Strength in Perfection
On the door of the Dojo, where my father and uncle taught my sister, my brothers and me Kenpo Karate there was a painting. The painting was a diamond with a black belt tied around it. And with the painting were words. Strength In Perfection.
My father, whom I love and respect extremely, began taking karate when he was 13. His sister adopted him so he could be in the states and go to school and do whatever he wanted. He took karate. And he was GOOD, he IS good, like Bruce Lee – for reals. He was in Washington state when he met my mother. My mother had been hitch hiking and a gent picked her up and dropped her off in the middle of nowhere and said "this is what you get for hitch hiking" and she walked her way back to the high way and into a city in Washington State. Soon after her arrival she decided to take martial arts so she could protect herself. If I remember correctly my dad accidentally broke her nose the first day. He was a green belt, she was (obviously) white. Woops. I’m not sure how the whole dating thing went down with them, I think he proposed over Kentucky Fried Chicken, something simple like "well I guess we should get married." I love that story -truly.
So they got married in Bubbu & Papa’s backyard (grandma & grandpa on mommies side) where my mom grew up. My mom wore a horrid blue dress – yes I’ve seen pictures and moved to Palau for a while. They had my sister there. Summer Mersai. Born August 14, 1976. My mom tells me stories about the size of bugs in Palau and sleeping on bamboo mats so you can hear the bugs crawl up before they actually get ON you. They had outhouses, oh joy. They were there for 2 or 3 years before moving back and having me. Hi. I’m Aiyani Mersai. born April 17, 1979 at General Hospital in SLO,CA. And for a while it was just my sister and I. Both of us girls had full dark eyebrows, straight black hair and people even then thought we were twins…I was big for my age. Largest baby my mom had ranking in at a solid 9lb 8oz after being a month late. Sweet – they totally had to induce labor because I was apparently super comfy.
Sister and I began taking karate when i was 6 and she was 9. Dadda would be home when we got home from elementary school, Grover City Elementary (it wasn’t called Grover Beach then, it WAS city) and he’d have a snack for us then we’d go to the dojo and take our class, and mom could pick us up after she was done with work. We went Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm – 6pm and most fridays for the larger part of our childhood. Rarely missing. Therewas no summer break for karate, it was year round and I grew up with those kids in my karate class. James Schroeder (I think that’s his last name) Juan Angiano, Andy Aleman, and Jake Anderson. Juan was the same belt as me and sister for our entire lives, we were always tested together for the next belt.
Benjamin Mersai came along when I was 8. He was born January 30, 1987. Ben was named after our dadda’s father (and later we learn that Ben named his first born Samuel, after our dad). He started when he was 5. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a gi (pronounced "Gee" with a hard "G" like in "girl") on someone who could barely walk but it really is quite adorable. Ben grew up watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…well so did I for that matter and said things like "totally" and "awesome" and he SO sported a "rat’s tail" when he was little – I know I know….ew. But it was SOOOO cool then.
Rik Mersai was born to 3 siblings and 2 parents on December 12, 1992. Summer was now 16, *I* was 13 and Ben was 5. The parents stopped there. Sister and I helped with the boys, dadda worked and taught karate (so he pretty much worked all day) and mommie worked all day too. By now sister was into Volleyball and track, I was doing karate and dancing at Pat Jackson’s American Dance and involved in the theatre program at school.
The summer before my freshman year of highschool, July 15 1993 to be exact I was tested for my black belt in Kenpo Karate with my sister and Juan. Eight black belts were present that night. All from different styles in the area, all had something to offer as far as the art was concerned, all were respected and honored in our dojo. I had passed my black belt test after a grueling 3 1/2 hours of doing EVERYTHING I had EVER learned in the those doors. From our beginner strikes: two-knuckle, spear, two-finger, palm heel, ridge hand. To our advanced. All of our blocks, our stances, our kicks (that’s a HUGE list of single kicks to different areas followed by double pump kicks, spinning kicks, balancing kicks and flying kicks…, our kata forms, our weapons, our sets or twist n strikes, and our across the floor – now this THIS was fun……. We’d start at one side of the dojo and Sensei (that would be my dad) would tell us what stance to begin with then he’d give us a series of movements including steps, kicks, blocks and strikes to get us across the floor. He would only say what it was once then we’d count "1" – if we had to ask for him to repeat it we got docked points. We’d go through it once and now we’d be on the opposite leg/foot/stance whatever and he’d say "2" and we’d do it again, and again until we’d make it across the floor. Now remember we need to do everything precise with conviction and power and strength and precision and be confidant. Concentrate. Once across the floor we didn’t know what was going to happen. Could be pivot and do it again, could be a new set could be one of my favorites "now reverse it going backwards, 1!"
