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© Frank Westcott, 2013. All rights reserved.


Dojo Boy played with the bo and did dances with stances. He could lower himself almost to the floor. And when he did not or could not, the floor rose to meet him. Smack! Right in the head.

Dojo Boy liked to train outside. He would watch the sky and follow the wind, searching for clouds like dragons. But… he only saw fluffy-puffy white clouds looking like marshmallow Santa Clauses, winking and blinking back at him.

Because it got cold around Christmas, Dojo Boy trained in the basement, not outside. The brick walls hurt when he hay-wired a front kick or triple punched nobody, and got the wall. And the cold concrete floor rose to meet him when he wobbled a kata. Smack! Right in the head. Or foot. Or arm. Or nose! Dojo Boy got all black and blue, and he had a blue belt already. He wanted a black belt!

And you know… even more than basement walls and floors chilly-whacking him, Dojo Boy’s Sis bugged him most. Shebeat him every time they sparred. That’s every time. And she was younger, smaller, lighter to boot. And worst of all, she wasa girl!

Sis danced on her feet. She had toes of steel. They smacked Dojo Boy too.

Christmas was coming. But all Dojo Boy could think of was beating Sis and being good enough for a black belt.

Dojo Boy watched Sis clean the chimney. He waited until Sis was so covered in soot, anybody could beat her. Evenhim. He thought.

“Lost that one to the chimney!” Dojo Boy shouted, kiai-ing and pointing at black-headed, already-black-belted, black haired and soot covered toe-to-eyeball Sis. Sis shook soot from her hair, her fingers and toes of steel. She kiai-ed once loud and long. Dojo Boy quivered like a Samurai’s arrow and fell to the floor. Smack! Right in the head.

“Santa will have a smooth clean ride,” she said. “I mean slide… down our chimney.” Sis wiped herself clean of soot and grime without a fuss, or a muss or even a kiai. She was calmer than calm, just like Sensei instructed when showing them how to do karate at its best. Or… and she smiled at this… when Sensei filled out the form saying Dojo Boy was not ready… yet… for his black belt. He had one more thing to learn. She kiai-ed inside, and Sis remembered how she had learned something pretty special, moments before her black belt arrived.

Dojo Boy watched Sis. He wished he was the chimney and could chimney-cover, soot-cover and dojo-beat Sis. Just once.

Dojo Boy trained harder than hard. Then harder still. He got good enough for threeblackbelts, he thought. Good enough to… to… tie himself round-and-round and-round again, knotting himself in dan-upon-dan-upon-dan for good.

But… but… but… no matter how hard he trained, he could not out-spar Sis. And she was still younger!And still a girl… to boot!

Dojo Boy tried cleaning the chimney. Without a brush! To see if that would help. But soot covered or not, Sis out-front kicked, out-side-kicked and even out-butt-kicked Dojo Boy. Sis beat Dojo Boy at every turn and twist he took.And the floor smacked him over and over again. Right in the head.

Dojo Boy was so-o-o-o-o embarrassed. Especially when everybody in the dojo saw Sis whup him at the karate Christmas party matches. Sensei just smiled, knowing more than he let on. Sis smiled too, knowing more than she let on. Sensei and Sis knew something Dojo Boy still had to learn. Until then, Sis could beat Dojo Boy with a sooty finger-flick, a toe-twinkle or an eyelash flash.

Dojo Boy decided to Ninja-it. He would learn how to be invisible. That might work. Sis could not beat him if she could not see him. Dojo Boy sat hour after hour meditating on being invisible. All he learned was he could not see himself when his eyes were shut. Open, there he was every time.

Dojo Boy decided to give it a spar-try anyway. He called Sis to the basement to train, cold brick walls and all. Dojo Boy smelled victory. He Ninja-danced and Ninja-pranced. He lowered his stances and stood in Ninja trances. Eyes shut and all.

But Sis had her black belt around her waist. She sparred better than the best. Sis was gooder than good at this karate thing. She tricked Dojo Boy with her own dance and prance. She did funky, never-before-seen leaping moves. Sis let Dojo Boy stand in his Ninja trance. She blew a breath of air and over he fell. Like always, the floor rose to meet Dojo Boy. Smack! Right in the head.

Sis stayed calm hoping Dojo Boy got the message. Sooner or later, he would have to learn that one more thing. Sis smiled inside. Dojo Boy’s stocking hung by the fire ready for Christmas Eve night. If… he learned that one more thing… and got it right.

“Merry Christmas, brother,” Sis whispered inside herself. She danced away like a Seventh Dan reindeer. With a karate-ka’s kiai, a ratta-tat-tat… and a shake rattle and roll… Sis front kicked, back kicked, triple-triple punched and Mawashi Geried to boot. “Learn one more thing Dojo Boy, and you will have your black belt. The whole dojo will root-a-toot-toot and at the North Pole, Rudolph hoot!

