This past weekend I attended my first ever karate function of any type: blackbelt testing. In this instance I am going to speak in vagaries to protect the innocent (and the guilty), but the festivities were interesting enough that I felt they couldn’t go without comment.
In my limited knowledge of it, karate is about memorizing a series of forms, and your ability to recall and execute them properly is what determines whether you successfully ascend the ranks and achieve the corresponding colored belts. Once you have risen to blackbelt status, you can then advance in degree, each degree now based on your strength along with your ability to execute the moves.
The students at this particular venue were of varying ages and background, from probably nine or ten years old, all the way up to fifty-five. Because a lot of family and friends turn out to watch their “student” test, the Master judged that it should be spectator friendly. This not only included choreographed groups of students performing various forms in unison, but the addition of a ridiculous soundtrack as well. As I had never attended a class at this school, I can’t say whether the music is standard practice, but one look at the Master, sort of a conglomeration of Fabio, He-man, and the Incredible Hulk – complete with ludicrous hairpiece – seemed to confirm that it was.
The choice soundtrack included:
Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”
Drowning Pool “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”
Disturbed “Down With the Sickness”
Metallica “Enter Sandman”
Survivor “Eye of the Tiger”
When blackbelts and diplomas were handed out:
Star Wars theme, on loop.
While it could be considered admirable and impressive for those more advanced in years to be participating, a couple of these adults downright scared the shit out of me. One woman in particular who broke down and said, “I left ______ for two years, and it was the dumbest decision I ever made.” Another guy, part of a father-son duo, made a long speech documenting all the good the school had done for him and his son. I am all for sentimentality, but a lot of this was so contrived that the cynic in me was having a hard time. Even when people get emotional, it can be hard to be original, and that shined through. Mostly the first lady I mentioned could have used a good shot of thorazine. If I saw her on the street, I would be frightened, and not because she is a blackbelt.
I doubt I really painted an adequate picture of the scene, but I’m cutting coverage there. The last little snippet I want to share was something I observed on my run last Sunday (November 30th). I was running down Commonwealth Ave in the direction of downtown Boston when I happened upon a man running in faded navy/grey Dockers (colors are not my strong point), a pair of large gloves, and that’s it! Now, I frequently under-dress for the weather, especially when running. It was probably about 30°F out there and I was wearing shorts, but I was also moving at a goodish clip, which facilitates maintaining bodily warmth. But here is this guy, who I would estimate as late 50s or 60s, and he’s slogging along in no shirt. The Dockers and gigantic gloves really added to the scene I promise. To his credit, his back was absolutely ripped, and also purple and red in splotches. I am wondering if this guy is a Boston regular; I feel he must be. There’s even a chance I’ve seen him in the past, but it could just be that he looked reminiscent of a couple of crazy old drunk guys I’ve seen out dancing at bars over the years. The one I witnessed in a New York City bar looked oddly similar to a Brattleboro, VT regular. I’m really hoping they’re just all the same guy and he just manages to appear in my life at random moments and locations.
Damn, I'm sleepy.