To all my friends in the blogosphere,
I wish you a Happy New Year, and may 2006 be a year of peace, happiness and prosperity for you and yours.
I spent the day Friday (a rare weekday off from work) in Philadelphia with my former karate teacher. We drank, played cards and chess (I was beaten badly in both), and reflected on the past year, and on the more than 12 years of our friendship.
I vividly remember that day in May 1993 when I first walked into his dojo.
I knew absolutely nothing about karate, nor about the culture that gave birth to it and the successive cultures that shaped it and honed it into what it is today.
I walked into his dojo because it was around the corner from my house and I had recently gotten out of the hospital and was looking for an activity to get me in shape. It was a question of convenience born of ignorance. And happenstance.
With a chip on my shoulder (I get like that when I'm unsure of myself), I asked him what he would teach me.
"I'll teach you Shotokan karate," he said, looking me square in the eyes. "But I don't know what you're prepared to learn."
From this tenuous beginning, a lifetime friendship was formed.
And a way of life was formed. I became increasingly interested in India and China, the parents of the martial arts. Then my attention focused on Japan and I wound up moving there, immersing myself in its religions, history and culture.
And all this began through a chance meeting between a defensive and clueless prospective student and an extraordinarily perceptive and gifted teacher.
A chance meeting? Perhaps not.