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BM | 2nd Mar 2008, 4:07 AM | 正剛館演義

This is Part 4 of Yoki sensei's USA adventure,  you can find Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3 here.

下面是楊紀先生的美國之行第四集﹐第一集在此 第二集在此 第三集在此

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Part 4:

With George

Mr. Mattson asked, “Yoki-san, shall we try?”The students became noisy again in a commotion. I was not eager to spar with him at all, especially in front of his students. In fact, a few days ago, we had a spar as he requested when the two of us were alone in the dojo. It was only a  very friendly warm up sparing just to exchange techniques. However, I already   could tell that he had lost a sense of perception for free sparing due to the factthat he had been away from the sparing for too long. He asked, so I must accept. Charley , Sho-Dan would judge.

My senior, who I respected the most, told me just before I left Japan “When you visit other dojo, by all means, you must give a high respect to the master of the dojo.” Besides, I was visiting here for a mutual friendship and exchange of techniques. I was not eager to have a match with him. Then, I thought I would just give the students an exhibition of free spar exercise.

We bowed to each other. Charley pronounced as “Hashime!” There was perfect silence in dojo. I took it too easy just to exchange techniques. A quick left step in with a right kick, I tried not to make any contact, which resulted in short in distance. Besides, his stance usually stood straight up a bit high, so, my kick rose up. He gave me an excellent block just as from one of the Uechi kata. My heel was tripped off and I just sat down right on the floor, at the same time I had jumped up to step back. I could hear the student’s vociferous cheers. I flew into a blind. I felt pale and bloodless. I blame myself for taking an easy way to a higher grade in disregard of my actual ability that was also rude to him. I tried to calm down and put my stance way down to a leaning stance with my right leg pulled back ready for a counter attack. I waited for a few seconds, and then put my right arm up high to attempt his kick. Nothing happened. Either he was aware of my intention or he didn’t know what to do. I had never experienced a so-called “to attain a spiritual state of perfect selflessness” yet then, but only similar feeling above myself. When it happened, I could only remember a part of a second when I got back to my consciousness. Left faint punch, step into right kick distance. “Kiai” with entire internal spirits of energy throughout the dojo after a smash to the four walls. All this happened in a fraction of a second. I found Mr. Mattson was falling down from his knees and he was putting his left arm forward to hold on. He could hardly voice out when I hit him on the diaphragm. He moaned and said, “That’s enough, Yoki!” Two black belts, Walter and Charley rushed in to him to help hold him up.

Iwas just dumbfounded ; I just stood there. In front of his students, regrets were too late. I will just have to leave this dojo tonight. After final warm up exercises, everyone left the dojo. No one spoke a word. Scar face came to me, and from a few words he knows, said in Japanese “Subarasii- Wonderful” which made me even more depressed. I was packing my things in the room when, Walter and Charley came in and commented, “That was a very good match Yoki, we have learned a lot.”

 

 

 

Invited to George’s Home

That same night, I was invited to Mr. Matson’s home for dinner. Walter came alone with his fiancé. He was a best friend and right hand man of George Mattson. I remembered him from the party the first night I arrived, as he impressed me because he was so busy preparing for the party and cleaning up afterwards. He was 25 years old but looked older, perhaps because of his calm and gentle character. He chased me around in the dojo when I said, “ You look like you are over the age of 30.” He is a typical American youth with a good sense of a humor.

Any woman would have been attracted to him. He could have been a movie star. He reminded me of the actor Robert Redford. Though at the time, Redford was not popular in the movies yet. He worked in a photo company, also had a job as a model for magazines. He played ice hockey as well and was a sports man by nature. He said he used to be a fat guy with a big belly until he started karate some four years previously. His fiancé was a 19 ;year- old professional acrobat dancer. They would seldom get together as she was busy with the stages and a tour of the country. She was rather small but a very cute girl. She showed me her photos and I wondered how she was able to untie herself from those twisted arms and legs around her neck.

Now, we were going to Mr. Mattson’s home in his cherished Jaguar, traveling at night on the highway at a speed of about 200 km/h (125 mile/h), which took about one hour. His family, which consisted of his wife Margi, his two- year- old son, Carl, and a white German shepherd, lived in a wooded area. The aroma of fresh ocean air permeated the area.

I gave Margi a Japanese Kimono as a souvenir - (actually, it was a simple Happy Coat). She was smaller than me with pretty wavy blonde hair, with a cute little hawk-nose. (Somehow, it seems American Karate-Ka seem to like women of small stature.) Carl was just a little doll and looked very much like his father with clear blue eyes.

After the sparring incident with Mr. Mattson, he never changed his attitude. He said,“Yoki-san, please stay in my dojo as long as you would like to stay, and continue to teach me as much as possible.” I was quite embarrassed with his offer as he was a senior in Karate. Also, he said that I may live in his house since sleeping on a tatami mat with a sleeping bag must be uncomfortable, and he actually prepared a room for me. However, I did not accept his offer as I wanted to be able to be alone by myself. Besides, I found out that his family was a vegetarian under the instruction of a Japanese couple who used to live in Boston, named Mr. & Mrs. Kushi. It was on the idea of a Zen diet - the main meal consisted of wheat and they would drink only Japanese or Chinese tea. Carl had never had milk for the 2 years since he was born. Mr. Mattson seemed to eat meats once in a while, but usually ate lavers (sea lettuce),

I would feel powerless if I didn’t eat meat for over a week then, so I just could not get along without it. I stayed at his house for just one night.

