Monday, January 7, 2013

The Sunday Punch & The Dethronement of a Champion

Health, Recreation, & Fitness

I was about 17 years old and a green belt in Shotokan Karate. Karate was my life at the time; I trained seven days a week and was always looking for opportunities to improve myself. That involved seeking out the best in the sport and seeking to learn from them. One of the best at the time was a young man named Jeffrey Wong (currently senior instructor at the Guyana Karate College in Guyana). He was several years older than I, a black belt, and (later) reigning Guyana National Champion. Before he had become champion, I had known of him and admired him. I managed to meet him and to pluck up the courage to to ask whether I could train with him. He invited me to join him for a training session in the city's (Georgetown) main cemetery with three others of his mates. I was extremely excited. Sadly he and his friends gave me a thrashing and seemed to have had a lot of fun doing so. The showed me no mercy as a young karateka and one of lower rank; I was a mere green belt at the time. I left the cemetery humiliated and with a busted rib. As fate would have it, I met him again a few years later at the 1977 National Championship Tournament. It was a Sunday, and I was flown out a few days before from Kimbia (where I was doing my military training with the Guyana National Service) to the city to represent my dojo. I had my revenge that night. The fight went on interminably; it seemed that the judges were unwilling to see the reigning champ lose. From the crowd I could hear my dojo mates yelling, "Sunday! Sunday!" I was known to have a devastating punch that my dojo mates nicknamed 'The Sunday Punch'. In the end, Jeffrey succumbed to my furious onslaught and lost the fight. I did not win the Championship that night, for I lost to a worthy opponent in the finals; however, I was part of a five-man (joint styles) team that won the trophy in the team fighting event. That night was a special night for me. I began karate at age 12 to defend myself against the village bully. Thankfully, I did not have to use my skill against that particular bully, but my defining moment came when I put away a far more accomplished bully back then. Today, I am sure that Sensei Wong is far removed from the person who beat me up in the cemetery when I was a young practitioner way back then, but the memory of the humiliation I experienced is still pretty hard to shake.  I practiced Karate for over 30 years before finally retiring from the sport to pursue other interests. Its impact on my life has been life-long and positively life-changing.