Following my latest ‘Siam – Discovering Karate’s Forgotten Source’ trilogy I got a lot of pretty interesting response, which taught me a lot.
(Okay, actually I got like three e-mails, but whatever… Pretending it’s a lot makes me feel powerful and cool.)
Some people were upset, thinking that I was trying to belittle the apparent Chinese influences of early Karate (which would be quite foolish to say the least, considering all the great sources we have on that), while other people were interested, wanting to learn (and see) even more of the mysterious Siamese ancestor of Thai Boxing, the art of Muay Boran.
(By the way, I posted some relevant video links of Muay Boran, Krabi Krabong etc. on my Facebook page in case anyone else is interested!)
Among this veritable flood of three or four e-mails, one especially caught my attention. It was more of an essay than an e-mail though, and the great thing was that it was both interesting, inspirational and witty.
Just like I want them!
And my immediate thought was that I just had to share this with you guys!
The e-mail in question came from someone who commented on the site a couple of weeks ago, saying that he “likes my style of writing, blah blah.” So I replied something like, “thanks, I didn’t even know I had a style of writing”.
You know what I mean.
I just write what I feel like. I don’t follow any ‘style code’ or anything.
sometimes i don’t even care about capital letters and stuff. and sometimes i might even cut off my senten
But it seems I do have a style.
Because this man, who I will refer to as “Samoht” (in case he wants to be anonymous) totally copied my “style” in his e-mail to me! I’m not kidding! It was almost like I had written it myself! (At least in the beginning, then it kind of escalated…)
And it had great content too!
Very humbling, acually…
So, I want you to read it. Right now.
Behold, the greates “life story” e-mail I’ve probably ever received. And it’s not even edited.
On Wed, 28 Jul 2010 10:11:02 -0400, “Samoht” wrote:
Yes, you do have a style!
And I like it.
I started training TaeKwonDo a bit over a year ago, my first foray into martial arts. A girl I worked with at a past job is a sensei at a local Jiu Jutsu/Judo school, and I was impressed by her manner in general workaday interactions. Later, when I went to watch one of her gradings and kumite, I was really impressed by her skills.
Fast forward a couple years.
I’m sitting around the house with my wife and newborn son. The second son, separated from the first by a couple of years. My wife was whining the post-partum blues, and I was getting a little sick of it to tell the truth. But these are delicate situations, I couldn’t very well just tell her to suck it up and quit being so depressed, that would have been unwise to say the least.
So I said “You need something to do, something to get out of the house. Why don’t you check out that TaeKwonDo school down the road?”
And took the older son with her. He’d practised (OK, I lie, he never practiced), we had sent him to rec center karate classes when he was younger. Until he wanted to quit. Well, they both signed up, a 2-for-1 deal. For the life of the membership. I was pleased, and I sat back to wait for the transformation to take place in my wife. I wasn’t worried too much about the boy, but this would give him some time with Mom, since his throne had recently been supplanted as well.
Me? Yeah, I kayaked some.
After a while, I had been to quite a few gradings. I’m still not sure if it is a McDojang [dojang is the taekwondo equivalent of karate’s dojo] or not. I think it certainly can be, if that is what you want, but I also think our instructors and masters are bona-fide martial artists, and you don’t have to select the McOccupy-My-ADHD-Kid combo meal if you really want the McRealDeal. At least, I’ve seen them spar and perform poomse (kata) at competitions. If they are not bona-fides, then I can’t tell a difference. Plus, our school master is just so freaking good with the kids, the school is so respectful, I was so impressed having been to all the gradings, that I finally allowed as how maybe, just maybe, martial arts was for me, too.
I was 40 then. A bona-fide geezer.
And I was a master of Couch Potato Style. A 20-year veteran Marlboro Man. Yeah, I kayaked some, (well, a lot actually, real sea kayaking, not this overgrown bathtub toy mess you see) and that helped, but face it, I was horribly, awfully out of shape. I never played sports, yadda yadda. You’ve probably met someone sharing some of my characteristics. Maybe many someones.
