That's just how I roll

This post is about one of the other arts I practice. Since 1996, I've been studying martial arts at Quantum, first in Seattle and sometimes at our sister school in San Francisco. Like sculpture, it's something I came to later in my life (I didn't start until I was 36). And, like my other artwork, I hope I'm getting better the longer I do it. I think I am.
 This weekend, I and six of my friends participated in our Red Belt testing. I've been wearing the Red Belt for a couple of years now... but that just meant I got to learn the techniques for that level. On Saturday, I got to show off what I had learned.

The curriculum we have to know at this level is pretty insane... eight belt levels worth of kicks and blocks and punches, nine different kata (all performed in a sequence that runs almost a half hour in itself), grappling techniques, diving, rolling, defending ourselves against people swinging knives, stretching, breathing, TEACHING... not only do you have to know it, you have to be ready to pass it on to someone who knows nothing. And what's a test without having to fight everyone in the room? Maybe not all of them, but I think I sparred about 10 people in 45 minutes.

My friend Tracy asked her teacher, a shaman named Thundercloud, to bless us on the morning of the test. "TC" took us back into the weight room, anointed us with oils, prayed over us, sang and played a flute made from the legbone of an eagle. Somehow it made the coming ordeal less intimidating. It felt not like a test I could fail, but more like a performance I was about to give for my friends, family and teachers. I resolved to calm my nerves and stay relaxed. There would be things I knew and things I did not. Things I did well and things I could do better. But nothing would be beyond my reach.

The night before the test I decided that I needed to jazz up my uniform a little. I've been collecting patches for years, but I never actually sit down and sew them on... so as an exercise in chilling out, I watched cheesey movies and sewed on some new deco. Up above here in the center is our school logo (based on the logo from Dark Side of the Moon- so much of what we do is built around musical rhythms and imagery, I told Master Evans the school needed a playlist to go along with our reading list). On my right sleeve is the patch from my teacher's teacher's school. Thankyou, Master K for passing down your killer sidekick. On my left sleeve is the patch  worn by Peter Weller and his team in "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai". Buckaroo is a rock star, a brain surgeon and a superhero... I first meant this as a joke about all the directions my interests and talents take me, but I just figured out that if you're going to teach karate, you have to be all three of those things!

My friend, James, surprised me with that patch and this one as well... This is Harley Quinn. If you know cartoons, you'll know she's the Joker's ditzy girlfriend, and if you know me, you'll know that I named my cat after her. James knows both things.

I think I added Harley to remind me not to take anything too seriously during the test. I would be, after all, a grown man jumping around in my pajamas.

Finally on the back I added this...
My friend, Toni, brought me back this great shirt from Ireland last year... three black cats in a celtic knot. I loved the shirt, but I hardly ever wear t-shirts. I had had this idea to cut up one of my batman shirts and put the logo across my uniform, which would have looked cool, but I already have the emblem on the front. Why beat it to death? But the cats? Oh, yeah. Some of my best friends have been black cats... and there they are... Bob, Burt and Wheeze, reminding me to stay soft, stay gentle, keep rolling and, above all else, stay in the moment. Live in the present. Then let it go. And relax. And see what happens next.

Anyway, before I knew it, the sparring was over. I had a blast, I kept my partners safe, and if anybody laid a glove on me, I sure don't remember it.


  1. Oh Greg, youre such an inspiration to me.
    I love how dedicated you are to Martial Arts!
    It looks like things are going really well for you!
    I hope to hear from you soon, or better...SEE YOU:)

    Jenna Fernandez

  2. This is very nice Greg. I hadn't seen this page before and it's very well done. You're welcome for any contribution I've made and thank you for the recognition.


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