Karate Classes to Die For
I signed up for Karate classes. Not right that night, but from that night it was foretold and absolutely predictable that that was where I was supposed to be.
Night after night, through the years, I would be attending Karate classes at the Kang Duk Won.
I would sweat on the summer nights, and after class my gi would be as if immersed in a pond of water. Afterwards my partner and I would walk down to the hamburger stand and order a Big Orange. Biggest Orange they had, and we would drink it in a gulp.
In the winter the mats were cold before Karate class. You’d walk in and your feet would slide right over them. Yet, somehow, when the class started the feet started magically attaching, and we learned how to ground our weight so that we were immoveable.
Going home after class I would have bruises all over my shins from blocking exercises. I had to learn how to shift without a clutch because I was so bruised up I couldn’t press the clutch peddle.
I had bruises on my forearms. To this day you can run a finger up the bone of my forearm and feel all the dents made there during class.
I drove hundreds of miles a week just to attend classes at that dirty, little hole in the wall, but the magic I learned there…ahhhh!
One day, during the day, I happened to be passing the Karate school and there were an unusual amount of choppers lined up at the curb.
The Hell’s Angels were filming a documentary on themselves, and that included martial arts training.
A big Hell’s Angel name of Ted decided to break some boards. So he made some kindling for a while, then decided to break three boards with a spear hand.
The camera rolling, he thrust downward…SMACK! But the boards didn’t break.
Irritated, he lifted one board and pulled it apart. Clean break.
Then he picked up the second board, and it came apart. Clean break.
Then he lifted the third board, and it had a knot hole on it.
It was one of those weird knotholes, showed only on one side of the board, the down side which he hadn’t seen, but it was enough to hold the stack together…and to break his fingers.
He restacked the boards, then used his left hand.
The boards cleanly separated.
One day the whole school decided to go to the California Karate Championships. This was the tournament I lived and died for.
Thiel was fighting in the brown belt level, and midway through his match he blocked a kick with his fingers. He held up his hand and the middle finger was…short. And fat. Actually, the bone had been shocked out of socket and the first bone of the finger was laying on top of the second bone.
Thiel turned to a judge. “Pull this out.”
The judge, a little green, shook his head.
Doctors came over and looked.
“Pull it out,” said Thiel.
The doctor said he would have to go to a hospital.
So Thiel pulled the finger out himself, and went on to win his match.
One day Dana was putting on a demonstration. He was wanted to teach karate classes in Fresno, and he had brought Bruce to help him. The demonstration was being picked up by a local TV channel.
So Dana did some forms, and then he worked some techniques on Bruce, and then he did some board breaking while Bruce commentated.
“Now Dana is going to break two boards with a kick.”
Smash and splinter and kindling.
“Now Dana is going to break two boards with a chop.!
Smash and splinter and kindling.
“Now Dana is going to break a board with a spear hand.”
Problem, Dana had never done that break.
So he did it anyway.
Smash and splinter and Kindling. And…immediately after the show he went to the hospital to get his broken fingers fixed.
When he asked why Bruce had set him up like that, Bruce merely said, “Oh, I thought it would be funny.”
I stayed in that Karate class at the Kang Duk Won for some seven years.
Oddly, I was accepted by everybody. If you knew me you would understand how odd that was. But I worked hard, and people just seemed to understand that I was supposed to be there.
I made friends, there were a few people I didn’t get along with, but we got along anyway, and life went on.
Eventually I got my Black Belt, and a lot more. On the next page I want to tell you About the Black Belt Test.
This has been a page about the Karate class at the Kang Duk Won.