Sweat. A sweaty gi, a sweaty belt. Sweat that wouldn’t
even dry during the lunch break, even if you hang your
gi to dry in the Okinawan sun. Sweat that makes the
heavy cotton cloth even heavier, so uncomfortable in the
heat of the gym, so irritating to the skin. Sweat is my first
memory of Okinawa.
I fell into karate later, almost by accident. In 2011 I moved to
Okinawa, for OIST. In the year that followed, I transitioned
from spouse to volunteer technician to candidate for the
PhD program. My previous experience with karate hadn’t
gone very far, so I felt no strong loyalty to a particular style.
And I chose my dojo essentially out of convenience. Halfway
between OIST and my home. A relatively minor style, Ryuei
Ryu. A dojo in the home of Sakumoto Tsuguo. A dojo where
I was the only adult for a long time.
So you may ask, why do I keep practicing karate? To perform
in front of the whole dojo is nerve racking at first, but
you build up a resistance. Always good for fear. But more
importantly, every lesson is a reminder that by working
hard, you can better yourself. Karate is a physical metaphor
of what I am hoping to achieve in science. Sometimes I cry
in pain after a few hundred steps in shiko dachi (the sumo
stance, very hard for a tall gaijin lacking flexibility like me).
But I keep going. Sometimes I cry after yet another failed
experiment. But I keep going.
Karate orange belts photo courtesy of https://www.goodfreephotos.com.