My brother, Mark, is now a black belt in Karate. More on that later…
I met my brother when I was just a few days old; he is four years my senior. Our first dialog 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 first reply to his name calling would only come years later, once I developed beyond simple words. The first word I would permanently assign to him was, “Homo”, and I still direct it at him with a sinister precision every chance I get. Since that time, Puss and Homo are the only two names we ever really call each other. Too bad, only one of us can be right.
Mind, Body, And Spear It
Karate has been the theater of my brother’s physical release 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 an evolved and improved man – definitely for the better, and that’s saying something. Every belt earned along the way has been a mile marker on the road to the mind/body synergy that is the martial arts.
Mark was always athletic. 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, and how to jump rope like boxer – and he was scarcely 14. He also taught me the ins and outs of crank phone calling, ringing and running, and how to jump from the roof of our house and land safely in the shrubs without spearing our ourselves on juniper branches.
Mark ran cross-country and track in high school; he had that fast-white-guy-thing going on that was very popular in the late 70s, ala Steve Prefontaine. Simultaneously, he was a good dead-lifter, 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 10K race, The Boulder Boulder, 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 with sports. 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.
Sixteen years ago, Mark realized this was no longer enough to stimulate his exercise needs and he entered a local school of Shudokan Karate. This modern adaptation of ancient form of action, underwritten by thinking, captivated him. Karate became a defibrillator of sorts, giving him the jolt that got his psyche and his body firing in absolute synchronicity for the first time. He was now free to move and philosophize – simultaneously, and he has ever since.
My brother is an amazing person, and if his 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 does things right; the type of man who identifies what needs to be done, and then just goes about doing it.
Mark wrote to me last week to tell me that, after 16 years, he is now a black belt in Shudokan Karate. Even knowing him as I do, I remain awestruck that he accomplished this. Not that I ever doubted his ability to reach his goal, but I understand well the commitment of time and physicality involved in achieving black belt status — and he had so many other things to tend. 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 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 may 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. It’s a coupple of days early but, happy birthday Homo.
Please follow the link to the right and read, The Flow Of Existence, the paper my brother wrote as part of his black belt testing requirement. Be well. The Puss