During my stay in America, I had numerous memories that I had met wonderful people and I owe so much but regretted that I could never be able to return.

However, because of the incident of this night I came to realize that the differences in culture between America and Japan, in particular the spirit of fairness in sports, even as they learn martial arts. If this situation occurred in Japan it would not have been over so easily without ill feelings. On the other hand, it was a pity that this spirit of fairness in the sports field was losing in some parts of the Olympic games, and soccer, etc. due to over reactions. I wish to discuss this issue in the future as the difference between the martial arts and the sports.

Two good friends of mine, who trained in the same college Karate-Do Club, have no two front, instead have false teeth due to being stroked as occasionally happens when free spar with lower grade opponents when stopping a punch or a kick at a half inch away in order not to make contact and get a counter attack if the opponent was not aware of this. I, myself, in the later years used to make a slight contact to protect myself so as to let my opponent be aware. However, ability was not good enough back then. I either made no contacts, which resulted in too short in distance, or I made contact but hurt my opponent. To correct this matter, one must be far better than the opponent - to be able to protect without hurting the opponent. It took me another few years to achieve this level.

By the way, we started to call each other as George and Yoki as of the following day. This is another culture difference between America and Japan. In Japan, especially in the martial arts field, the senior and lower grades would never call each other by a nickname. However, I found this custom is one of my most beneficial that I got during my stay. I met and made such good friends regardless of the age difference.

 

 

 

One Month in Boston

It had been one month since I arrived in Boston. I had learned most all of the Uechi katas and exercises by this time. I attended classes once in the morning and once in the afternoon. During the other times, I trained on my own.

Also, I instructed Gojyu style basic trainings of kicks and punches with movements, and pre-arranged spar, etc. Each of the classes were very eager to have me instruct, so I was very busy had no time to go out for sight seeing of the city of Boston except to take a walk nearby. I usually had my meal at a small snack bar that was a five-minute walk from the Dojo.

This restaurant had about twenty seats, and was managed by an Italian American family including the two daughters, about 20 years of age, who would be cooking in the front. The younger sister had bleached blonde hair and she was smaller than her older sister ; though her large breasts and well-built hips would increase one’s appetite. Both of them were crazy for the musical group, the Beatles. Thus, the music box at the entrance of the restaurant was always playing loudly and the music would vibrate right through to your bones. While cooking, the well-built sister would swing her hips in tune with the music - my meal would get stuck in my throat!

For a while in the beginning, their faces would look annoyed at this strange guy when I would enter in the morning, because I would give them such a hard time when I would place my order. I knew beef steak in Japanese Katakana English, however I did not know the difference between a sirloin steak and a fillet, moreover, I did not know there were four different ways to cook, such as rare, medium, medium-rare and well-done. She would have to repeat “What?”, and I had to keep saying the same thing over and over like a parrot. To order an egg, I had to decide either sunny side up, over or scrambled. Just to order a cup of coffee, they had to know if I wanted sugar or without, with milk or without. Many things in Japan were much more well-organized. They could just put a menu with 100 different items on the wall to choose. I would start to get headaches and their patience was limited. “Milk please”, didn’t work. I had to say, “A glass of milk, please” and then they would start to complain that my pronunciation was wrong, due to my Japanese dialect. The English that I was taught since my middle school years was entirely unworkable here. By the time they accepted my pronunciation of milk my order for the sunny side up fried egg would get cold. For our mutual sake to minimize the problem, we came to an agreement that I would take only two choices: either hamburger or a hot dog with a coke. (Incidentally, I did not know a “coke” and a “coca cola” were the same thing.

After I had a hot dog in the morning with too much mustard, and thinking about Japanese noodles I went back to the dojo. Al was in the room with a big smile and said, “O’hayou!” in Japanese he just learned. My stomach rolled to reply. “Where have you been?” he asked. I replied with a grouchy face, “Out for breakfast”. “What did you have?” he inquired. “Americans ask many questions” I murmured. When I replied, “Hot dog and coca cola” he just couldn’t stop laughing until he got breathless. I was totally blank as to why he was laughing. Then, he immediately stopped laughing and said with a serious pitiful expression, ”You are not supposed to eat hot dog and coca cola for breakfast. It is for a snack. You should have ham and eggs, toast and coffee or milk for breakfast.” “Have you been eating them since you came to Boston?”, he asked. “Yes”, I said. He didn’t laugh anymore but started to give me a lecture how to eat American food.

Later, I was mentioned in one of the newspapers as “Japanese Karate Warrier in America - hot dog and coke for breakfast”. I had received a fan-letter from a woman with strong motherly-love who wrote, “Why don’t you come to my house and stay for a while until you get used to American foods?”

After one of the 6 p.m. classes one evening, Al took me to a self-serve restaurant called “Waldorf”, a fairly large cafeteria that was about a 20-minute walk from the dojo. I noted that I hadn’t taken a walk even that far, since I had been in karate all the time. The sign read “ All You Can Eat!” under a drawing of a chicken. I asked Al ”What does it mean?” He replied, "This is fried chicken with potato’s and salads, you can eat as much as you like. They have this twice a week - Monday and Thursday.” My stomach made a sound. “Cheap! One dollar.” I shouted loud at the counter “Fried Chicken!” “How could you eat so fast with such a small body, Yoki?” I gave no reply. I was thinking that it had been quite sometime since I ate a chicken. I must eat fast before it’s sold out. I gave a glance to those working men who kept going to the counter for more chicken, and I took a deep breath when I finished the first plate. “What do I say for the next one?” I asked “Take your plate with you. Go to the cook and ask for “Second Chicken” Al said with a strange laugh. He seemed to be pleased to see me so happy.