One chilly morning in December I put myself on autopilot, drove over to the dojang, and grabbed the first instructor I saw. Sign me up for ninja class!”
“Okaaaay!”, the instructor replied. “Come right on in here to my desk.”
He made me sign some paper, I wrote a check, and he handed me a brand-new dobock (gi) that was stiff as cardboard. It had a pristine white belt folded, pressed, and rubber banded. It felt a bit chintzy, like some kind of cheap made-in-China dollar store costume. But I figured heh, I can get a “good one” if this lasts…
Class, my first class, was starting in about 15 minutes. I took my new duds to the locker room and put them on. They scratched me in funny places, and the big creases stuck out crazily. I didn’t know how to tie the belt, so I just tied a square knot. My instructor came in, and gave me my first lesson on belt-tying. (I’m still trying to master that, to fully understand the knot, and execute it with whatever the Korean version of your kimochi is).
So. Into the dojang proper.
I thought the warm up was a marathon workout, and sitting to stretch, I could not even place my foot on top of the opposite thigh, let alone reach much past my knee. Oh, it was awful. I was exhausted, and we were only 10 minutes into class. Luckily, I was quickly sent back to work with an instructor, on front kicks. Now, this stuff always looked easy in the movies, and fooling around “ninja fighting” as kids in the 80s, it seemed easy enough.
Anyway, you know the drill, and I need to go to work here… soon. For the first couple months, I felt like I was in an automobile accident every couple days. Then I’d go to class again. I decided early on to be the turtle, not the hare…. for me, this wouldn’t be about collecting a black belt, but about learning to move, slowly changing my lifestyle, becoming healthier, and maybe living to see my new son graduate high school. Maybe even college…
Today, I can’t say I’m gaining any kind of real skill with my hands and feet, but I am transforming physically. I’m beginning to build a base from which these basic techniques can be workable. I’ve quit smoking. I actually ran two miles the other day with the class. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I’d have never thought I could run two miles. I used to get out of breath just walking down the hall to go to bed at night, sure I would not wake up, or would wake up during a stroke.
Lately, they have promoted me to “high red belt”, which is just below deputy black– “Bochodan” which I think is interesting, isn’t there something in Karate called “Shodan”? What’s that all about? I’ve just learned my last color belt form. Taeguk Pal Jang. I’m not GOOD at it, but I’ve at least memorized the movements.
All along, the instructors have been asking, “Any questions?” during class. I rarely have a question, because so far, I am being Mr. Sponge. Soaking it up. I don’t know what to ask. But, as I know I am nearing the end of the basics curriculum, and starting to feel a little like I’ve been tossed in the deep end and asked to swim, I’ve been reading around on a bunch of martial arts blogs. That’s how I found KARATEbyJesse, of course…
So, I’ve been intrigued by the similarities of TKD and Karate. Except I am pretty much blown away by many of the YouTube vids I see of kata. MAN! You karate dudes are serious. I think we spend a lot of time punching and kicking air. I think TKD is largely a way to keep kids in line, and to train for a sport game of kicky tag, and to demonstrate super flashy moves. Somewhere in there amongst the flashy fighting exhibitionism there are the roots of devastation and pain compliance. The little bit of hapkido I’ve been exposed to seems pretty serious stuff. I haven’t seen a lot yet that I think would really be workable on this “street” I keep hearing about.
Luckily I don’t play in the street, I learned that in kindergarten.
OK, my train of thought is falling apart here, almost done with my coffee, and I gotta get to work.
Writing you a letter that resembles one of your posts is getting kinda old… for now… so I’ll just shut up, and say thanks for posting, keep on, and I’ll keep reading. Until I don’t. All good things seem to end at some point. A lot of stuff you have written though, has helped me get a bigger picture of martial arts in general. Almost all of it has been entertaining! : )
Take it easy, Jesse-san!
[What, you expect me to say something here? What else is there to say? I mean, really! Okay, here’s something:]
This e-mail made my day.