Tuesday, September 29, 2009

forgotten ninja: a memoir.


"Love the conversation, and her kicks is like a Sensei."

-J.Cole

Despite the quote, I am NOT writing another J. Cole review. This entry is a dedication; to that person in your life that sometimes goes unnoticed. It always happens unexpectedly during our most idle moments; whether gazing out of a train window, sitting under the dryer at the salon, or daydreaming while facing the ceiling, it will hit you. A notion dances through your mind and suddenly connects with a memory that has faded. That faded memory is of a mentor I had during my pre-teen years. During one of my late night journey's home (from a show, no doubt) in New York City's Penn Station, I bumped into an old sparring (martial arts) partner of mine. We spent the whole train ride home reminiscing and catching up on things. When we started the conversation about our former Sensei (teacher), this young man informed me that our Sensei was involved with drugs, sent to a group home for older men, and eventually migrated to Florida. I was a bit saddened but I laughed it off and we continued to talk about our present-day lives. After he got off at his stop, I leaned back in my seat and listened to the murmur of the tracks beneath me. At this very moment, it HIT me, Sensei had a very large impact in my life and to find out his present situation had deeply saddened me.

Over the years Sensei occasionally passed through my mind but, I'd always assumed he'd moved on to another state or country to teach the craft after he closed the dojo. To picture a man I'd considered to be one of the strongest men i had ever met, weakened, bothered me incessantly. I'd joined the dojo at the very beginning of my teenage life and immediately felt like part of the family. Sensei was a tall Italian man with a good heart that had perfected his craft in Japan. The room was padded with safety mats, canes, and suits (for ninjas). My mother decided that i needed an after school activity to keep me busy, prior our encounter with the dojo. Annoyed by the entire situation, i withdrew when Sensei extended his hand. He must've encountered such a reaction from students quite often because he grabbed my arm, smiled, and said, "Hey Girl! We're going to have some fun?! Right?" I was so taken aback by his animation that i instantly gravitated towards him. After that first trial class, I spent the next three years at the dojo. There are many experiences that were grand during my tenure at my favorite after school hangout, however, I'll only cover a few.
I loved McDonald's, and everyday right before i got to the dojo, I'd grab some food. When Mcdee's dropped the fajita on their dollar menu, i was one of the first to try it. Lucky me, I ended up with a stomach virus for 3 days. Upon entering the dojo, i threw up all over the mats and fell down curling up in the fetal position in pain. Sensei took me to the after school room and allowed me to lay on a cot and then he went back to the sparring room and cleaned up my mess. For someone that barely knows you to clean up after you, shows a good heart. Sheesh, I don't even know if i would do that. He then brought me tea and soup until my mother came to get me at the usual time.

The second incident happened when one of the boys at the dojo tried to disrespect me. Tugging at my gi (uniform) and saying lewd things to me while we were supposed to be sparring on the mats, Sensei appeared from nowhere and snatched him up by the collar dragging him to the office. He then called his mother and asked him not to come back to the dojo. This may be cliche however, when i asked him why he'd banned the boy from the dojo he said, "I was defending your honor."

Sensei was there when i wanted to give up writing because i thought no one would ever really listen. He would walk past me writing in my journal after classes and say, "If you don't get your black belt, at least get that Pulitzer." Throughout pre-teen insecurities, disagreements with not-so-great friends, and staying out of trouble; Sensei always had my back. During the last year at the dojo, I assisted with the summer program. I helped teach beginner classes, gave out snacks to the younger students, and even implemented new programs. In a way Sensei showed me that i enjoyed working with youth and teaching.

I soon started high school and became extremely flooded with work and frequented the dojo less and less. One day i drove past the dojo with my mother to find out it had been shut down. We continued to drive home as i pondered what had happened to the blue and white sign that boasted after school, summer, and beginner lessons.
Throughout my life I've had many mentors but after writing this entry i realize Sensei was one of the most memorable. I've googled him and looked him up in the yellow pages to no avail. Without the dojo, alongside the morals and values bestowed unto me by my parents, I fear my head wouldn't be so adjusted to my shoulders. Adorned with the canes, grappling gear, swords, and dragons; I can still hear him obliterating the punching bag.....ichi, ni, san, chi.......


"Sensei Ni Rei"

(Bow to Sensei)


-riv-