Sunday, November 12, 2017

Enter Stage Right, Exit Stage Left

Enter Stage Right, Exit Stage Left
 
 To fully understand this story, you need to understand an old device used in classical Greek Theater. When a play grew so complex that no rational answer could be found to resolve whatever tragedy was taking place, the author of the play always could resort to ‘Deus Ex Machina’, which translated roughly as God in a Machine.
 
In those plays they would employ a type of crane to lift a ‘god’ onto the stage, and that ‘god’ would use their powers to then set things right, providing a happy ending to a tragedy.
 
Not just in classical Greek theater, for one Shakespeare used that idea in Hamlet, where the Prince of Denmark shows up at the end and sets things right. Even unto today’s movies, where someone just shows up and resolves things.
 
HG Wells used in in War of the Worlds, where germs saved the day. JRR Tolkien used it when the Eagles would show up and set things right in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Everything that was old is new again.
 
So, this is an example of Deus Ex Machina in my own life story.
 
I had moved to Scranton Pa. for work. I entering banking and Maureen becoming a Swim Coach. Not being from there I also knew no one except my wife, and that was fine. Unfortunately I had to leave my Isshinryu behind, and I had just made my green belt.
 
Several months later my wife heard of a Tang Soo Do school nearby where we were living.
 
It was not Isshinryu, but it was a hard workout, so I signed a two year contract to train and started over as a white belt. Because of my previous training, not because of my knowledge of that art, in a few month I jumped during my first testing from 10th white to 5th green in that art. The next spring I competed in a tournament they sponsored and had my successes there too. At the same time I privately continued studying the Isshinryu I had learned.
 
Then that summer on my vacation, I returned to Salisbury for training and to finish learning Chinto kata.
 
Later that summer I tested in Tang Soo and earned my 3rd red belt there.
 
Then the crane of life lifted my own Deus Ex Machina into my life and provide a most happy ending, so to speak.
 
It began with a phone call that Labor Day Weekend, Maureen let me know I had a phone call, I was visiting my neighbor at the time. I answered the phone to discover it was Charles Murray, he was informing me that he had taken a Church to be the pastor, near Scranton, and would I be interested in getting together and train sometime.
Before he could hang up, I was over at his parsonage, telling him I was ready to return to Isshinryu. (not that things were bad in Tang Soo Do, just that personally Isshinryu meant way more to me.).
 
Long story short we began working out together, read I became his favorite practice target. He was way above me on the Isshinryu food scale, and when we sparred (and we always sparred) I could not even touch him on my best day.). A lot of sweat followed.
 
My contract was still in force, so I continued to train in Tang Soo Do twice a week, and their training did a lot for my kicks) but my heart was in the workouts with Charles.
 
After he watched what I had, he told me to keep the kata I had learned in Salisbury as I had been shown, and my new kata studies would be in his way. (Note- over the years what Mr. Lewis taught was not steady state Isshinryu, but many different versions with small variations. Depending on when one trained, there were differences in kata. But Lewis Sensei  was only concerned with how you got better with the version you did. That your Isshinryu would kick butt (my words). And many of the black belts who taught me, would be using different variations on kata, from my beginning. You had to remember and execute those kata their way when they were teaching. For example Seisan was not one kata, but maybe 5 kata, when I was a beginner.)
 
Charlie set a swift pace, almost a new kata every month, and lots of sparring. And I was continuing my Tang Soo Do studies at the same time.
 
It was the best of times, I was being pushed.
 
In no time I was both a Brown Belt in Isshinryu and a Red Belt in Tang Soo Do at the same time. But by that next summer that was causing some conflict. Perhaps I felt I might reach Black Belt in Isshinryu and Blue Belt in Tang So Do at the same time.
 
However the arts were also very different. The Isshinryu I had studied, was full body contact sparring, where the TSD was no contact sparring, even with protective gear. And I drew criticsm for making slight mistakes and ko’ing my opponent, or striking too hard knocking then down, or using ground kicking attacks Charles was teaching me were those I sparred in TSD had no defense for them.
 
The conflict continued when that next summer I returned to Salisbury again on vacation, to let Mr. Lewis see my progress. What he told Charles, was I was not sparring intensely enough.
 
The conflict between the two different ways of training was holding me back, My school contract in TSD was up and I  choose to depart from that training, I had learned a great deal that would always remain with me, but I decided to part ways. I explained why I was leaving to my TSD instructor and just trained with Charles thereafter.
 
And train we did, continuously. We trained at midnight, on Bank Holidays, in Blizzards, you name it.
 
 
 

And before I knew it he took me to Salisbury and the whole IKC association, Mr Lewis and guest Harold Mitchum tested me one Saturday evening in January, 1979.
 

I made my black belt (and yes I slept with it under my pillow that first night.)
 
On the drive back to Scranton Charles asked me: “Victor, if you are in a plane that is crashing, what good is your black belt going to be.” I gave a response, something like I would just jump into Sanchin and punch on the moment of impact negating the force of the crash. I cute answer, but I was a long term question I retained.
 
So I was a black belt, and Charles continued to push kobudo kata into me.
 
Then one day the crane began to lift him away from me.
 
“Victor I have something to tell you, for personal reasons I have decided to return to the USAF and enter officer training.”
 
Of course I was stunned, and this would occur in two weeks time.
 
We continued our training, and he began to teach me the only Isshinryu Bo form, Shi Shi No Kon.
 
That last day came, he and his wife were packing up their things. I came over and he came outside in the back yard to show me some more of the form I was learning.
 
It was a sunny day, at the same time lines of thunder clouds and storms were passing through the region.
 

It began raining and he went back inside to pack.
 
I remained out there, practicing the form,  pouring rain, lightning and thunder all around.
I paid no attention to any of them.
 
Then it stopped raining, and I Charles looked outside his window and saw me practice what I was shown. So he came out and showed me some more.
 
Repeat:
 
It began raining and he went back inside to pack.
 
I remained out there, practicing the form,  pouring rain, lightning and thunder all around.
I paid no attention to any of them.
 
Then it stopped raining, and I Charles looked outside his window and saw me practice what I was shown. So he came out and showed me some more.
 
Repeat several more times.
 
Finally I finished being shown Shi Shi No Kon No Dai.
 
About that time Charles had to say farewell. For it was time to finish packing and then leave for Florida.
 
I remember that time very well, burned in to my mind.
 
The Deux Ex Machina having solved my needs was lifted away. (Ok I am pushing this a bit, but it fits.)
 
I went back home to practice, Practice was the one eternal thing I experienced.
 
Then for years we only saw each other irregularly, but for us it was as if no time had passed.
 
I followed my dreams in Isshinryu, he rose to eventually become a Colonel in the USAF.
 
We remain the best of friends.
 
He was my Deus Ex Machina in every way.
 
 

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