The third plate I whispered so that others could not hear. I was full already at the end of the second plate, but I wanted the third for tomorrow’s breakfast. The cook had such a surprising look as no one ever went up for the third plate. I asked, “What do I have to tell him to take out the fourth plate as a souvenir?”

“Oh! No!” Al screamed and took me by the back of the neck and took me out the restaurant. I felt so full, and could hardly walk. Next time I would eat only a second plate.

In the future, I went there alone, and put the fourth plate into a paper bag as a souvenir. Al didn’t know this. The rumor spread among the people in the dojo, and since then I had no problem eating for a while as somebody would take me out to eat after a work out.

Americans are concerned very much with their privacy in principle and it was indispensable to live together, as people were from various countries with different habits and culture. Americans are the best to pretend not to see something. This attitude may appear cool in a way, but in fact, it is from an understanding, sympathy and courtesy. Once Americans become aware that someone is in trouble and when they know what a person needs then they won’t leave him alone.

Walter, Al in Charley’s corvette ; I have no space, so I grab onto the hood of the car. We made such noise driving ahead to Chinatown. Chinatown in America is just a fairyland - Asian Mystery with those neon signs and fancy buildings. Sweet and sour pork, chop suey and fried rice made from California rice reminded me of the Japanese taste. We promised to go "Dutch” once a week.

 

 

 

Visit to Roxbury

One day, I took a walk around the City of Boston, starting from the dojo. There was a newly built building - the highest in Boston at that time of 50- stories high. It was the “Prudential” building ; an insurance company – and was about 5 km/3 miles from the dojo. I couldn’t get lost as long as I kept watching this building, even if I walked a few hours in whichever direction!

The Charles River is located about a 20- minute walk west of the dojo. It was with well-grown green grass on both sides of the river. The water is so clear you can see the bottom. Floating yachts shine their pure white sails against the spring sunshine on a sunny day. Modern buildings of Boston Harbor, and MIT Universities can be seen over the river with even a better view. People and students are lying on the grass reading and enjoying the sunshine.

I visited this area in the evening, 20 minutes north from dojo to the downtown area of Boston. Movie theaters, bars, restaurants and game centers are not much different from the ones in Kobe except there are no Pachinko halls. At night with flashing neon-signs, music of the “monkey” or the "swim” dances echoed from the dance halls and bars to the street.

Late one night, I took a walk to an area of Boston that is predominantly occupied by black residents, about 1.2 miles south of the dojo.

Very old looking apartment buildings made of bricks were lining the streets. There were so many people on the streets and around the entrances of the buildings. It appeared that nobody was inside the houses, since none of the houses had air conditioning. So, no one could stay inside the house until it cooled down a little. The rooms were still burning hot inside from the daytime sun ; and the windows were not sufficient to provide fresh air. Only cool looking dust and rubbish were flying around on the streets.

In a garage that housed a temporary made church there were some ten people singing Gospel hymns with their squeezed low voice and suddenly yell in a high tone to appeal to their pain. Neon-signs of the bars in the back streets were dark compared to the ones in downtown Boston, however I enjoyed listening to the genuine modern jazz in the street.

A drunk approached me asked, “Do you know Sachiko in Yokohama?” “No” I replied. “ Are you a Japanese?”tried to bulldoze.

When I was drinking a glass of beer at one of the small drab bars, 4 or 5 punks approached me and one of them asked, “Hey, where are you from?” “I am from Japan.” I politely answered. “Do you know YOKO?” I thought they were referring to another girl in Yokohama. “No, I don’t know”, I replied. “Don’t you know?” he continued proudly. “He is damn strong from Japan teaching at Mattson dojo right up near at

My pal got beaten up the other day. No one could handle with his kick.” They talked so highly of YOKO-san and left without even thinking that this little boy was he. I felt my stomach feeling so ticklish listening to them.

I was brought up in a slum in Kobe-City at a district named “Kokusai-International Market”. There were row houses of barracks built in the burnt down field by the bombs right after the 2nd world war. The name “International” came about since Koreans, Chinese, and some Turkish built this area. This district was known for housing Yakuza, and some prostitutes. There was a train station nearby and an American army base occupied an area a few miles from west to east. My stubborn father never tried to move to a better area, as he believed that to grow up in bad circumstances makes kids strong. Any small fire occurring in these paper and wooden barracks would destroy the entire area completely.

Our house was on the corner of the street. One day a dead body found packed in a wicker trunk at the house a few doors down from us. One morning I woke up from the sounds of loud steps. Over 10 policemen and detectives were rushing into the house in front of our and arrested the boss of the yakuza who was the biggest dope criminal after the war. Pictures of our house were often in the morning newspaper.

Some years later, the Kobe Newspaper Company built a 10-story building (which was the highest in Kobe) across the street from our house, which blocked the sun and made the area even darker.

One night I was going to the station to by cigarettes for my father. When I turned the corner of the building, I had a hunch to run, and at the same time I looked back and heard the heavy sound and found a big dark thing was moving slightly on the street. I just walked by. I had confirmed it came from the roof of the building when I saw the arm, like a twisted towel. I called a cop and on the way back after I bought the cigarettes, I found in the crowd a boy was holding a dead body crying for “Dad”. I was about 6 or 7 years old then, and by that time I had seen a few dead people hanging and suicides by jumping then.

