I met my brother when I was just a few days old; he is four years my senior. Our first dialogue took place the day I came home from the hospital. It was a one way conversation, he calling me a “puss”, me knowing better but unable to respond. From that day, he has never called me anything else. My reply to his name calling would only come years later, when enough became enough and I formed the word “homo”, and direct at him with a sinister precision that was born of our complementary antithesis. That’s just how it works with us. Since that time, these two names are all we have ever really called each other. Too bad only one us can be right.
Karate has been the theatre of my brother’s physical release, of his daily action, for over 16 years. I don’t think of my brother without also thinking of Karate – it may be the largest part of who he is. Though some 4 of those 16 years were lost to injury, Karate has been at the front of my brother’s exercise mind since his first introduction into the art. Immersion and participation into the whole of Karate has enhanced my brother’s life in ways I never would have imagined. Sixteen years in, he has become a new man – an improved man. With every belt earned and from every lesson practiced, a change has been made for the better.
Mark was always athletic, even in his earliest youth. In our basement home gym when I was 10 years old or so, he taught me properly how to do bench presses, concentration curls, how to sprint, and how to punch our homemade punching bag – he was scarcely 14. He ran cross country and track in high school, and had that fast white guy thing going on. Simultaneously, he was a good deadlifter, and proficient in the bench press. Later, in college, he boxed, played intramural football, and rugby. His nickname on his football team was, Bear. While in law school, in one of the nation’s earliest incarnations of the modern 5K race, The Boulder Bolder, Mark ran a competitive time and even got his name in the local paper. Mark has always kept himself in-shape.
Though he was always good in sports, he never excelled at any sport – not for his lack of discipline, but for a lack of priority. His attentions lay elsewhere. My brother’s passion was academia. If it came down to running 5 miles, or reading about philosophy, Mark would choose the read three times out of five. Despite his passion for both institutional, and independent studies, Mark has always made time to run, and has always participated in strength training, stretching, and general conditioning on his non-reading days. Sixteen years ago, he realized this was no longer enough to stimulate his exercise needs and he entered a local school of Karate. This ancient form of action captivated him, and Karate became a defibrillator of sorts, getting his psyche and his body firing in synchronicity for perhaps the first time ever. He was now free to move and philosophize – simultaneously, and he has ever since.
My brother is an amazing person, and if his middle name weren’t Homo, it might be Achievement. All before he turning 50, he has been a highly decorated military judge advocate, a municipal judge, a published novelist (http://www.pepperkeane.com/index.html), father of three children adopted from China, a business man, and a political leader in his community. Mark is the type of man who does things the right way – period. He just identifies what needs to be done, and then goes about doing it. He reads the directions. He keeps the tools in the right place. He uses his turn signal 200 feet in advance of the turn. He once refused to buy beer for me – at a time when I was just weeks shy of the legal drinking age. He suggested I drink milk that evening.
Mark wrote to me last week to tell me that, after 16 years, he is now a black belt. Knowing him as I do, I was still awestruck that he accomplished this. Not that I ever doubted his goal, but I understand well the commitment of time and physicality in achieving it. I ruminated on this for several days before I could finally reply to him. I responded by writing back and congratulating him on, what I feel, is his greatest achievement, above all the other achievements. To achieve in the theater of physicality has no parallel. To have achieved in the theater of physicality, is to know the joy of triumph over one’s own self. Mark may have been a judge. He may be a novelist. He also be a great father and have accomplished many great things. Today, he is a black belt in Karate; a champion over his own self – and a homo. Be well.