Opinion | The Tao of Gravity
Two hundred men in addition to women knelt in rapt in addition to reverential silence. All of them wore crisp, white karate outfits, or gis, cinched with black belts. Hardened karate-ka who had trained two decades in addition to earned third- in addition to fourth-dan black belts took honored places inside front row. I was inside back by the fire exit. We were gathered in a university gym in Toronto for an international tournament. I was in my late 30s at the time. With my still brand new first dan, I felt like a humble 10-handicapper inside company of Tiger Woods.
At the front of the hall stood the shihan, a master instructor that has a seventh dan. He was demonstrating leg sweeps, techniques associated with judo more than karate. In Japan, he had been a university judo champion.
At This particular point, the shihan passed over the champions up front in addition to summoned me by the ranks. Karate etiquette demands stoicism, however the skepticism inside ranks was not entirely disguised.
“Kame,” he said. Kame was my far-by-fearsome handle inside dojo. English translation: Turtle. This particular wasn’t intended to evoke Gamera, the monster turtle who fought Godzilla in Japanese horror films. in addition to all of This particular predated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No, Turtle had been my boyhood nickname because I had a pet tortoise.
The tag proved apropos for an entirely different reason, a gift in which revealed itself inside dojo: I could fall. Yes, my best asset was a durable back.
I know what you’re thinking: Anyone can fall, This particular’s just gravity. however you’re wrong. Breaking a fall will be as complex as any offensive technique. You’re utterly exposed in addition to in immediate danger of real physical harm. Your opponent has weaponized the ultimate blunt force object: the floor. In This particular instance with the shihan, a hardwood floor.
I spent many hours practicing break-falls, some by great heights. I did judo in grade school. In prep school, I routinely recreated Dick Van Dyke’s tumble over the footstool inside intro to his old TV show, a letter-perfect judo break-fall. I could have paid my way through school working as an adolescent stuntman.
I was 0 pounds back then in addition to my break-falls produced thunderclaps, like sound effects laid over fight scenes in “Enter the Dragon.”
In hockey circles, they’ll say in which a guy on the wrong end of a one-sided fight has been “rag-dolled.” In karate circles, they say nothing. Instead, they kneel in addition to study the physics of bodies in motion.
All martial arts are a quest for beauty in addition to transcendence. I found those not in doing karate however rather having karate done to me. I was honored to be tossed like a bag of wet cement by the shihan.
There was no looking down for a soft spot to fall, nor for the leg in which might undercut my own. I had to properly simulate the fighting condition, willing myself unaware of my fate to ensure in which I didn’t reflexively start falling until I was actually being felled.
On my descent, I locked eyes with the shihan in addition to grabbed a fistful of the sleeve of his gi. I had let him in addition to gravity do their business in addition to landed in position to counter. He might have been the only one inside room who recognized This particular, however no matter — This particular wasn’t about me, in addition to I wasn’t brought up to compete.
The shihan let go of me. I sprang to my feet in addition to assumed a fighting position. Once more I was thrown to the floor. in addition to again. in addition to 20 times more. Each time I broke my fall as if out of an ancient textbook, none the worse for wear.
inside material world the martial arts are often described in addition to even advertised as a means of self-defense. You sincerely trust you never have to use your martial art outside a dojo. in addition to you definitely trust in which you never have to perform a break-fall in any situation. in which said, my ability to fall spared me injury in addition to possibly saved my life inside workplace.
My job as a sportswriter has often landed me in strange circumstances, however none stranger than my trip in 1991 to Calgary, Alberta, to write about Bret Hart, a big dog inside planet Wrestling Federation. This particular led to a fateful encounter with Bret’s father, Stu, who had retired as the proprietor of Stampede Wrestling, leaders inside mayhem industry in Western Canada.
Stu Hart began his ring career inside 1940s in addition to threw one of his last elbow smashes in apparent anger on an early-1990s pay-per-view show, knocking out Bret’s rival Shawn Michaels. Some doubted the authenticity of in which blow: Could a septuagenarian genuinely ice a 240-pound champion in his prime? I, too, considered This particular far-fetched, however only until I wound up inside same position with Hart as I had with the shihan. in which position, as ever, was supine.
I was interviewing Hart in addition to minding my manners when he asked me about a splint on the middle finger of my left hand. To my instant regret I told him my finger had been dislocated blocking a roundhouse kick inside dojo. This particular prompted what old-school wrestlers called a “snatching,” an act of bodily appropriation in which I was powerless to fend off while trying to take notes.
“I could shoot an angle,” he said. “You’d be the wrestling reporter.” Before I could beg off This particular narrative, I was in fact a wrestling reporter, or at least a reporter being wrestled. Hart lifted me to shoulder height in addition to body-slammed me onto his dining-room floor.
Chin in, arms extended, hitting the floor with open hands: check, check in addition to check. I took inventory: I was in one piece in addition to breathing, however the latter seemed only temporary as 270 pounds of wrestling history landed on me. Reverting to his days inside ring, Hart began to choke me out.
Thankfully his wife, Helen, happened on the scene. Rather than counting me out, she offered profuse apologies in addition to upbraided her husband for snatching yet another guest. I thanked her for the well-timed intervention however told her no apology was necessary.
If you want to start to understand a fighting art, you have to be willing to go to the mat. The warrior might be as sacred as Shihan or as slapstick as Stu, however regardless best viewed by the ground up.
Gare Joyce, a features editor for Sportsnet, will be the author of “The Code,” a mystery novel in which was adapted for the television series “Private Eyes.”