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I rarely write music or poetry about karate. Since I am so close to the subject, internally, I never feel as though I ever do the topic justice. However, this poem eeked its way out of my pen recently. It really combines two scenes, our annual summer camp adjacent to a beautiful grove of peach trees in Virginia, and the first makiwara Miller sensei gave me and helped me bury in the yard in St. Louis years ago.

Thanks for reading.

   Makiwara Morning
 
Cold dew numbs my feet
but I still feel sharp blades of grass 
stab my soles as I amble
through the peach orchard
beyond the tree line.
There is a glow                                                                                                                behind the mountain, 
but the June sun
has not peaked over the crest.
The blue-tinged ridge sits
above morning mist,
floating on a foggy lake
that will be gone in an hour. 
 
The first punch is soft
my knuckles cold,                                                                                                              skin tight.
Gravel in my shoulder
pops like bubble wrap–
the rest of me creaks
like forgotten floor boards.
As the air warms, so do I,
sweat dots my brow–
Karate grease. 
  
The sun hoists himself
over the ridge,                                                                                                               casting an eye on my ritual.
Soon he will hit me harder
than I can strike the post.
Meanwhile I am an antenna–
a conduit for an ancient spirit
who moves through me
with the blood of his teacher
and his teacher’s teacher–
as pond frogs keep time
with the methodical blows.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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