One summer night, I looked out from the second story window because of quarreling that I had heard. A salaried man was arguing with a pimp, and after a few words this yakuza ran into the narrow side street and retuned with a long shiny thing and grab this fellow on his left hand. He threw away the case as he ran and pulled out a long sparkling sword. He held the sword upwards like a samurai movie and cut down the back of the man when the man turned around to run away with a scream. He then cut again in the stomach. This yakuza, some years later, got out of jail and was promoted at his work.

My family for generations was Chinese doctors in Taiwan. My father had a very hard education from his father and he used to manage a Chinese drug store. Also, he was a Chinese Kung fu expert of the monkey-style, which he trained me in my childhood.

One evening a neighbor came to our house with his son, and was very angry. He claimed to my father that his son got injured in a fight. My father called me and I came down from upstairs. The man looked at me, he couldn’t say a word, and grabbed his kid by the neck and pulled him out of our house with a look of shame, as his son was twice as big as me.

I never lost when fighting until high school age. Then later I found I just happened to meet the opponents who were so weak, since the strong ones never got into trouble.

When I joined the karate-club in college, I found I was not even at the level of brown belt, however, the black belt students treated me like a baby.

What I felt in Boston of this community where black people lived, to compare where I was brought up, there were many similar points and reasons or cause to consider. What seemed to be the problems and disasters never ended. I may have a chance to review this matter later on.

A drunk came up to me and said in Japanese, O’hayo!” It was already eleven p.m. ; too late for that greeting! Although it was very difficult to see his face in the dark, I could tell he was smiling from the whites on his eyes and teeth. “Oh! Nippon-jin, The Japanese!” he said while grabbing both my hands. He continued, “I had been in Japan 10 years ago and stayed in Yokusuka while in the military. I love Japanese. Come to my apartment house.” He seemed as though he had quite a bit to drink, however I thought I would keep him company, so I went.

We walked up the stone stiars and opened a heavy door, which was nearly broken. A particular smell filled the room. Damn hot! I doubt if anyone could sleep here, it was so hot! This was the first time I evr saw a miniature light bulb in a room since I arrived in America. The size of the room was over double the size compared to that of a Japanese worker’s home - but this humidity and temperature was out of the question!

He had sheets and a blanket on the bed and they looked like they had never been washed. Dirty dishes were stacked high in the kitchen. A frying pan was in the middle of the bathtub and the tub was so dirty I wondered if he ever took a shower here. I was told to take a seat on a big chair that had holes in it. I sat by the window and he sat down in a small chair in front of me and smiled mirthlessly. I could hardly see him in this large room with very little lighting but he appeared to be about age forty. His eyes were so red from all the alcohol and his white teeth were very visible to me. His very long arms were well built from many years of hard work and the veins were raised very much on his muscles.

The majority of the black people back then came up from the south to the northern cities where prejudice was a little better. I found it difficult to understand much of what he was saying, due to his heavy southern accent and particularly heavy voice. “Do you know Sachiko in Yokosuka?” he asked. She must have taken very good care of him, I thought. “No” I replied. He asked, “Are you really from Japan?” as he gave me a glaring stare.

“In this society of the world, the white GI I hate the most” he said as he started talking. Gradually, his eyes looked so bloodshot. He continued talking, “When I was living in the south, I was only 20 years old. One night, I was walking with my fiancee’in the park. Three white GI’s jumped out from the shade of a tree. I had been badly beaten up by them. Maggies’s screams woke me and I found she was being violently attacked by them. This is the cut I had then.” He then pulled up his shirt in front with his left hand. A deep ugly line with raised scar marks were on his right shoulder to his left chest. He gradually exploded as he spoke. I didn’t even notice where it came from, but he had a 6-inch knife in his right hand. He was still explaining how he got the cut. He started to shout and screamed obsenities as he was saying that he wanted to kill those GI’s someday. He was moving the knife around in front of my face. It took some time to calm him down and I took the knife. I then decided to put him on the bed. He began snoring loudly the moment he lay down on the bed, though I couldn’t tell if he was asleep or not as he eyes were half open. Finally, I walked out of his room and I took a deep breath.

At that time I was thinking that perhaps I lacked the caring personality. Was I lacking a guarded mind? Five guys surrounded me down at the first floor by the stairs. The one in front, the big fat one who looked like a sumo wrestler, had a big hunting knife right on my stomach. I knew I was not supposed to threaten them when a situation like this happens. The minute I get into a panic things witll end up in a disaster. I was very calm and raised both my arms a little higher than my shoulders. I was thinking that this was just like a movie ; however, if his knife moves one tenth of an inch I was ready to stab both his eyes out with my two rights hand fingers. I did not want to do that – I would rather give him my money.

I spoke slowly so that they could hear me clearly, “Money is in my back left pocket.” The guy on my back took two twenty-dollar bills out and handed them over to the fat guy and ran. They must have been doing this quite often as they moved so quickly. “Hey!! Just a minute,” I shouted loudly. The fat one stopped and turned around. I said, “Are you going to take it all? How do I eat for the rest of the month?” This fat guy walked back and gave me back one twenty-dollar bill and proceeded to run. I was looking at his back while he was running and I was thinking to myself, “Why do I always meet only good people?”

 

 

 

Home Party

One thing I had difficulty with in America was getting used to calling people by their first name. In Japan, Korea and other Far East countries where there is great influence of Confucius or Confucianism it was always standard procedure to refer to a person by their surname, even if they are only one year older than our self. In Japan we put "San” after the surname to make it more polite. We never call each other by our given name unless it is between friends of the same age or among family members. Moreover, the manner in the karate-do is very strict apart from the actual training, in speaking to the seniors. It is a way to be polite to them. However, in Japan it is not as severe among the family as it was years ago due to many people becoming Americanized”.

