I'm not a karate guy. Not a Uechi-ka. But whenever I am in Uechi territory, they make me feel like family. This dinner of four old friends included Art Rabesa, Jimmy Malone, Bob Bethony and Van Canna. Two of them cops, all of them old battlers from the early karate tournament circuit. Legendary in this circle (except for Jimmy, who may be more on the edge of myth than legend).
For some reason, I was invited to tag along. To listen to stories about fights in the US and Okinawa; in the ring and in bars. Old students and friends. Lots of talk about family. This is the thing about Uechi, at least with this group-- it is a family. With all the squabbling and some of the disfunction, but these men and women have a deep history with each other. They have married and had children and buried friends and they have done it together. Karate runs through all of the stories and all of the relationships.
It makes me feel, sometimes, like an orphan who has been invited to christmas dinner with a big, loving Italian family. A little out of place, a little in awe. Treated with an immense welcoming and open-hearted spirit and wondering "Why me?" I wasn't born to this. I am not of this. I appear to be the only one who cares. Here, I'm part of the family too.
I doubt if any of the old lions of Uechi who had dinner with me last night read blogs. That's cool. But it was very cool to be invited along.