The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.


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21st Century Asian Ass Kickers

Note: I was just going through some of my unpublished drafts of blog posts and re-read this one that I initially began writing 10 months ago. Sometimes when I’m blogging, I end up shelving it because I don’t yet feel I have a good grasp on what I’m saying. Or in the course of writing it, I’ll forget what my point was. Anyway, I thought that what I wrote here, while nothing new, was at least interesting to read. Take it or leave it.

. . .

This is gonna sound strange and slightly out of context and maybe even a little like “wtf is this dude talkin’ about?“. But I feel like, with all the things I’ve been seeing and processing and feeling inside, I think that this century, in the U.S. at least, is going to be the century of the empowered Asian American. Or at least, I like to envision it as that kind of century. And honestly, I want to contribute and be a part of this “movement” that I’m sensing. It’s not a conscious (i.e. “visible”) movement to me, although some activists might try and paint it that way. Not a movement that’s got our people out in the street with signs and banners singing “Bring the Man down!“. Nah. It’s a silent movement. Like a stealthy ninja comin’ to murder your ass in the night. And ironically so, considering the stereotype of Asian peeps being quiet, passive people who don’t make a fuss. But I mean quiet more in the sense of, you don’t hear of it happening out in the street. You don’t see an Asian Malcolm X or an Asian Black Panther Party. Nothing like that. Where I see the movement happening is through the arts. Not just mass media. But in the independent, underground as well. I mean like, we always been there. In the background, before the shit really got big. Or doin’ our own thing out of a garage. We been there and we been contributing. And sometimes we make headway. But most times not enough to stay on the radar and become pop culturally relevant. The only time the spotlight does seem to shine bright is when you get William Hung-type Asians out on the main stage dancin’ and shakin’ their uncool ass to some god awful song and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, cause you’re just in shock goin’ “Is this shit for real?

The thing is, we haven’t been normalized yet in U.S. pop culture. I think there’s more of us there now and it seems like we makin’ headway. But it’s never enough and it’s never gonna be enough. White people don’t stop tellin’ stories about themselves and their history and their culture and their heroes and villains because there’s infinitely more stories to tell. There’s lots of shades of white out there. Not enough of the other colors. There’s lots of Asians everywhere, driving trucks, mopping floors, flying planes….we’re not just one type of people. But we don’t see that being portrayed in our mythology yet. People of color have been obligated to identify with the Luke Skywalker’s on screen, but if Luke Skywalker had an Asian face, would white audiences be able to relate? I think they would actually. But no one’s thought enough outside their box to try so (at least not in any consistently normalized way).

I like the idea of mixing shit up, just to fuck with people’s normalized conceptions of what they expect to see, but then hitting them with something they never could’ve imagined. At the core of my art now, that’s what I wanna do. My ideas revolve around that. It will probably evolve, as long as I keep maturing. But right now that’s what really grabs me. Cause even when we do mix it up and play with perceptions, beneath it all there’s something human. And that’s what I’m really looking for.

The William Hung’s of the world wouldn’t really be much of a “problem” if we had broader representation. He’d be just another dude lookin’ silly rather than some “stain” on the representation of East Asian males in U.S. pop culture media. How many dorky ass white dudes can you find like him? But you see why we get so sensitive bout William Hung? Cause, with what little representation we have in popular media, we don’t want the “ugliness” of us to become the face of all of us. That’s why watchin’ Mickey Rooney do Mr. whatever-his-name-was in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is still painful to watch. It’s just like, fuck man. I’m tired of bein’ the exotic butt of the joke. I know we got our nerds and our geeks and our misfits, but I just don’t think of my people in the same way you portraying him in this movie. Not even the obnoxiously slimy bastard ones.

. . .


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Return of the Elbow Smash…part II

Well folks. That’s right. It looks like I’m back again.

*Sigh*

It’s been one helluva year for me. At the beginning of it I was living in Seattle. In the middle of it I was living in Oakland. Now at the end of it, I’m living with parents again in good ol’ Torrance, CA; the village I left three years ago before embarking on my Detroit adventure. Things don’t change much around here, but that’s besides the point.