It took me sometime to be comfortable with calling Mr. Mattson as just “George”. It took sometime before I realized that friendships increased faster by calling each other by the given name. There was also an understanding of disregard of the age differences between people. Also, I found later on that although many of the conversations are quite relaxed there are different ways of speaking politely in the English language.

Al was 43 years old when I first met him and yet he made me feel so comfortable to call him just “Al” immediately after we met. He was such a young minded person with a big heart and was kind natured and was a gentle and considerate person. Since his wife, Doris, was much younger than he, I think that’s what kept him “young spirited”.

Another thing that I was surprised to find in America was the fact that it was not considered impolite to ask a person how often they’ve been married, or whether or not this is their first marriage. Apparently so many divorces occur in America that is very common for people to have been married a number of times. They also do not care if their former wife or husband is living next door as their neighbor.

Doris was Al’s third wife and was about twenty years younger than him. Al once showed me a box full of photos and said, “Yoki, these are the girls I used to be with.” Looking at all of those photos it’s no wonder he could have had the chance to get married four or five times possibly. Perhaps Al was not a common American in this matter, I determined. While looking at the photos I said to Al, “ Al, you used to be so handsome and macho looking when you were young, but look at yourself now with your bald head. You better behave yourself.” He replied, “Sure, Yoki, I know. No more marriages ; now just play swing around”.

He graduated from one of the art colleges in Boston. He had his own private exhibition just before I arrived in Boston and I heard that it was very successful. It had favorable comments in the newspaper; however, the problem was that his works were not selling well at all. According to him, he didn’t want to sell his works at that time. He said to me, “Yoki, when I pass away my works will be very expensive, so I will give you a few of them before you go back to Japan.”

I told him at the time, “I will sell this and make money when you pass away ; enough to visit Boston again.” His wife, Doris responded, “Yoki, I am too young to lose him.”

Al lived just in front of the dojo in the apartment house and I used to take my showers almost every day there and we would talk over coffee. Al Ford taught me all those slang and swear words that I would never have learned in school. The majority of his drawings were of birth. One of them was of Doris while she was pregnant with Melissa. (What a lovely baby ; I loved her so much back then.)

I remember a party that Al had and he invited a few other couples and two single women. Paul was there with his wife. Although Paul was one of the dojo students he was more famous in the art world than Al. He looked so much like Gohgan (Anthony Quinn was in the movie) ; one of my favorite artists from the book “Moon and Six Cents”.

I recall that one of the women slapped Al on his face when he grabbed her chest. I ended up getting drunk just to ignore what was going on. Al bought me a bottle of Japanese sake and I finished the entire bottle. I then proceeded to show him how to toast “Kanpai” with vodka that he had. Al said to me, “Yoki, don’t you move ; just stay right here. I will take you back to the dojo later.” I passed out from all the liquor.

The next morning I told Al that I just didn’t trust American artists. What a way to enjoy their lives. I was just being sarcastic and was merely joking with him. He was puzzled by my comment, as he never understood what I meant when I said it.

Thank you, Al, for all the good times! I regret that I did not have the chance to see you again!

It is now February 2001 that I am rewriting this manuscript. I happen to know that Al Ford has since passed away. I cried so badly when I found this out. He was one of the people I wantedto see if I ever had the chance to visit Boston again in the near future.

I understand that George has a Memorial page on his Mattson Academy of Karate website. It includes photos of former students and instructors who have since passed away.I find that I don’t have the courage to visit this website, for it would be too painful to see the others who have died.

I also remember that Jim Elliot was the fellow who taught me how to pronounce the difference between the letter L and the letter R, which is most difficult for Japanese to pronounce. He also taught me to enjoy classical music.

 

 

 

Tom

I recall the day Tom came to the dojo. This was the first time I met him but I recognized him right away as I remembered his photo in George’s book. I remembered his powerful, muscular arms even in the photo. Tom, an Italian fellow, looked much younger than his 25 years of age and had black hair. He was the average height of an American. Although ; Scar Face; was a very well built muscular man, Tom’s muscles were at least one size larger.

Tom was serving in the Air Force at the time. He was a Black Belt Sho-Dan and was one of the main instructors. Due to his military duty he had been away from Boston for a few months. However, people in the dojo never stopped talking about him during his absence. He was an exceptionally strong man and only his classes adopted the very severe free spar training against George’s instructions. People who would go to the dojo mainly to learn self-defense would take his classes. There were so many stories of broken ribs because of his kick or fainting from his sidekick to the face, etc. At the end of their talking about Tom, the one thing they definitely added to their remarks was “ Can’t wait to see him spar with Yoki!”

It was Walter’s class on that day that started at 5 in the afternoon, with about 40 students that consisted of green, brown and black belts, including myself. Walter had a good reputation since he had good instructing skills and thus, always had quite a number of students in his class.

Tom appeared about five minutes after the warm-up exercises, with a daring smile on his face. Tom was receiving handshakes from everyone during the temporary interval of the class. He was being hugged by everyone or tapped on the shoulder, with them saying, “Hi, Tom. We’ve been waiting for your return. Welcome back!” Tom kept smiling as he was answering each one of them. I realized there was a tremendous amount of trust that the students had for him. “Tom, this is Yoki”, Walter said while he introduced me. Tom stopped smiling for a moment and then began to smile again as he said, “ So, you are Yoki. I’ve heard about you from George. With a very daring smile he would talk with very cramped high one voice.

