The Challenge

I rarely write about the (good) old days, but I was recently reminded about an episode that pretty much sums up what kind of people Greg and I are.

When we were in our late 20s, Greg took up martial arts. I had no real interest in the sport, but he enjoyed it and often came home with lots of stories. He finally convinced me to join him. 

Although I only took taekwondo for a year, it was fun. But it took a strange turn of events one night when the sensei decided to put the whole class to a judo challenge. 

Maybe he did it because it was an especially large class that night and there weren't enough instructors to go around, or maybe he wanted to see what we were made of.

We were separated by size. Greg went to the adult section, but because I was so short and still a white belt, I was relegated to the youngsters' division. Believe it or not, a lot of those kids were bigger than me.

The test was a simple one. Two opponents would cross the length of the room, keeping their center of gravity low while attempting to throw the other off balance and down to the mat.  

Over and over again, contestants were eliminated. In the end, Greg won his division, tossing even the prize student of the dojo (a brown belt) to the ground.

The kid was a teenager, but immensely fast, talented, and as tall as Greg. They were evenly matched and Greg crossed the room with him several times before the sensei told them they had to wrap it up. Greg accommodated happily. He grabbed the kid's gee at the shoulder and inseam and simply lifted him up, pretending he was going to throw him from that height.

The whole room gasped. Instead Greg gently put him to the ground, winning the contest.

He was told to wait at one corner with his back turned until the winner of the younger division entered.

He started to feel a bit uneasy when the whole class started laughing. He turned around in horror.

Yup. You guessed it. It was me. 

I couldn't stop laughing either.

Now the sensei knew with both of us being married to one another it could turn ugly, but he let us do our rounds. 

Back and forth we went. He flipped me first, and then a second time in rapid succession. One last throw and he'd be declared winner. He was stronger, faster, and more experienced.

He knew he had to win quickly, demoralizing--or at least distracting me enough before I had a chance to recover. 

If you don't know this about me now, here's the scoop. You can't demoralize or even distract me. All you'll accomplish is to make me more determined than before.

I dug in and lowered my center of gravity so low my butt was only inches from the mat. He couldn't lift me, nor could he unbalance me. I saw my chance and threw him. 

You could hear a pin drop. The whole class was stunned. 

A couple more laps across the room and I dropped him again. This time even Greg was surprised.

We were tied. And things were getting tense. Neither of us were going to give quarter.

We started crossing the room again when the sensei walked onto the center of the mat. We stopped in our tracks, bowed to our sensei, and the room fell silent.

In his wisdom, the sensei called it a draw so both of us could go home still happily married.

It was the funniest night out we ever had and we still laugh about it to this day.

Greg continued martial arts for a couple more years but I had other things to do and dropped out. I still remember many of the self defense moves, though sadly, the joints don't move like they used to. 

We still remember our old sensei fondly. He was a fat, chain smoking, middle-aged man. On rare occasions he'd honor his black belt teachers at the dojo to a one on one, beating them with surreal speed and fluidity. He was not a man to be underestimated. If there was ever an example of not judging a book by its cover, it was our esteemed sensei.

Oh, and he served in Korea with Chuck Norris, who once visited the dojo while Greg was there.

Sometimes it's a very small world.

Have you ever met anyone famous? Do tell.


Mike Keyton said…
That’s a lovely story, Maria. Funny and real
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: We lead interesting lives. :o)
Jackie said…
As I read could just see you in my minds eye and as someone who is also known for my tenacity when young approve wholeheartedly at how your strategy not only worked but the Sensei having wisdom to stop you both before things could get out of hand.

Very cute memory for you both and yes the world is very small at certain times in our lives.

Had the pleasure of meeting a childhood favorite of mine country crooner Mr.Ray Price twice before he died.

Once after a show at The Golden Nugget in the 90's in Reno Nevada and once after a show in early 2000's at Dell Diamond in Austin Texas.

Met Samuel L. Jackson and a few other actors during an event in San Marcos my Husband took me to that he represented his employer at also in early 2000's.

All these people were out of their element and uncomfortable with one on one contact at the time because during the events timetable a virulent flu was going around and like lots of others there I was coughing a bit.

Chuck Norris however is a whole other level of famous so good for Greg!
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: I don't think I've ever met anyone famous. I'd kinda like to meet Samuel L. Jackson though. He seems bigger than life.
Jackie said…
Maria his onscreen persona is not matched by his in person self. At least not at the time we met him, the actor was abrupt and you could tell he wanted to be anywhere else than at that event.

Still enjoy him onscreen though.