When The Logging Road Cyclist was training, there were two major schools of Shotokan Karate in existence. One was TLRC’s school, the Japanese Karate Association (JKA), at the time led by Sensei Nishiama, the other was the Shotokan Karate Association (SKA) led by Mr. Oshima. To an outsider, indeed to most insiders below the higher black belt ranks, there wasn’t much difference. They used mostly the same training forms (kata), techniques (there were minor things like stance width that got argued over incessantly, but that any other than an adept wouldn’t notice) &c, &c.
The most notable difference was in attitude. The JKA was not training fighters, the SKA was. We JKA students were told that the goal of karate was “the perfection of character”, and indeed at one point TLRC had it figured out that part of this was that if were trained enough to prevail in almost any fight you ran into, but arranged your life so that a) you never got even close to one, and b) that if you did, you just walked away, you had absorbed something about both yourself and how you should carry youself in the world. Training was like a trap you set for yourself only to avoid, and in doing that, one progressed to a better self. There are, TLRC realizes now, probably more efficient ways “to perfect one’s character”.
TLRC, who spent a couple of years training with SKA (he had moved, and that was what was there) after getting his black belt, came to the conclusion that those guys all figured that somewhere, sometime out there in front of them was going to be a battle to the death, and they were going to prevail. TLRC enjoyed their tough training regimen, and in a way their combative attitude appealed to a certain dark part of TLRC that he still doesn’t like to acknowledge.
There was a pretty big difference training with the two schools. In his home JKA dojos, TLRC went to class and worked hard. On the way to SKA classes, TLRC’s stomach would tighten and he would sit in the car before going in, getting ready to get pounded on (there was some resentment of him being an auslander from time to time). One thing for sure: in the JKA one did not talk about taking it out in the street. One fought in the dojo, there, and there only. Using karate on an untrained person was considered disgraceful. Had TLRC ever really gotten into a fight in the World, he would never had disclosed it to his instructors, unless it was a true and necessary matter of self defense. In the SKA dojo TLRC went to, one of the head instructors would occaisionally brag to TLRC about how he had gotten into some civilian’s face over some trivial matter. This was not trivial, as the instructor was actually a pretty scary individual. TLRC was also warned about lightly going in to train in other SKA dojos, the implication being clear that here, they were more tolerant than usual, and TLRC might actually get hurt. It set a much different tone. Eventually, TLRC just left after getting tired of having constantly bruised ribs, and also enduring the endless racist jokes and troglodyte politics that were particular to this dojo (NOT, TLRC will emphasize again, the SKA in general).
Eventually TLRC moved back home, took up training again in the dojos of Peace, Harmony, and Light, and took up mountain biking too.
Early on as an MTB, TLRC took a trip to California and did a long ride in the Sierras above Pinecrest. This was a real ordeal for TLRC; 30-40 miles with lots of climbing and chasing his brother-in-law, one of the Machine People. Well into the ride on a narrow trail through a meadow, TLRC ran his front wheel smack into a rock or something, which brought him to a dead halt.
Fortunately, TLRC was inept enough that he wasn’t going very fast anyway. He was also inept enough that getting his feet out of the still unfamiliar clipless pedals was hard. The end result was a forward-stationary TLRC who slowly tilted over to the right.
Naturally, he looked into the fall. There, on the ground was a log, and sticking out of the log was a limb with about 1″ diameter tapering to a sharp point. The tip of the sharp point intersected the arc currently being traced out by TLRC’s right eye as it swung groundward.
Instantly, time slowed to a near stop. TLRC removed his right hand from the grip, and smoothly brought it up to his left ear. During this movement, he pressed his fingers tightly together and bent them slightly. He curled his thumb into his palm and arched his hand, which was now a rigid striking tool. Keeping his elbow close to his ribs he began an outward swing, shoulder loose, upper arm, lower arm, wrist and hand held as a single structure. When the lateral side of his hand hit the branch, TLRC compressed all the muscles from shoulder to waist and emitted a forceful grunt, expelling his air and completing the solidification of body and striking masses into one. The limb snapped, and TLRC found himself, eye intact, lying attached to his bike.
Time resumed it’s normal flow, and TLRC lay there and laughed and laughed after completing this thoughtless effort. It worked just like they said it would! He had done almost exactly this move thousands of times doing basics and kata, and sure enough, it was part of him, just lying in there ’til needed.