We shook hands. It was not at all a friendly handshake. My poor little skinny right hand was numb in his hand that was the size of a baseball glove. I remembered George once said; “I have never met anyone more powerful than Tom.”

During the work outs in the dojo, there were defined rules just as we had in Japan, about how to be in lines at the first bow ceremony in the manner of formal sitting, and then the warm up exercises and so on. When Mr. Mattson was in to instruct, the first line was for black belts. Walter was the most senior student at the right position in the first line and then there was Tom and Charley and then Harry. The second line of the brown belts followed in the same manner as the senior stayed to the right of the lines, and so on. Since I was here as a guest, I used to stay in the right of the first line. Tom came in and stood next to me after he changed into his do-gi. Since he was out of the line, I said “Please” and stepped one line back to the brown belt line purposely to judge him from the back and found the formidable rival soon after the class re-started.

He had thick log-like legs and the speed to kick and get back into the stance after the kick was no comparison in this dojo. There was no one more superior to him in the punch and kick ; he had excellent power. Moreover, the basic was established.

This was the first time I trembled with excitement since arriving in Boston. The Kata exercise began. His Kata performance did not flow as smoothly when compared to George or Charley. However, he had his opponents against every one of his movements. His thrust stabbing punch would occur almost the same time as his kick. It was definitely obvious that we were to spar for the answer and the result.

If the situation had been opposite and Tom had been visiting Japan Seigo-Kan, I would not be the one to be in charge to take his challenge as only a first degree black belt, since there would be many others who were far superior than me. The actual situation, of course, was that I would have to spar. The one thing I learned since coming to America was that no one but me must win in order to maintain my reputation of Japanese Karate.

My worry soon changed into a full combative spirit at the exercise of rubbing and hooking blocks as this exercise you must choose the partner behind you, so we were facing each other. When Americans talk with someone they gaze into the eyes of the person they are talking to and the same thing when listening ; there is almost no blinking of the eyes. This does not happen in Japan due to a difference in philosophy that the Japanese people believe that gazing too strongly would be accepted as confrontational.

In this dojo it is good practice that they try not to blink during a certain exercise as the whole thing ends in one blink, especially sparring. However, I started to wonder why Tom never looked at me. He kept looking over to the sidewall or out a window during this exercise. He just kept quiet with each slow punch ; the only noise would be from the crunchy sound from his hairy arms as they rubbed together. The hooking block is almost the same as Goju-ryu style except one last move to block the middle punch and hook to pull and punch down the opponent’s arm with the hand knife blocking punch to the opponent’s upper arm right below the elbow. We took turns repeating this exercise.

I also had well trained muscles, however, I could resist only until the third stroke. I no longer felt numb but my arm felt as though it was almost split in two. His arm, which was as big as my thigh, came buzzing down smashing on my upper arm. Now I understood why he could not look me in my eyes and he was doing it on purpose. Although, later I found that he did this to everyone, though he wouldn’t use as much strength. I didn’t blame him. Here I am, a fellow from another dojo here during his absence and the incidence with his instructor. He probably felt that there should be at least one person to give me a reward!

I was not stupid enough to accept any more of his smashing so I defended my upper arm by putting it down slightly at the same time as his smash with the proper timing. Like a big thick tree bending to break with a strong wind ; but the soft willow would only flutter. Why should I compete with the strength of this monster? He started to be quite nervous since I put down my arm so nicely ; meantime, my natural unyielding spirits rose. “ Big Shot,” I murmured.

When the final warm-up exercise ended, we bowed. Not even one person left the dojo to change their clothes. They pretended to be doing additional warm-up exercises and would look at Tom and me from time to time. “Yoki-san, how about a spar with me?” Tom shouted with his unique loud voice. I calmly bowed to accept his offer and we then faced each other. Walter, Charley and everybody else made a circle so quickly to sit ; just like this was already a planned event. “O’SU !” I said, since occasionally I have no equivalent word in English. I stepped in with my right food ahead in a Cat stance.

“Kiai should come from Tanden” which Tom, his kiai was still at the throat, however his stance was good and steady. Besides, the distance he took was closer and far better than anybody else in this dojo. Above them all, I was most astonished with the speed of his movements.

I realized later that he was a regular member of the football team in the Air Force. He was the attacking type. Though in this dojo some are quite good in defending techniques as well as practicing in Kata and pre-arranged spar but when it comes to attacking they don’t know what they should do. Tom whether it was because he knew what to do or not, or because of his character, he kept attacking. I was thinking in my mind if he ever came to Japan for a few years to train at Seigo-Kan, he would be an astoundingly great fighter. I was short, small and skinny even by Japan standards. However, the reason I could get through so far without having any serious damages was mainly because of my speed and my movements.

If this was the match of Judo which starts after grabbing the opponents, 120 pounds (55 kg) and 220 pounds (100 kg) with the same first-degree black belt, there would be no doubt of the results. However, Karate-Do ends before we grab each other and finish when we touch or have contact.

A big huge log or sword would be nothing if just to cut the air, however a tiny blazer could still give serious damage if a kick or punch got right on the spot. Those in the karate-field would understand this situation, and in those days we had no weight divides in the tournament. I found his speed to be just a little bit slow in order to catch me. The first kick he threw to my stomach and I did not know how powerful he was by the actual feeling. I thought I blocked his kick with my arm but my arm jumped up due to his power. If comparing just the power of his strength it was perhaps equivalent to a third degree black belt in Seigo-kan, I may say.