I’m back. I don’t know for how long. Or for hoo long. Or for ding dong. But I’m back. Sheesh. I didn’t even wanna really type this post. I mean, I wanna just embody the changes that are happening in my life now rather than explain every last detail of it. Whatever. Here I am…typing away.

I’m sorry. That sounded negative. No, I’m not negative. Really. It’s just been a heck of a lot of shit been goin’ down. For real man. I’d have to make you my friend and sit you down with a nice hot cup of brown rice tea at the kitchen table for me to go into it all. It’s a lot man.

Let me just say this: I’ve resumed my karate practice…yet again (Yeah, I periodically have severe bouts of why-the-fuck-am-I-doing-this-again?! syndrome). My training routine is still gettin’ worked out. But mainly I’ve decided that I don’t wanna cut ties with my Sensei. I mean, not that I was planning to. It’s just that, I no longer feel I want to be learning at his school anymore. That’s all. No hard feelings. I’m just feeling out my own path is all. So my current plan is to attend class at his dojo once a week (that’s about as much as I can tolerate I think). But before I do that, to sit down and have a conversation with him about what’s been on my mind (with regards to karate) these past three years since I been gone*. I want to tell him at least three major things I’m grateful for during the time I had to train with him. And then I want to tell him that I would like to learn the three kata in our Matsubayashi-ryu syllabus that I have not yet learned: Naihanchi Nidan, Sandan and Kusanku. And I would like to ask his permission to wear the purple belt I had embroidered for myself instead of my black belt from now on. My intention with the purple belt was to symbolically assert my independence by wearing a color that had resonance for me (purple being the color of the Okinawa sweet potato) and embroidered with hiragana that represents my philosophy. You can check the “QUANTUM?” page to see a picture of it.

peace.
Quantum.

*Update: I actually wrote this post above a couple weeks ago and just never published it till now. But I did have that talk with my Sensei yesterday after a special Christmas eve class at the dojo and so. . . Success! Oh man, I was kinda nervous and didn’t think I was gonna be able to stay on point. But I had my talking points written out and I amazingly kept on track, despite him going on and on about some other drama this and that. Sheesh. I think that must be related to his technique – a barrage of words, too dense to get an edge in. Well Sensei, thanks for listening to me. We’ll see how it goes. Funny, he told me he was gonna give me a one month trial to see if I’m really serious about coming back to practice. I said, “Fool, I wouldn’t be talking to you with these carefully thought out talking points in my hand if I wasn’t serious!” No I didn’t. Who knows, maybe he’s right. Maybe I’ll get fed up with being there again and wanna stop. What’s really important for me isn’t necessarily the training I’m gonna be getting there. It’s the maintaining of the connection that I have with him as a person. Not as a Sensei-Hoo-hah-10th degree-Supreme-Grandmaster. As a human being. As a teacher who gave me the foundations for what I am independently exploring now. No matter how I may disagree with his pedagogy or his views on life, the fact remains that I am grateful for what he so tirelessly made an effort to give. And when you die Sensei, I’m gonna be there in the back somewhere, quietly shedding my tears.

 

 


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A lot different than what you thought it was gonna be

Old man with long wispy beard once said,

Knowledge cannot win over knowledge. Only wisdom can do that. Might cannot win over might. Only love can do that.

And then, before he left, he turned around, his long wispy beard blowing like toothpicks in the wind. His eye glinted with something magical. I thought it was a raindrop sparkling by the reflection of the streetlamp. It wasn’t. He said:

Compassion is when you are able to peer past the persona to see the wounded human being underneath.

I was like, “Daaaaaamnnnnn. Who is this fool?” Cause it was obvious to me that this was no damn fool. Before I could think any more thoughts, the old man turned and left me standing there in the glow of the moonlight hanging like a mystic 8-ball in the ghostly cloud covered blackness of the universe, the wind howling a demon’s yell, I thought, “holy hell. There’s some new shit no one ever seen before comin’ down the pipeline.” And then I saw the clock tick, so I left hella quick.

– peace. Quantum.