I can’t learn tai chi. It is as impossible as Hebrew.

When I was seven, my father’s father died and he of course had to replace him with himself. It is a trial we all face at the death of the father – what am I in the world? With the mother it is simply KEEPING THE OTHERS ALIVE. There is always a lack of world when Mom goes.
My abuelo was a Hispanic community liaison who had two offices in income tax, immigration, interpretation and translation, notary, and general HOW TO BE AMERICAN for the Spanish-speaking immigrants. When my father got back from his funeral, he threw away his posh job at NASA and took the family into the barrio to open an identical office.

I had spent my entire life in the middle-class world where you walked to school and every house you walked by watched to make sure you were safe. The boys were non-toxic and mostly outdid you on their various conveyances with WHEELS.

In the Mexican neighborhood the boys are quick to point out that you are FAIR GAME early on and that is not a choice.

Many times I had to run for my life from not just boys but grown men, and knew to take this very seriously. I speculated that girls who got killed didn’t quite get the memo on how seriously you need to take this running away business, with a well-placed kick.

Hitting fight or flight early in life tunes up your nervous system for many things. God is one of them. I never cared about God until I got to the barrio.

I was not a good athlete. I was gangly and small, and the only sport I was ever good at in grade school was tininkling, the jumprope game from the West Indies worked by dancing through bamboo poles. Somehow that got aced where kickball was a total loss.

So it was a complete surprise even to me that in my senior year when our biology teacher announced he was forming a karate club, I decided to try out. The first week was an initiation. He had everyone do lots of calisthenics for two hours in the gym. The last day he had us all stand in horse stance for so long that people started falling over and leaving at his nod, and I just kept standing there with my legs shaking. The small group still standing when he called time got to be the Karate Club.

My first fight, with a girl, I got the wind knocked out of me by a very fine side kick and lay there suddenly aware of the physics of lungs. Mr. H got me breathing again, and we went on. Eventually a tournament happened and I came home with a freakish three-foot trophy in fighting. I can’t kata for shit. Still. What are we, dancing?

Fighting is a lot like Eros. If you have a lot of it, you have a BIG POWER, and that is not safe for a girl to display. My Uncle Fred did twenty years in the Army, and lived in Fort Worth, and along with the extended family and ancestors, arranged in the earth band one of those nice accidents that regularly weed out the martial arts set.

Always the slightly cracked bones.

I went back to being a nice girl and getting ready for the Christian college BYU, where I once more tumbled into martial arts and my second Sensei, R.

Advancement in martial arts is and is not real. There is no real world advantage to martial arts until about triple black belt. Up to then, you are better off STAYING OUT OF BARS. In fact, in my humble opinion, you are crazy to use kung fu in any kind of fight. You will just get laughed black and blue by real people with guns.

There is the faux advancement of TROPHIES which are fun in a Star Wars model kind of way. Have them if you want. The same goes for the brightly colored belts that everyone is so quick to show off. I never had one. I was too cheap. I had the one that came with the outfit all the way to my near brush with brown belt.

There is a real advancement in martial arts that has something to do with SPENDING TIME WITH SENSEI. If he really wanted to teach you, you would get to hang around after class and putz about with fighting. I did that. We got to jump off walls and shit. It was fun. But it was more who you were.

There is something in martial arts that we in the occult would call an underworld, a telepathic grid of people who are IN and get advanced in energy and knowledge. It is a place the fey and some very nice dragons can find, and they are the ones who MAKE THE SOUL. You can live vast eons as a genie of martial arts if you are made by them, and there is something very special about it.

You get in the ring. You bow to Sensei. You bow to your opponent. Then hush.

A special weight falls over the room and you begin to spar.

Win or lose, you are now in ANOTHER WORLD, an ancient one that is more nourishing in many ways than the one we have.

But here we are again with the fundamental reality of BEING A GIRL. It’s not the same, and no one in martial arts really pretends. I lost 98% of the matches I was in with men. But it was still fun.

I loved winning. Occasionally some seventeen-year-old boy would decide he was going to get his game on in college karate class. Bow to Sensei. Bow to your opponent. Now this goes according to textbook. Kaboom. VICTORY WAS MINE.

I loved the look on the young man’s face when Sensei called the match mine. I just wanted to take him home and TEACH HIM THINGS.

Martial arts is still a man’s world, and in the higher levels the ranks weed out to mostly men. But it is still good to have some women in the room. They brighten up the place.

They can’t be too fancy. All that makeup and flouncing about. It gets the guys all turned on and they can’t function.

Lesbians don’t count the same. They are “in” in a different way.

It is girls who are serious and fierce while still being good losers who are fun. Girls who stay with it, I can hear Sensei say.

Women process energy differently than men, and it’s very good to work them into the rotation. Every man in the room is protecting the woman when she is in the fight, but she still has to make her bones because COMPETITION.

About one-fourth of men can’t really stand women in the dojo. They are damaged goods. They hit too hard and have a wall of anger when you show up to fight. It’s off.

Sensei knew this by watching the men as they fought with women, and it was no doubt part of how he decided who to advance and who not to.

I think women are welcome in a mixed dojo more as chi wizards than fighters. That’s what they are really advanced for. The demons and the fey can track on them better and use them as a lens to train the men. It’s like the bullfight where the heifer is trained and the young bull watches her. Certainly there were some white crane nuns who had the goods. Women can fight, I can hear some of the old ones opine. Shield maidens were partly real, especially if fed. Just be real is my opinion and that of many warriors. I am called lazy by some humans. Lame is what I would say.

You learn early on not to go to the dojo without your man. Everyone wants to take you home. He has to sit there and look REAL, and when he doesn’t show up, there is always the inevitable question, “Where’s your boyfriend?” There is something about the body in motion that is more real than pixels, and they always FALL.

This was at BYU where everyone had the WEIRD CHASTITY. It was all the rage. Sensei made sure you knew he didn’t by bragging about all of those conquests with WOMEN, which meant EVERYTHING AND NOTHING. He was so well-known for his flagrant violations of the honor code that he was no doubt the most perfect Mormon ascetic in a kung fu warrior sort of way WITHOUT THE BUREAUCRATS IN CHARGE. It’s not just duty. It’s our favorite thing around here, ELEGANCE.

But he was still a priest in our world, with the grid in his feet that meant GO.

When I was being given the look-see for real advancement THIS NEVER HAPPENS he came over to my house where that person also lived. I was of course a Mormon child bride with all the trimmings and Sensei needed to see how things were with me. First he tried to sell me Amway. Then he began making a lot of off-the-wall sexual comments and looking very hard at my husband.

No dice.

I left karate with a nice FU, but not for good, never.

Shortly thereafter my husband removed the Mormon temple garments that had me BOUND IN MARRIAGE and I was free!

That doofus was a GREAT MASTER, and I have rested in him my entire life.

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