Regretfully, his kick didn’t get right in to the stomach to stab but just went upwards to the air. There is a big difference to just kicking a ball and kicking straight to the opponent. Perhaps I could correct him later but I was not in a comfortable situation at that moment. The second and third block I never blocked right on his arms or kicks. Using the opponent’s strength to block by sliding and rubbing, or slap the kick away at one tenth second as the kick stops before one pulls back. Gradually, I could see him getting impatient as every kick and punch just cut the air. He is certainly tough but with a slight guard less point. Un-yield sprits of his character opened more guard less areas.

A thick log cut the air and went down on the floor. NOW I was inside close enough already with a very clear point of a right middle punch to his stomach then stepped backwards quickly. I really made him mad - he chased me like a bull but with his stomach wide open. I pretended to step back, “on the contrary” with the sharp kiai, my most effective right kick got his stomach. I was astonished anyone could still be standing after my counter kick on his stomach. He must be in breathless pain holding his stomach with his right hand and then he smiled, which made me mad this time.

With no judge and with no limits of time, I made up my mind this was going to be a very serious end. I might have to finish with contact to his face. Even so, either one of us were going to be in serious injury anyway as one of his attacks could possibly finish me easily if I made any tiny mistake in blocking.

Luckily, all I got from him had been a glancing blow to my shoulder or on my knee. I could not walk properly for a week because of my knee. I noticed indiscreet murmurs from the students watching as Tom had already lost his temper completely. They just didn’t know what to do. I made very clear points of all middle attacks on his stomach - two punches and two kicks. His midriff area was covered so strongly with the muscle.

“That’s enough! Yoki and Tom” Mr. Mattson said while standing at the entrance of the dojo. Did we spar about 30 minutes? I wasn’t sure, but it was at least over 20 minutes for sure. No one clapped their hands. I bet they had never seen a spar like this.

 

 

 

Quincy Cop

I was just relaxing in the tea room after a two-hour work-out in the afternoon. I had received a package from Japan. I found MEZASHI “the dried sardines!” At night when no one else was in the dojo, I took the package of sardines into the storeroom in the back of the dojo where I found an old portable electric stove. I fixed the stove by tying up some lines. When the juicy fish oils turned into the dark brown color it made me think of the pure white rice, soybean soup, and pickles from back home in Japan.

I picked up a piece of sardine very gently and took a bite. I almost cried. How could anyone understand such a deep emotion from just eating something, especially since I was not a fussy eater at all?

As I mentioned earlier I am rewriting this manuscript in the year 2001. So, as I am writing now I am reminded of the earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1995 in Kobe, Japan. It was about a month later I almost cried when I ate boiled hot soybean cake at my friend house. It had been some weeks since the earthquake and no one had eaten any warm meals since then. Later, one of my best Korean friends, who lives in Osaka, wrote a poem about me. He jokingly said in the poem that the newspapers carried an article that stated, “Yoki cried when he ate a boiled soybean cake.”

I could never imagine that eating could mean so much until this trip to America. I was able to forget about hot dogs, hamburgers, cheese, bacon and a coke. I had four sardines at a time, and I had to drink lots of water since the salt made me thirsty. From that night on, I was resigned to the fact that I should only have one piece a night. The next day, although I was hesitant I gave some of this precious treasure to Walter and Charley to taste. I was so mad they both just spit out this wonderful treasure! Plus, I had to help Walter’s class to compensate.

I still could not use my left kick because of Tom’s kick on my knee. Besides, sleeping directly on a tatami mat for so long gave me a sluggish feeling much of the time. Walter’s class started at 6 in the evening, with the majority of beginners below the level of a green belt. Some of the students were overweight and looked as though they had a hard time moving. I wanted them to sweat as much as they possibly could. In general, they had weak knee joints compared to Japanese as the different manner of living on the tatami mat and sitting on a chair. (Nowadays, kids in Japan have similar problems with weak knees as the style of living has changed to the westernized style, whereby they use more chairs in their daily life.)

I used to correct their stances and positions by slapping with my hand which resembles what is done in Japan ; rather than correcting verbally. There was this one man who was about forty or forty-'ve years old who was always bent a little forward when doing the punch exercises. He had such a fierce looking face among the students. It was later that I found out he was one of the policemen. He reminded me of a bulldog with his very angry looking glances while practicing the punches, however his back was not straight I slapped his back rather strongly with my right hand and pulled back his chest with my left hand. I heard a cracking noise on his back. He suddenly stood up straight and looked right into my eyes. Although he was just looking at me normally I felt he was glaring to scold me. “Yoki!” he shouted and continued, “I once hurt my back in a car accident and I still feel pain if I put my back too straight.” He was (The cop in town Quincy).

I realize it is very impolite to compare a man to a dog. Though a dog has the most plentiful appearances to express among animals. I like the bulldog the best among the dogs – much better than poodles or spitz, as those small cute dogs are too noisy and will easily bite people. Whereas, many women usually dislike bulldogs and boxer dogs because they aren’t “cute” looking--though their characters are quite gentle, in fact. You may get a serious injury if bitten by them, but once they get friendly to you, they will sacrifice their life for you.

Well, this “bulldog” cop came to the dojo very diligently though he seldom would talk to anybody in the dojo. There were about six policemen in the dojo but students seemed to keep away from him and would go to the other cops when they needed some help with parking tickets, and so on.

