Eye of the Storm

March 25, 2020 at 8:48 am (By Amba) (, , )

It is surreal being “in the city but not of it.'” I’m reading about the trouble beyond my walls same as you. I have no direct experience so far of the crisis reportedly overwhelming NYC’s health care facilities. I’m sitting here in my timeless little apartment in the middle of white silence, like Dorothy when her house was spinning through the air. I wouldn’t be surprised to look out my window and see Margaret Hamilton pedaling by.

Someone I saw 11 days ago has had symptoms for 6 days. It sounds just like the CV but so far he’s not sick enough to get tested, may it stay that way. We met outdoors on a windy day and we both felt healthy. I still do and am optimistic that I’m virus free, but concerned about him. He’s not old enough to be high-risk but has had a load of stress.

I sometimes help a friend in her mid–late 80s in the neighborhood (who also lives alone in a 4-story walk-up) with shopping or doctor appointments when she can’t get an aide. She has a fresh leg injury (a calf muscle tear from a cramp in her sleep? the timing could not be worse) and what appears to be a worsening infection. She’s at risk of falling, has an alert button. Her twice-a-week aide took a photo of the leg and she got an emergency supply of antibiotics, which make her feel sick. She’s trying to get into a rehab facility but, depending on the delay, may need me to shop and bank for her. Other friends normally help her too, but I’m the last one left now who’s still in the city, healthy, and mobile.

Online live karate classes 3x a week from the empty, shining Karatedo Honma Dojo are already a lifeline, bringing refreshment and structure to what could otherwise slump into a shapeless, listless mess. It’s so much easier to ride a wave of group energy from an inexhaustible ocean of tradition than to impose discipline on oneself. I even vacuum beforehand to make the space worthy, which makes it a lot nicer the rest of the time.

Permalink 1 Comment

Only two days ago . . .

March 21, 2020 at 7:10 pm (By Amba) (, )

and it’s old news, burned up, bypassed, trampled under the stampede of events. New York’s more strictly locked down now, and karate classes have gone virtual. (Sensei and his wife drove all the way in from Westchester to the empty dojo to beam that dedicated space into our heads and homes, especially important for the kids.) It was a revealing conflict for a moment, though—revealing of my own contrary arrogance as well as of various aspects of various coexisting cultures. So I’m copying my journal entry about the question—go to the dojo while I still can, or start staying home?

3/19 I showed up at the dojo last night in defiance of being berated and pleaded with by Mom, Sara [infectious disease doc sis]. and what seemed like half of Facebook, who, in effect (if not in so many words), either said I was going to die, or that I was going to kill somebody. I’ve never been the target of a mob shaming before: they differed in their tactics—some expressed coaxing concern for me, others compared me to selfish spring breakers—but they were united shoulder to shoulder, a phalanx letting no light through, in the conviction that it was irresponsible to go out, that in this we ALL had to be As One, and strays had to be driven into line. I’ve never seen Americans so unanimous, never see them enact a uniform consensus, like the Chinese army, breaking away only to act as border collies nipping stragglers back into the sea of units, all individuals choosing to subsume themselves in a unified action. I didn’t know we had it in us. It was impressive (if also oppressive).

Well, there was an exception: the martial artists, a couple of them, who understood the importance of training, and even training together, in defiance of consensus and even common sense. It’s belonging to that culture that drives me in the other direction. Yes, there is pride: I’m expected to be an example and a role model, someone demonstrating the benefits of matter-of-factly continuing to be “a karateka” rather than meekly submitting to the straitjacket of “old age.” Sensei relies on me for this mute demonstration, and I don’t want to let him down, even now, when it goes directly against the overwhelming tide of fear and epidemiological prudence. I am hoping that the city goes into lockdown and spares me this conflict.

It doesn’t help that I read a diversity of voices on the internet, including the right-wing point of view that the lethality of the virus is being overblown for either political or nefarious governmental ends. The people who were scolding me were all progressives or moderate liberals (well, not all: Ann Althouse is a center-right independent and contrarian). Many if not most conservatives tend toward the other extreme, or did (they haven’t quite caught up with Trump’s head-spinning pivot from scoffing Ostrich-in-Chief to “Wartime President”). But not Newt Gingrich: he lives in Italy and has seen the virus do its worst.

There’s that self-sacrificing recklessness in karate culture (which I dubbed “maso-machismo”) that gets guys so brutally banged up (ripped knees, perma-dislocated shoulders, broken bones) that their older age is a torment of disability. I avoided that not because I had any brains, but because sexism and Jacques protected me from my own zeal and vanity. I am paradoxically a tribute to the benefits not only of karate but of not too much karate.

Permalink 11 Comments

Now THIS made me nostalgic

January 10, 2020 at 10:11 pm (By Amba) (, , )

for having a “cover photo.” [If I make the photo bigger, it gets vertically squished. You can zoom it on your screen.]

This was Kagami Biraki, a lung-busting New Year’s training (January 4) followed by a dojo cleanup and a party featuring sake and mochi and a traditional soup whose name I don’t know.

Passing the tippy ritual sake vessel (it’s a test of wrist strength and balance to sip, not dump it down your front) . . .

Photos by Asae Takahashi

. . . reminded me incongruously of this:

Permalink Leave a Comment

“There’s An Awful Picture of You Guys . . .”

June 13, 2009 at 1:20 am (By Amba) (, , , , )

“. . . on my website,” was what I heard Nathan say.  But no:  he’d said “awesome.”


Awful or awesome?  A little of both, no?  I look like I’m about to pop Toto into my basket.  J looks great, though, as always.


Ligo Dojo is growing.  It is a nonprofit that serves at-risk kids from the Durham juvenile justice system, seamlessly mixed in with a diverse batch of regular students.



To look at these two, you’d almost think they had a life!

Permalink 6 Comments