Friday, January 14, 2011

Reflexions - one

A couple of reflexions from my short trip home this time. Since the topics are rather disparate, I've decided to break my post into two short parts. Here's Part One; Part Two's here.

  • One should never meet one's childhood icons. Very seldom the experience transforms into anything other than a complete and lasting disillusionment. I made this mistake this time. Well, the man I met wasn't so much of a 'childhood icon', but he was our Sensei, our teacher in the full-contact Kyokushin-kai Kan style of Japanese Karate. He was strict but kind and understanding, he was an excellent teacher, and all the students looked up to him because of his extra-ordinary skills in Kumite, the sparring.

    Despite being a martial arts expert, he never resorted to violence of any kind; in fact, if he ever got to hear about the young and immature amongst us getting involved in a dust-up outside the dojo, we would all get a lecture about how Karate is about self-discipline and not violence. Even during Kumite, when a student's guard was down and like a streak of lightning, Sensei's foot came up in a mawashi geri - a round-house kick - to deliver the decisive blow to the face, he would skilfully hold the kick close to the face, in mid-air, to let the student comprehend the enormity of his or her lack of defence. When we were attacking him, he would weave a wall of defence around him with his arms and legs, never deliberately hurting us; even when he found a body opening to punch the living daylights out of the attacker (punches to the face were forbidden), he would simply push with his open palm - just as rapidly - to make the point.

    He was not much into the more macho breaking techniques (although he must have done them to earn his Black Belt), but I have witnessed him casually shatter with his shin-bone two juxtaposed blocks of solid ice weighing 20 kilograms each (that's about 88 pounds total). We decided we would never want to be at the receiving end of a strike with that shin bone.

    Yeah, that man; the man with a perennially serene smile, twinkling eyes and curly hair. Now - as I discovered - the hair's almost gone, he needs glasses, he walks with a painful gait because both his knees are badly damaged - which forced him to leave Karate altogether. He has a young daughter who's not interested at all in martial arts, and he's still married to the extremely loud, boorish, uncouth virago who - some 18 years ago - joined our class as a student and, much to the consternation of the existing senior students, proceeded to charm our rather simple Sensei with her faux veneer of polish and the irritating propensity for throwing in random and unnecessary English words in a normal Bangla conversation in an attempt to show-off. Even during my short visit of hardly 15 minutes, she didn't miss the opportunity to boast about her knowledge of geography of the US (she is a geography teacher at a local school) and the fact that she has several of her ex-students spread along the West Coast. Well, good for her; IDGARA*.

    I came away from the meeting oddly disquieted. It was painful - and quite a disillusionment - to see Sensei hobble to the gate. I wish there was a way to help him get the knee-replacement that his doctor has recommended. He hasn't been able to get it done so long because it costs a pretty penny, around three hundred grand in Indian currency (close to 7K USD). I wish I had enough money to pay for the procedure.

    He still has the same smile and twinkling eyes, though.

*Acronym for 'I don't give a rat's arse', courtesy Robin Williams in Patch Adams (1998)

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