After the class "Bull dog cop" took me to his home in Braintree. This was a suburb of typical middle-class American families just as I had seen on Television in Japan. As such, there were wooden, one story homes, colorful structures compared to Japan. Each house had a front and back yard with well-maintained lawns. One difference in comparison, each house in Japan had a tall fence to hide even a garden.

He took me right into the kitchen when we got to his home. “Hi! Yoki.” said his wife who was fixing dinner at the time. That was it, just like that! As if we had known each other for many years. I liked her the minute I met her.

It had been my impression that Italians and Chinese eat the most of foods in the world. He and his wife had a dinner party in their back yard and invited some of the neighbors. A very simple introduction as everybody raised his or her hands at the same time and said, “Hi, Yoki.” We were so busy eating very hot, large clams with lots of butter, along with salad and corn, all the while using our hands, not needing any table manners, which I liked. I just don’t remember if we had any conversation during this dinner party. We all just kept eating and eating. Finally, as bedtime approached it was so good to be able to sleep on a nice comfortable bed after all this time.

Thereafter, He often took me to his home during the summertime weekends and as it was “hot as hell” at night in the dojo I gained real recovery. Although other students also invited me for weekend I preferred 'Cop's; home, as I could be completely relaxed somehow.

Carmine used to be a fighter before he became a cop. No wonder I noticed in the dojo that he was excellent in the punching technique, though he had some difficulties in kicking due to his back problems.

I wondered;his house had more than enough things which no Japanese family had in those days but just dreamed about having, such as a color TV, refrigerator, and most all of the necessary electrical appliances, plus two automobiles.

I realized later that because the wife and husband both work, perhaps that made it possible to afford such luxuries. It was in later years in Japan that wives also started to work for a better living. I still don’t know which is better because parents had to give kids a key to get in from school and the mothers were not waiting with dinner ready, so the kids would just watch TV and eat snacks alone.

His wife used to say, “You see, Yoki! I am the boss here in this house.”

Then, he would whisper to me “Yoki, I’m the boss in the house.”

The only problem in his home was his daughter, Betty, who was just a young teenager. She was such a curious person about everything and she had to have answers immediately for the hundreds of questions that she would ask. She would wake me up through a small window in the back of the house, and then the questions would start and would continue until late at night. Her questions would continue even during the meals, so the only conversation I was able to have with her mother was “Shut up and eat!”

 

 

 

Hitchhike

It was nearly the end of the summer on a very hot Friday night. Bull dog did not come to the dojo for his usual workout, nor did he come to pick me up. So, I decided to visit him. Back in those days in America, people used to live much more safe compared to the present time. Now, no one would take any chance to risk their safety to go anywhere by hitchhiking, but when I was there back then, I saw so many people going places by hitchhiking. In the suburbs, the small kids would hitchhike whenever they wanted to go somewhere. All they would have to do is stand on the side of the road with their arm stretched out and their thumb pointing up – and after a few minutes someone driving by would stop their car to give them a ride. In Japan, as the traffic system is very well organized for wherever we need to go, we did not have to use this method of transportation for getting places.

Well, I stood in the street at night with my thumb out for a little while and then a car stopped. A young man who was driving alone said, “Where’re you going?” I replied, “Braintree.” He then said, “Get in.” It was that simple! On the way in the car, there was nothing much to talk about. He happened to be a college student, so I must have explained why I was visiting Boston. I do not remember why he thought I was hungry, but he treated me to a hamburger on the way. I did not have many problems showing him the way to get to the house and I was so thankful to him as he must have spent so much time going out of his way for me.

After I saw him off I entered the dark front yard to the door. I found the door was locked. I stood there for a while. There were no lights on in the house - the family must have gone somewhere. Since it was nearly 10 pm, I didn’t think I would be able to hitchhike back to Boston since there wasn’t much traffic at that time.

I asked myself what would you do when you came home and you found you lost a key. I should have waited there until they came home. It was such an unusually small lock, what we call a “nankin” lock. I kicked it and it broke very easily. I wondered why a cop’s house would be so unguarded, and I should warn.

When I got into the house I went over to the refrigerator. I was thirsty so I had a few cans of beer and fell asleep. Somebody woke me up. I didn’t know what time it was. I had to go down to the basement to sleep the night.

Once in a while, I still remember this matter and am thankful that he did not shoot me with his gun! Imagine a cop coming home late at night to find a broken lock on the door and somebody just lying there in the dark living room!!!

During my stay in America this family treated me so well and I owe them so much, I just cannot find any words to express my gratitude.

I was a little worried that he would get mad about this incident, but I was able to visit them during the winter time as I remember I once went ice skating at a nearby frozen pond with Betty and her older brother.

By the way, his daughter and I got in touch with each other after thirty years, she is helping me put together this book and I am helping her to speak and write Japanese. We communicate each other by E-mail.

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... final part: "1964 All American Karate-Do Championship"


[1]

我不懂武術,但相信在切磋中大家應該拋開尊嚴,不分嬴輸吧。

亞占
[引用] | 作者 亞占 | 3rd Mar 2008 12:38 PM | [舉報垃圾留言]

[2] Re: 亞占
亞占 :
我不懂武術,但相信在切磋中大家應該拋開尊嚴,不分嬴輸吧。

對﹐空手道是始於禮、終於禮﹐但在人家的館裡邊一定要留給主人家一點情面。

BM
[引用] | 作者 BM | 3rd Mar 2008 1:18 PM | [舉報垃圾留言]