexual, safe space, participation trophy of today.
The way Johnny Lawrence talks and acts in Cobra Kai is the definition of ’80s cool. He isn’t concerned with anything else but being a bad-ass: no feelings, no safe spaces, no weakness and No Mercy! It is all just so refreshing even though I consider myself a Liberal.
So about the jean jacket. Johnny wears one and it made me fondly remember when I had my own jean jacket I wore everywhere in the ’80s. I think I was in the 2nd grade and it was cool to fill the back up with buttons one could get at “Dairy Farmer’s” convenience store now known as 7-11. It made me think about bringing the jean back to my own wardrobe and perhaps starting a trend if it wasn’t already in style.
For the past couple of years I’ve only worn a blue windbreaker with shorts or jeans. I thought it might be nice to mix my own wardrobe up a little and so I bought my jean jacket.
When I got it my wife laughed a little. I’m so predictable that if I do something different or out of the ordinary it always causes her to laugh and wonder what I’m up to. We’ll she’ll have to get use the the jean jacket because I really like it, it makes me feel a little stylish (which I haven’t felt since my 20s’ and appealing to my cheap sensibilities (I only buy my clothes at CostCo if I can) is extremely durable and should last forever.
As for karate I’ve started reading our Grandmasters autobiography and love it. It teaches me so much and I can relate to a lot of things in it. For one, the Kyokushin headquarters is in Ikebukuro. Well I lived in Mejiro for two years which is right next to Ikebukuro. Ikebukuro is the main city in Tokyo that I know best and must have passed by the ‘honbu’ so many times without realizing it – it is right next to the station! Of course it looked quite different when the Grandmaster (Saiko-Shihan) was there being just after the war. Now it is an incredible metropolis with humongous buildings everywhere. The other thing I relate to is when he his brother Soshu, also a founder of World Oyama karate bought him noodles and spoke with him about training after practice one day. He told him that he would have to train very hard to beat his rival Haruyama and Saiko-Shihan’s ‘ki’ got so pumped up for training. However, when it came to the actual fighting his ‘ki’ shriveled because it was absolutely brutal.
This is also how I feel when I watch Cobra Kai or think about karate. I get pumped up and cannot wait for the next class. But when it is time to fight I get winded very quickly and my ‘ki’ also quickly disappears. As I continue reading Saiko-Shihan gets stronger and when he gets his brown belt actually looks forward to the fighting part of the class.
As for me, I always hated the fighting part in the beginning. Now when I think about it I’m pumped until I actually have to do it because it is hard and does hurt. But I’m no longer scared, I’m getting stronger, and now not worried about the fighting until I’m actually doing it and my stamina depletes.
It is the Friday before the Fighter’s Cup which is on Sunday. At rest I’ve mentally prepared myself but during last Saturday’s fights I lost confidence very quickly. The issue is stamina of which I have very little and it depletes quickly when fighting. It is at that point I feel like I’m going to die and just want it to end. I’ve never been mentally strong when it comes to stamina and having to keep going.
I fought a new Japanese student who seems like he has a lot of training somewhere else. He has a nice upper round house; I had no trouble blocking them but they did leave bruises on my forearms. I also hurt the knuckle on my left big toe and it was sore all week.
Coincidentally, Cobra Kai just came out on YouTube Red and I’ve been binge watching all evening. It really brings back some of the excitement about karate that I felt as a kid and got me briefly started in Taekwondo (post about that here). That is something I haven’t felt in such a long time. For me, karate is something I’ve always wanted to do and have enjoyed doing it but that youthful excitement has long been dormant.
Karate as it actually is, is very hard work, physically draining and there is a lot of pain. There are many times I do not want to go to class but I make myself go. Watching Cobra Kai on YouTube really enlivens the passion, the excitement and makes me feel pretty awesome since I actually do what I’m watching. I got so excited about this I even changed my Facebook profile cover to Cobra Kai! At 40 years old when life can seem monotonous, where that excitement from my youth is no longer felt, a series like Cobra Kai brings it right back. The passion to learn karate is the same I felt when I was just 10 years old and it is wonderful.
They’ve really done a masterful job with the series due to all the references from the ’80s movie, how they make my generation out to be pretty awesome in contrast to the gender neutral “sorry generation” of the Millennials and Generation Z and it makes me realize how quickly time passes. In one scene Sensei Lawrence makes fun of the music used for his student’s ringtone and says “put on some Guns and Roses.” Later the student comments about how great the rock music from the ’80s is! It is shocking to me to realize that I’m the same age as Sensei Lawrence and can relate to his character in terms of reminiscing about the ’80s.
In addition I love all the Japanese references. I have changed quite a bit since I was 10 years old and now not only speak Japanese but understand the culture. Like the passion for karate, seeing these Japanese references brings back my passion and excitement for Japan in general. Japan and its culture had become something I was used to and no longer caused excitement. Watching this series also brings that back. It is great to feel passionate about something again.
I’d like to write more about this but I’m feeling the urge to watch just one more episode before I go to bed.
May 5th 2018
I’m home with my youngest today and have a little more time to write more about this. I may repeat a lot because I didn’t think my writing was any good above.
I never watch TV and barely even pay attention to movies anymore. This is the first show that I’ve really watched in such a long time. Here are the reasons why:
At 40 years old I find that I’m not passionate about anything: this is to say that I don’t get excited about things the same way I did when I was a kid and teenager. In those days excitement just happened whether it was a new toy, game or in my teen years going to the high school football game with friends, looking forward to a date and so on. These days life it pretty monotonous and any excitement is greatly tempered by age and many experiences (nothing is new anymore).
