When I was in Kindergarten, we would have these little assemblies where we would have guests. Sometimes the guests would talk about safety, sometimes they would talk about good habits, but this one time, Matthew… this one time some kids came out and they showed us karate.
My old man watched Chuck Norris from the time I was able to focus on a television screen, so I loved karate. Five-year-old Pete watched in wide-eyed amazement as these older kids threw coordinated kicks and shouted all in unison. I was mesmerized.
What struck me even more was that there were girls doing karate. I was so happy to see that having karate as a pre-requisite for my future wife was not off the table. I figured the odds of survival as an adult were better if you both knew how to throw a kick. Neither of my parents knew karate, so somebody needed to take the initiative.
At the end of the demonstration, the karate students all lined up, and they each broke a board. The students were lined up from the shortest to tallest, so as they cycled through the students, the complexity of the board breaking increased. For the finale, it was a very tall, masculine girl who broke a total of three boards in a flurry so impressive that young Pete nearly peed his young pants.
After the demonstration, I went through and shook the hands of every one of these mighty warriors. The youngest one was not much older than I was, though the oldest was in seventh grade. I understood now that karate was something that came to special people, but it was a gift I would potentially have. These kids were just normal kids like I was, and there they were: kicking, shouting, and breaking wood. I knew that I would have to learn karate one day.
As we were being led down the other end of the stage where all the karate kids were, there was a board on the side for everyone to look at. This was the exact same board that all the kids were breaking. My classmates would pick it up, a few of them even trying to punch the board in an effort to break it. What poseurs, I thought to myself.
The teacher took the board out of the hands of one of my classmates, and leaned it up against the wall. Holy crap. This was so perfect. I had to see for myself if I had the gift.
I casually walked up to the board like I intended on walking by. However, at the last second, I twisted my body and positioned myself with my right foot facing the board. I pulled back, and I kicked down with all of my might. With a satisfying crunch, the board broke cleanly in half.
I knew it.
My teacher very quickly came up and collected the pieces. I calmly asked her if she saw what I had done. She said she did, but it was an accident. The kids on stage practiced for years to break their boards. I broke mine by mistake. A lot of people tried breaking it before you, anyways. The board was probably weak.
But I didn’t listen to her. I broke that board just like I had set out to do. I copied what I saw my new heroes doing, and the board couldn’t help but shatter under the force of my technique.
She said it was an accident, but I knew better.
I know karate.