I'm getting excited, which is unusual. It's a good feeling, with a bubbly stomach and a grin pulling at the corners of my mouth. K and I are packing for a trip to the East Coast, leaving tomorrow. For three days we will be brawling and contemplating, learning and teaching. Grass stains, mud, sweat and sunburn. Old friends, new friends and new stories.
Several years ago (5?), just learning about this Internet thing, I found out about forums. There are a lot of forums out there, many catering to Martial Artists. Like martial arts, many forums are populated by youngsters with active fantasy lives, inadequacies or (worse) delusions of adequacy. There's a huge population of wannabes following the latest trends, whether that is koryu, MMA or WWII combatives. The wannabes tend to be both rabidly fanatical and ignorant.
There are also older martial artists with good heart and deep experience. Men like Robert Carver and Jeff Burger and Jeff Cook at BudoSeek! Or Fabien Sienna and David and Jaime at Cyberkwoon.
Very rarely there are the few for whom violence is not a hobby, but a tool and they can afford no illusions, Like Tony U and Mauricio and Cliff. People I can talk to and learn from. People who understand when I say, "Ugly night. Won't be able to talk about it for three years."
One of the boards was designed for a specific style of Okinawan karate, Uechi-ryu. Do I study Uechi? No. Do I study karate? No. But the board struck me with its sincerity and its passion. There were people looking into the history, even trying to find and teach the Chinese roots of the style and people comparing it to and criticizing it from the perspective of modern sports training and modern research on violence. There were people doing medical research and tying it back to their tradition and others working on the new system of hand to hand combat for the USMC. They squabble like a great big family. They take care of each other like a great big family, too.
Last year, by luck, I happened to have the time of the annual Summerfest off from work and had done so much overtime that I needed a way to spend the money. I cheerfully announced that Kami and I could and would make it to Summerfest 2004. George, the patriarch of this huge brawling clan asked if I'd mind "teaching a few classes" while I was there.
I was honored of course, but also intrigued and awed- the Uechi clan only knew me from my typed messages. The leap of faith, to invite someone to teach who could have been some delusional, disease-ridden, obese, crippled, addicted... anything was, to me, amazing. (I also really had to fight the urge to hire a scabby panhandler at Logan airport to impersonate me). They sent a limo to the airport. It was a great weekend.
The doctor turned out to look much younger and less wise (looking) than I pictured him. The one who I'd imagined as an older, fiery Sicilliano was a fine, Old-World gentleman. George, the patriarch, was much as I'd pictured him- laid back, alert, busy, charming and friendly. Mostly busy.
We brawled and played and drank and talked. Vinny and Henry and Wes and Mark and Cindy... so many names, so many real moments. We watched, in the person of David Mott some of the finest kata I have seen.
We fly out tomorrow to repeat the process. I'll teach these karateka about locking and dumping and infighting. Kami will teach how the mechanics of Middle-Eastern dance relate to karate and we will learn. If all, goes well I will learn Sanchin kata enough to play with it on my own as a new meditation for the next few years.
Type more when we return.
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