Don’t Stick Out Your Thumb When You Punch

I’v been  thinking about an old friend today.  And when I say old, I refer to how long it has been since I have seen him, not in reference to his age.   I’m not cracking on his age.  He is older than me.  And I think about him occasionally because he so inspired me.  Still does.  He joined my martial arts class when he was 68.  He was a hard working husband and father.  He spent his life working and didn’t have spare  time  for things he “wanted” to do.  I was impressed that above what he wanted for himself, he wanted  more for his family.   He always told himself he would do something for himself, when the time was right.  And he did.

He had always wanted to be in martial arts.  It was something for him.  Something he thought about.

Eventually he found his way to my class.   And I am better for it.  He taught me so much.  Including how to find pressure points in my feet to work out pains in other parts of my body.   And when I was forty, he made me feel like I was eight again.   One of the things we taught in our TKD class we call “one steps”.  Someone attacks you with a punch, you are taught different ways to defend yourself.   In quite of few of the “one steps” the attacker ends up on the floor.    In class when the little kids would be on the floor from having done “one steps” we would reach down and grab their dobaks and say “ready” and swing them right up to their feet.  They loved it.   During one class he and I were practicing these “one steps” where I was the attacker, he defended, and I ended up on my back.  Normally we just jump right back up if we weigh more than fifty pounds (or are over the age of 10).   But he had other ideas this  night.    He grabbed my dobak, said “ready” and lifted me in one clean jerk and swing and landed me on my feet.   WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!  I still smile when I think of that moment.

But he did other things too.   He listened to someone younger than he, in order to learn something new.   He asked others to repeat themselves if he didn’t hear correctly.   There was no hesitation on his part to make sure he was doing something correct.   He would come up to me almost every class and say “question” and I would reply “answer”.     If he was paired with a twenty year old he gave as good as he got.  If he was paired with a ten year old he respected that child as he would any  another student.  He may not have been the most flexible.  But he was dedicated to learning something new.  He did push ups and sit ups at home more than any other student.  He got up early and practiced his TKD to make sure he didn’t forget what he had been asked to learn.   He laughed when I would bite his thumb for sticking it out dangerously in a punch attack.   He knew the martial arts were not easy, or natural, for him.  But he loved the challenge.  He taught respect by showing it to others.   All others.   He was quietly strong.  Easy to laugh.   Disciplined and ethical in what he set out to do.   He didn’t take any, or ask for any, short cuts.

I think about him often.   He was a student.  He was a teacher.  I miss him.  He’s probably out climbing mountains or something.  He inspires me.  He makes me think of the plans I have for when I turn 68.  There are quite a few things I want to do.   I’ll wait until I’m 68 to start.  Because he showed me I can.   Meanwhile I’ll take care of the other things I need to do in my life right now.

I smile thinking about him.