Saturday, July 31, 2010

Old Lions

I was invited along to a dinner last night. Not a special event in the normal sense of things, just a group of four old friends who wanted to get together and talk about the old times.

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.

1 comment:

Dan Gambiera said...

Good Lord, it's been, *mumble* *mumble* years since I last saw Mattson-sensei.

Funny story. When I first started Silat with Brandt Bollers he asked to see what I'd done before. I performed Sanchin the way I'd been taught. Back then they were still doing that horrible sorta reverse breathing where you hold your breath on hits and exhale on the retraction.

Brandt said "For the love of gawd, Toad, don't ever do that again. Your guts will shoot out your butt, and you'll give yourself a stroke."

When I finally got in touch with Messrs. Mattson and Gorman I asked them about the breathing. They said "We don't teach it that way anymore. People were getting strokes and hemorrhoids."