Tuesday, April 01, 2003

At the young and impressionable age of eight, my mother placed me in a martial arts school, purchasing a "lifetime" membership in the Bujutsukan Institute of the Martial Arts. At first it was a gas but the initial wonder wore off quickly as I began to become impatient with the meditation and the sheer drudgery of the workouts. This wasn't your average, macho, learn-to-kick-ass Karate Dojo, but a traditional Japanese Dojo which integrated the calmness of mind of the great Okinawan master, Gichin Funakoshi.

I lost interest quickly and began to silently "drop out" of classes, playing hooky and ditching my Gi in a nearby bush. Soon, my instructor, Ty Hayashi, called my mother to report my absence and the truth came out. Since her "lifetime" membership was non-refundable, we came to a negotiation of sorts, cutting my class time in half during the week. The initial reason for these classes was to learn to protect myself, both from my hoodlum classmates and my drunk father.

Long story short, I continued with the classes and slowly, but surely, began to love the art. In my early teens I threw myself into my practice and was in the best health of my life. Edgar Miles, my compadre in crime and I would run, jog, walk to the top of a radio tower bearing ankle weights, wrist weights and backbacks full of rocks....in addition to our rigorous workout beforehand.

Eventually I quit the Bujutsukan Institute and moved on. By my early twenties, before drugs and alcohol had staked their claim, I was into tournament fighting and kata exhibition, bringing home trophies, ribbons, welts, bruises and torn hamstrings. I went into semi-retirement from the tournament circuit and settled on teaching kids in the martial arts for a relatively famous name in the martial arts field, Gene Wagner. I was in tip-top shape back then and as flexible as a wet noodle.

Pan to the present....out of shape, chubby, stiff but with a head full of the training I once received, I put on my Gi last week and began my well-remembered workout of loosening up exercises and stretching. It's incredible how much my body has tightened up. My neck sounds as if there's gravel in there somewhere. My joints ache. My legs are not as limber anymore, but I pressed on....stretching ever-so-carefully, fully aware of my potential to push things too far and pull something out of whack, a sure-fire reason to stop the whole process.

This new thing, most likely fueled by my renewed interest in the philosophies of the Chinese culture, is making my life turn around. I feel better, feel refreshed and my vitality is coming back ten-fold. It's like a miracle and every day I get out of bed wondering if it was only temporary and has somehow disappeared.

Today I'm increasing my daily walk to three miles. Not much by today's standards but I'm careful not to push this too much or risk sabotaging this wonderful process. I read today how the Chinese are in tune with their bodies and their "space," and found myself desiring that feeling again. I haven't quite torn myself away from cholesterol, my two cigarettes a night or junk food, but at least the thought is there. Can't mess with nature too much ya know!!



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