We’ve likely all been there at some point in our lives…. Young, energetic and full of piss & vinegar. Most teenagers are filled with energy levels that adults are envious of, despite the fact that they have a tendency to somehow hide that energy while sleeping in a classroom. But I digress…. When I was in my teens, my biggest problem was my uncontrolled blood sugars. THAT aspect will perhaps be a topic for tomorrow’s post. But like most teenagers, I was filled with repressed energy, angst and a competitive drive. Typically, this energy is expended through various means, such as playing in team sports. Since I was never a team sports “guy,” I didn’t have this outlet. No, no… instead, I was the karate guy. And when two “karate guys” get together to expend some of that pent-up aggression, no good can come of it. Today’s post is a few short stories of just such occasions.
The 1990’s were a strange time for me. I was growing as a martial artist and as a person. I was a bit of a black sheep among my peers, since I wasn’t into cars or sports. I spoke to the majority of my time in the dojo or on my bike. When I wasn’t doing that, I was indulging in a guilty pleasure that I still enjoy today: action movies. You all know my opinion on the so-called action heroes who use martial arts on the big screen. It looks good, it evokes those happy-happy-joy-joy “I like seeing shit blow up” feelings, but they rarely represent a realistic portrayal of martial arts. But they’re no less fun to watch, despite that fact.
In 1997, I was bouncing between living at home and in an apartment in the neighbouring town for college classes. During a particular weekend at home, my friend (I’ll call him “Guy”) and I went to see Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which had just recently come to theatres. This was the follow-up sequel to Mortal Kombat, which had come out in theatres a couple of years prior to that. As a fan of the video game (who wasn’t?) I was excited to see the original. The sequel fell short. In case my sarcasm isn’t clear enough, it sucked. It definitely wasn’t up to par with the original, but it still involved a number of fight scenes that left Guy and I loaded with adrenaline on the way home.
Interesting side note about Guy: he’s my Sensei’s son. And he’s been training in Okinawan karate for longer than I have. Can anyone guess where THIS is going? We pulled into Guy’s driveway, where my vehicle was parked. We both stepped out of the vehicle and came around to the rear bumper, where we stood about ten feet apart and looked at each other with a grin. It was almost like one of those traditional Kung fu movies…. There was silence in the air, a light powdering of snow was falling and we squared off against each other with fists clenched and smiles on our faces. In an instant twitch of reflex, we closed the gap and the fight was on! We both threw attacks and blocks simultaneously and fought semi-contact, until we fell to the ground in a match of grappling that would have been suitable for inside the dojo, albeit not for the bare asphalt of the street.
Now, Guy used to live on a pretty secluded side street of our home town. Secluded enough that traffic was rare and one could sit there for hours without seeing another person or vehicle. But Murphy’s Law, right? As we’re rolling around on the ground, laughing and punching each other, we hear the telltale whine of brake pads, right next to our heads. We look up to see the head of a buffalo, staring right at us. A police officer, specifically RCMP, had rolled up next to us and came to a stop. We both jumped to our feet, dusted ourselves off and smiled at the officer. He looked at both of us and asked, “Is there a problem here, guys?” We calmly explained that Guy lived on the house behind us, the red car was mine and we had just come from watching Mortal Kombat. We were both karate students and just blowing off some steam. The officer smiled, shook his head and slowly pulled away while mumbling, “Teenage hormones…”
This would only be the first of many instances that Guy and I would “play” with our martial arts training. There was a time in the early 2000’s, when I traveled to Quebec City with the girl I was dating. She had never met Guy, but he lived in Montreal at the time. When he heard I was coming to Quebec, he convinced me to meet him in a diner off the highway, just prior to crossing the bridge into the city. We collected the girl’s sister, and the four of us had breakfast at this diner, where Guy was able to exude his usual charm as they got to know him. It went reasonably well, with guy and I telling stories about how we met, how we grew up and some of the shenanigans we’d gotten into. One would think that what was coming could be guessed…
As we all walked towards our respective vehicles, Guy was walking slightly ahead of us. As he walked, he let out a small sigh, started removing his watch and putting it into his coat pocket. I knew what was coming, so I took off my watch as well, and handed it as well as my insulin pen, to the girl I was dating and whispered, “Hold this!” Guy removed his coat and tossed it towards the rear fin of his car (he drove a Saturn coupe). All eyes besides mine were drawn to the coat and as soon as it touched the rear of the vehicle, Guy spun around with a roundhouse kick that would have removed my head, had I not known it was coming. The girls screeched and backed away, visibly confused by the sudden and unexpected combat situation that was playing out before them. It only took a moment for them to realize that Guy and I were both laughing as we sparred, despite some of our techniques actually connecting. The people passing on the highway didn’t have the benefit of hearing us laugh, and we drew quite a few stares from passing motorists. No cops, this time.