Doing karate gave me something new to do and I was really motivated to learn it in the beginning. Then overtime it ceased being new and because the style I do is pretty hard it is more something I make myself do so I can get into better shape. I never felt that it was “awesome” or exciting, just something great to do and to learn with my son. Watching Cobra Kai makes karate seem awesome and changes my mindset about it. The fact that Kyokushin is hard makes me feel proud that we do the most difficult style. The drop out rate is pretty high but in persevering I feel good about myself.
When you’re a teenager we look for things to help shape our identities. It can be the type of music we listen to, the sports we play and the people we hang out with. At 40 years old the music we listen to doesn’t matter, most do not do sports and we hang out with our families. At this age it is usually the work one does that shapes an identity but for me work does not shape my identity. In fact I don’t think about identity much at all.
Watching Cobra Kai makes karate seem very cool. I also like being reminded of the “coolness” factor of the ’80s through what Sensei Lawrence says and does. It is nostalgia but brings “awesomeness” back to this generation with an ’80s flair. I love this and it makes me want to buy a jean jacket.
So as for identity, Cobra Kai makes me think karate is awesome and since I do karate I also feel awesome, although not even close to the same degree as I would if I were a teen. It makes me look forward to class and want to go fight. It awakens the feeling of passion which has been dead for so long. It brings back a sense of identity! Since karate is from Japan and Cobra Kai/Karate Kid have a lot of Japanese references it makes me feel proud that I speak Japanese and know the culture. I was very proud of this many years ago but then it just became something normal, something not to be very excited about. Since I both speak Japanese and do karate, Cobra Kai makes me feel rather awesome and I like that.
I absolutely loved the ’80s. Of course I didn’t realize it at the time but comparing our current time to that of the ’80s and having Sensei Lawrence portray those times in such an awesome light makes me feel very glad I actually experienced it. It was awesome in comparison to today’s generation. Driving around in a Firebird busting out ’80s rock such as Def Leppard and of course doing karate just seem so awesome. Feeling awesome just isn’t something one feels naturally these days. Perhaps it is because I’m 40 or perhaps the “awesomeness factor” just doesn’t exist in this generation.
I love the soundtrack to Cobra Kai and all the ’80s sounds, in fact I’m listening to it right now. Watching the show and listening to the music just makes me smile and feel good.
Japan and how I’ve changed:
The original Karate Kid made Japan seem so mysterious and cool. Of course I knew nothing about Japan when the original came out but now I do. Like karate the show enlivens my passion for Japan and it is amazing to think how much I’ve changed. I’m a completely different person now. As I mentioned above it has been a long time since knowing about Japan and speaking Japanese seemed like something special to me. Over time it just became a part of me without any “coolness” or “specialness” to it at all. Watching Cobra Kai reminds me of just how cool it is.
So I guess in summary, watching this show makes me think, “Hey, I do karate, I speak Japanese and this is totally awesome.” It awakens a passion and makes life fun and interesting again. The thing is the thought doesn’t linger and I need to listen to the soundtrack to keep the feelings alive.
Fighter’s Cup is tomorrow and my feelings about it were first anxiety, a little fear and something I just wanted to do and get over with. Watching Cobra Kai makes me actually look forward to it. However, I must remind myself that Cobra Kai is a show and the fights tomorrow are real. The karate looks so cool on the show but in real life it is just a bunch of beating on each other and *maybe* there will be a few cool kicks thrown in. Since our fights tomorrow will be recorded I want mine to look awesome but I don’t want to lose either. I’ll need to find my calm space, control my breathing but also be extremely aggressive. The temp of the fight will be set by my opponent and I wonder if he will just come at me very hard. If that is the case it will be difficult to get a lot of awesome kicks in. If he plays it safe then I’ll have the energy to throw a lot of kicks. As I mentioned above stamina is the key.
I’ll have to concentrate very hard to find that calm space. Right before the fight your adrenaline gets going and you get excited. This can cause the energy to drain very quickly.
Anyway, cool kicks or not I don’t plan on losing tomorrow. I just hope I can keep this confidence, keep my cool and have good fights.
Update – May 7th, Fighter’s Cup Result:
Well, talk about your anticlimax, I didn’t even fight because the other two in my group didn’t show up. I was ready, lined up with all the other groups but nobody in mine had showed yet even though they had paid. As the organizer came to me she gave me the option of going into the senior division which had six fighters or so or holding until the other person showed up.
Now when one thinks senior division one thinks it is usually easier but this was not the case. Everyone was tough in that division and there was even a fourth degree black belt from Japan! At that moment I decided to hold because I was sure the other people in my group would soon appear, I could give one match my all and was determined to win. If I chose senior there was the possibility I wouldn’t even win my first since I could probably be paired with that 4th degree black belt. Even if I did win the I might have to fight two more times to get first and given the rest is only 10 minutes or so and my stamina is bad I wasn’t confident I could win.
Things started very quickly and I didn’t realize how fast things would go and I would be immediately locked into my group. Well, the others didn’t show up and so I didn’t fight. Looking back I should have chosen to go into the senior division so I could at least fight but hindsight is always 20/20 I suppose. So today I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to fight and have nothing to show for the day but on the positive side I guess I did learn a lesson and that is to ensure I’m in a group that does actually have fighters present when the tournament starts. But I’ll be 41 next year so there will be no ambiguity on which division I should pick.
Perhaps I should try to get down to 165 so I could have a better chance at winning. In the heavy division most of the guys are much bigger and heavier than me and it would be hard to be able to kick them in the head. It is doubtful I could get down to 165 but I guess there is always a chance.
As for my son, he fought one match very hard and did a great job. He fought a kid two belts higher and it was one kick to his head that the judges were iffy about awarding a half point. It was awarded however and so he ended up losing a very tough fought match. He did cry afterwards and felt bad but did recover after a while and became happy that he got a medal. He was the youngest in that division so with more practice and growing up he’ll have a better shot next year.