The shiny wooden floors of the gymnasium reflected the stern faces of twelve individuals. Each of them, clad in a white karate gi, stared at a man standing at the front of the gym. He donned black rimmed glasses which laid a film of light overtop his blue eyes. Slightly balding, his bland features melted into the peach tone of his skin. His unwavering eyes and concrete expression gave way to the impression that he was unremarkable. Despite this preconception, the weight of his soft voice held the attention of all twelve. Perhaps it was because he had a fraying black belt tied loosely around his hips. Or maybe it was the “karate kid” type of inspirational speech they all knew he was about to give.

As we stood in silence awaiting his lesson, I gazed at the floor, following the rich brown grooves of the wood to my Sensei’s pale bare feet. While my eyes slowly crawled from his feet up to his face, I contemplated all the hours I had spent in this stark gym. Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday of my childhood. For the past nine years. But the peeling, white, brick walls, the rowdy little kids periodically sneaking peeks through the glass of the door and yellow, incandescent lights of the gym when I first entered as a shy, third grader, were forever transformed in my mind. It had become a place of meditation. The perfect square bricks, the folded bleachers that neatly lined the left wall, the frozen basketball hoops hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers, all vanished from the gym when my Sensei spoke.

His voice grew louder as the intensity of his words increased. Now not even an earthquake could break his students’ focus from his lips. “Life is learning. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.” He paused, holding his student’s breath as he did so, “Intent can drive souls to great places, but they must first learn to control their kime.” He slowly ran his hands along the air surrounding him, highlighting the kime within and around him. “Now we must practice. It will take thousands of times to begin to understand. We have one hour for five-hundred attempts.” With that he had everyone stand in yame. With a silent wave of his hand, the class synchronously began performing their kata. Twenty-four feet clapped the floor at once. Their bodies moved around the gym artistically, yet with a powerful accuracy that seemed to effortlessly pierce the air. The gym was no longer a place of silent meditation. Yells and exhales echoed off of everything solid. I imagined my kiai reverberate off the white bricks to the thick glass of the door and from there disperse out into the street. The room was very much alive now. “Yame!” my Sensei roared, “You all look weak! I want to see your intention in each move of the kata. I want you all to be crawling out of bed tomorrow from the soreness of your muscles. If you pass out, that is good. The hospital is right down the street!” He angrily pointed a bony index finger in the direction of the hospital. “Now show me your best kime!” The students started the kata again. The movements they were performing almost magically clicked together this time. The weight of gravity on them was no longer apparent. The groups of kids staring in awe at them through the glass had completely vanished from their peripheral vision. Gone was the the stale air of the gym. The yellow lights now gleamed. Kime was everywhere in the gym. Our souls had found intention.



Joined September 2010

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Artist's Description

This is a piece I have been writing for my creative writing class. I would love some suggestions and edits.

Artwork Comments

  • Peter Shanahan
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  • Peter Shanahan
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