The next two incidents took place in the early 2000’s as well. Yes, the next two…. Keep reading, these are hilarious! I was renting a house in the City of Moncton and Guy was ironically living there as well while he pursued his college diploma. This meant that we had the opportunity to hang out a fair bit. One evening, we were all hanging out in my backyard, having a few drinks and chatting. Remember reading a previous post where I explained why I never drink to get intoxicated? And the story about how I could have injured someone? With Guy in the picture, times that by a factor of ten. We got called out by some of the people who were there, asking us to demonstrate our karate. Although neither of us were interested in doing so, we reluctantly got up and squared off on the back lawn. We both had a few drinks in us, and I thought I would have a clear advantage. I was wrong.
As soon as the match started, Guy threw a flurry of kicks at me that staggered me easily. After a few moments, I got tired of his damn legs reaching me so easily so, in my drunken haze, did the only thing I could think of: I dove for his knees. It seemed like a good idea, right up until the moment that his fist connected with the back of my skull. The next clear memory is being inside my house, sprawled on my bed. I remember thinking that I hadn’t drank enough to have passed out. Then, I remembered the punch. I got up and walked to the bathroom and was faced with an image I didn’t recognize as my face. My head was pounding, I was covered in dirt and mud and I had a welt on my left cheek accompanied by a dried trickle of blood at the corner of my mouth.
To provide some context, my back yard had a lawn, but it was also a bit muddy. A later recounting of the story by an observer provided that when I dove for Guy’s knees, he swung down towards my head, thinking I would block or dodge. I did NOT block or dodge. The strike basically face-planted me in the mud, which caused the welt and bloody mouth. Since everyone was having a “good” time, they brought me into the house and put me in my bed. Idiots. Lucky I didn’t have a concussion. Of course, it was my fault for agreeing to it in the first place, I guess.
The last instance took place only a short while later, while we both still lived in Moncton. Yes, I promise this is the last one. Guy and I were watching a movie at his apartment. And you guessed it: it was an action movie. When the movie was done, he walked towards the back door of the apartment I would be leaving from. I already anticipated what would be coming, but I had been suffering from a pretty bad cold at the time and was in no mood to fight. I explained this fact to Guy, who responded by removing his watch and bringing his fists up to a fighting position. I sighed and positioned myself accordingly.
Just to set the scene, this was a small apartment that had a walk-in kitchen with countertops lining both sides. At the far end was Guy’s dining table, which Guy was standing in front of. Still with me? Good. I m uttered all my speed and strength, hoping to make this quick. Oh, it was quick all right. Guy not only blocked my punch but spun around behind me and delivered the sole of his foot to the back of my head. The kick, combined with my own forward momentum, sent me rolling right under his kitchen table. He grabbed his watch, strapped it back on and said, “Great movie, thanks for coming over,” and went back to the couch as I groaned, unceremoniously collected myself off the floor and walked out. Brotherly love, am I right?
The interesting part is that we did grow up as brothers. Sensei essentially raised me, with all the time I spent in the dojo when I wasn’t in school. And it’s no secret that siblings will often wrestle or fight when given the chance. It just hits a whole other level when it involves two black belts. Although this post was merely intended as a feel good story to share some memories, something I’ve been doing in spades lately, I think it also illustrates a few important points. We always had fun with our karate. Our skills were sharp, we trained hard. But we also played hard. And we loved it. Some of you are probably thinking, “Your skills don’t SOUND all that sharp,” considering I always seemed to be on the receiving end of a beating when sparring with Guy. hey, what do you expect from the first-born son of a Sensei?
But the next important point is that no matter how hard you train and develop yourself, there’s always the potential for someone else to be more skilled than you. This can be important, especially in the mindset of defending yourself or someone else. It’s important to continue with one’s training and development. This isn’t something that ever stops. But it doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit fun along the way. Food for thought…. I hoped you enjoyed the stories as much as I enjoyed walking down a painful memory lane. ☯️