It’s the story of an erratic martial artist who cheated his way to his first belt and never got caught.
As a boy, it was common to strive to be a samurai, ninja or martial arts bad ass. So I trained to be a bad ass — at least as bad ass as a second grader can be.
Even though I was a kid, I knew martial arts was serious. You never talked back to the instructor or sensei and never talked while he talked. The sensei could cave your face in if he desired. Respect had to be paid.
In school, messing up and not paying attention didn’t put you in the hospital. Dislocated arms and fractured legs were some potential penalties in martial arts, not detention and suspensions.
When a New Kid joined our dojo (which was actually a little red house for boy scouts), his participation was detrimental to our environment. He brought shame to all martial arts, worse than any leg sweep or stolen Hattori Hanzo sword.
Our sensei was a knowledgeable guy in his forties who proudly sported a black belt. One day he showed up to class with an impressive looking red belt. I never knew there was anything higher than a black belt. But he performed at some tournament or something and behold, he was a red belt. The class I was in featured a combination of youngsters and early adolescents. We had one of three belts: white (the novice that everybody starts off as), yellow (the level two belt) and orange (the next level). Most kids didn’t make it to orange and I’m guessing anything past orange required serious training, which meant you were no longer a child but a teenager near adulthood.
We were instructed that we use our tactics only in self defense and as a last resort.
I imagined that one day I would have to fight against thugs. Me and two other students from class would have to fight a small gang. We were all in our gis, why would they have the ballsack to attack us? It would be tense, I even imagined having to stop a bullet with my shoe.
Little that I knew, the shoe’s rubber wouldn’t protect me like a prophylactic, not against a gunshot.
“ Sweat pooled up on his forehead. I happened to be right next to the guy. I loved it, this was justice. New Kid was going to fail and the sensei would indirectly weed this villain out. ”
When I got older, my sensei talked to me on the phone to give me encouragement to try out for the A boys basketball team. I was a year younger than everybody else who tried out and didn’t think I could make the team. I did make the team (however, my sensei’s brother was the coach and showed blatant favoritism by playing his nephew big minutes while more deserving players sat the bench; that nephew tanked our season with a horrendous second-round playoff performance [two-for-20 shooting]; that same nephew also blew it in the school’s second-round playoff football game by tossing four interceptions — four fucking interceptions!).
After about one year, I earned my yellow belt. Other than my kindergarten graduation and First Holy Communion, this was the biggest accomplishment in my life.
The sensei determined when a student could try for a yellow belt. To get a yellow belt, you had to perform the kata, a series of training moves that had to be memorized and performed in front of the sensei. After the kata, the sensei presented the belt to you. It was yours, if you could pass the last portion of the exam: balancing the belt on yours arms, forming a bridge by placing knuckles to knuckles. How long you had to balance your belt depended on the sensei. It could be a couple of minutes, it could the entire class time. This was up to the sensei’s discretion.
The New Kid I spoke of earlier was bad news. He was a year younger than me and was clearly immature as fuck. This guy was the kind of dickhead who tried to carry on conversations while class was going on. We ignored him. New Kid was an advocate of playing grab ass. Sometimes he would reach for my junk, what the hell was wrong with this guy? I don’t know why, maybe he thought it was funny or liked grabbing testicles, that treacherous mofo.
How pissed would my sensei be if I just roundhouse kicked New Kid for his atrocities?
Despite New Kid’s stupidity, he stuck with the training. I already had my yellow belt, my next goal was the orange. Somehow, New Kid learned enough to take the yellow belt test.
He performed the kata then had to balance the belt on his arms.
The sensei went on with class while New Kid struggled to keep the belt straight. Maybe the sensei knew this student was no good. New Kid went about 10 or 15 minutes with the balancing act. He struggled from the moment he started.
Sweat pooled up on his forehead. I happened to be right next to the guy. I loved it, this was justice. New Kid was going to fail and the sensei would indirectly weed this villain out.
But then, while sensei helped a student on the other side of the room with his stance, New Kid failed. He dropped the belt. It was an unmistakable noise that was unfortunately drowned out by the gigantic fan placed near the door. It was a sweltering room.
Without hesitation, New Kid bent down, picked up the yellow belt then placed it back on his arms. The nerve of this guy. Sensei didn’t hear the drop nor did he see it.
Only I did. What could I say? Even at a young age I knew not to snitch. But this was different. The honor of all martial arts was at stake here.
I told this story to a friend of mine just recently and he said if something like that happened in the League of Shadows, he would be killed. Bruce Wayne knew the League of Shadows was up to no good so he turned on them before tasting their wrath.
The shifty martial artist who dropped his yellow belt, always goofed off in class and even tried grabbing my package a couple of times “earned” his yellow belt.
That son of a bitch motherfucker.
This was the perfect upbringing for a bad guy, maybe someone like Shredder from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or a baddie from a Steven Segal movie. Or at the very least a foot soldier from “Ninja Turtles”; in the cartoons and video games the foot were robots, in other versions they were real people. What if this New Kid’s fate became that of the robot foot? Sliced by a samurai sword or clubbed to death by nunchaku?
If samurai did something so disloyal as dropping a yellow belt they would commit seppuku which is ritual suicide by disembowelment. New Kid should have committed seppuku; if he wasn’t going to take martial arts seriously then he shouldn’t have joined.
I could see this guy growing up to be like Bill from the “Kill Bill” movies — a criminal mastermind who used his skills for the forces of evil. Remember, even the retired Hattori Hanzo recognized he had to complete a sword to thwart Bill, his former student.
After the yellow belt incident, New Kid didn’t train as much anymore. Eventually, I left martial arts in favor of organized sports (and I never seemed to make progress for my orange belt). I heard New Kid got shitty grades in high school. Who knows what the shit he does now.
The only way to atone for New Kid’s yellow belt shame is to give it up. Yes, it has been more than two decades since the incident. But he should relinquish the title. Never claim or even think he got it. Track it down and burn it.
Otherwise, samurai, ninja or Bruce Lee clones will appear at his doorstep and silence him.