My first year as a black belt I attempted to continue my training. All my life I went back and forth from loving it to hating it. But I love it, I really do. But soon high school and sports and homework prevented me from going often and I cut back to just teaching. My dad had given me a class with what I had to teach them, and the date they needed to be ready to test. They were kids. 7 maybe 8 years old, at least 10 of them and they were rowdy and unfocused and I had to instill in them the kind of focus and discipline that was instilled in me. And it was hard. But the time came, they tested and passed. I felt accomplished.
By the time I was in the middle of High school all the kids I grew up with in school finally stopped calling me Mrs. Miagi, most had stopped asking me to show them something and only a few asked if I’d ever broken anything or hurt anyone. My answers after a while were short and to the point. By this time in my life I’d broken boards and bricks and no bones. When people wanted to see something flashy I’d ask them to stand right where they were and to not move, or they would get hurt. They didn’t know what I was going to do but saw me drop my bag then take a few steps towards them and then they’d realize I did a flying side kick to their face and came within a couple of inches. The only time anyone ever thought I was going to get into a fight was between classes and someone got in my face cause they "heard about me and my karate moves" and since they were the toughest and baddest kids in school they wanted to fight me. Whatever so they asked me to show them something and I gently placed my bag down and said ok – throw something at me and I’ll break your arm. I just stared at them and waited. Looked ’em right in the eye and just waited. By this time that fabulous circle of audience had gathered and teachers were running to stop the no-fight that was happening. When they came to the middle of the circle and saw what’s her name standing in front of me they looked confused. All I said was – nothing happened (to the girl who wanted to start stuff) then smirked picked up my bag and made my way to whatever class I was going to. I glanced back and saw the teachers talking to that girl and eventually with all her hand gestures she was escorted somewhere else. (shrugg)
When I was 17 Sensei Jesus Sanchez with Goju Sabudo Kai needed to have neck surgery and asked my dad if I’d be willing to go in and workout with his students. Dadda asked me, and I never tell him no – never. My intro to his students was to fight them. All of them. No gloves, no gear just one on one. *I* had the training and speed and precision and understanding of my limbs to make contact without harming them. I had the ability to let them feel where I was kicking or striking without knocking the wind out of them. These students did…not…have the training – yet. They are still learning – you are always learning, always striving to get better, of course. But several SEVERAL times Sensei Jesus stopped the fight and reminded them to stay in control, and then he told me if they lose control to teach them a lesson. So a couple students who got a little out of control in my book got some kicks to the stomach and a couple moments where I even surprised myself a bit and moved fast enough to catch an arm from the side before it hit me and i back-fisted their face with the my other hand with a touch light enough but Sure enough that they knew I got my target A couple kids tried to sweep me. SWEEP me – what the??!!! You can see those people because they try to distract you with their upper body, well I just kept changing my stances so they couldn’t get to my feet in a planted position. And I never looked at my target, I stare them right in the eyes, but I can still see every part of them and I know how close I have to be, and how close I CAN be without hurting them. After that it was agreed, and So 5 days a week I went in to his dojo, having not been trained in the style and worked with what I saw. I worked on their form with their kicks and strikes and blocks etc. Most of the time the highest ranking student would lead them then I would stop them and correct them on small things. Pushing them to be faster, and stronger and more precise with their movements.
And now I’m 29. It’s been 12 years since I personally have trained and I recently have decided I’m going to review with myself again. I look forward to it -whenever IT happens.
And my answer is five -by the way. For those of you wondering the most amount of bricks I’ve broken at one time, the answer is five.