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.