“What! What-what what!!” Dojo Boy cried. He stomp clumped up the stairs, karate-kicking walls and halls. Pictures shook all the way to Santa’s Village and back. Sis clipped Dojo Boy with a back fist, tight and fast. She stopped his rant. But Dojo Boy’s mouth was so sore… he fell right into the door.

“That’s my present,” Sis said, YokoUraken-ing a combo with voice and hand.

Dojo Boy crumpled on his bed. He played dead just in case Sis wanted his head. He fell asleep without a peep. It was the night before Christmas Eve. He couldn’t count sheep. He was already asleep. Whupped again by Sis.

Then with Christmas Magic and very strangely, he dreamed he was Sis! Dojo-whupping himself over and over. At least he was winning! Dojo Boy fought hard. Beating himself every time. Just like Sis. He wore himself out and ran out of dream-steam. His karate dream ended on yesterday’s moonbeam. He could spar no more. With anybody. He had no fight left. Weak and tired and no longer fired up, Dojo Boy thought he could never win. But he had. He had beaten himself. Over and over again. Even if, it was a dream. Even if, he had to be Sis, to beat himself. It was still him in victory. After all, it was his dream.

The next day was Christmas Eve day. After his dream, Dojo Boy wanted to fight Sis for real. But strangely and with the Magic of his Christmas dream from the night before, Dojo Boy had no fight left. His hunger to win was gone. Dojo Boy flunk-clumped and stump-clumped across the floor. He knew something. But he was not sure what. Dojo Boy whispered to Sis, “I am not fighting anymore. I don’t need to beat you. Anymore. ”

Sis winked. “Well, you have just won, brother.” Then Sis added in that Sensei-like way of hers. “Merry Christmas.”

“Wha-a-a-at?” Dojo Boy cried. “Merry Christmas? You beat me every time we fought, fair and square. One-two-three and I’m whup-tee.”

“That’s ichi, ni, san. Don’t you see…” Sis said. “You have found the ultimate victor-e-e-e. You have not lost. And you did not have to fight.”

“But I have no fight left, even if I wanted to,” Dojo Boy cried.

“So…” Sis said, “When you have no fight left, there is no longer a fight to have. You find the way, in not losing. This is the ultimate victory. ”

“I get it!” Dojo Boy shouted as loud as a kiai. “I win by not losing. Without having to fight at all.”

“Precisely,” Sis said. She curled her steel-like toes and smiled inside like she liked to do, not letting Dojo Boy see what she might be thinking. His eyes were truly open now.

Sis spoke again. “Sometimes, victory is not in the win, but in knowing you don’t have to win to achieve the ultimate victory… which is simply not losing. And… you can do that without a fight.”

“How can this be? Really?” Dojo Boy said. “I still don’t quite get it. You must be full of crinkle corn cereal. Christmas flakes wrinkle-krinkling your brain?”

“Nope,” Sis said. “You will see.”

“How can this be?” Dojo Boy went on. “Victory not in winning? But simply in not losing?”

Sis harrumphed a karate ka’s harrumph and said, “Because, when you stop fighting yourself , you do not have to fight others either, or win… at all costs. By knowing all you have to do is not lose… you can usually walk away from or around a fight. You just have to be willing let yourself not lose. And in this, you allow others to not lose, too. There is no fight for you. There is no fight for them. You are… a black belt.”

Dojo Boy remembered his night before Christmas Eve dream, when he fought himself as Sis. He fought himself so-o-o-o-o hard, he had no fight left.

“When did you get so smart?” Dojo Boy asked Sis.

“Moments before I got my black belt.” Sis said. “It was the day I learned I did not have to beat anybody, even you, to be victorious in my life. And that way, I won every time whether I fought or not.”

“But you beat me every time, anyway,” Dojo Boy said, more to himself than Sis.

“Now you’re getting it,” Sis said.

“It didn’t matter if you won or not?” Dojo Boy asked incredulously. “It only mattered that you did not lose? You no longer had to win?”

“Yes,” Sis said. “Whether I beat you or not... it did not matter…” Sis hopped up the stairs, first on one foot then on the other.

Dojo Boy followed. He hopped first on his other foot, then on his other otherfoot. He had found himself. Sis side-kicked a wall. Dishes rattled in the kitchen. Dojo Boy Mawashi geried the floor, dipping to meet it fully. No dishes rattled in the kitchen. But this time, he met the floor instead of the floor meeting him.

“You’re quite a gal, Sis,” Dojo Boy said. He gave her a cheek-kiss.

“Got that right,” Sis cheek-kissed him back. “You’re quite a guy now.” Then Sis kissed Dojo Boy on the forehead where he used to be blue and black. “Listen... I hear a sleigh?” Sis whispered.

It was still pretty early on Christmas Eve night. But a sleigh landed on their roof. Dojo Boy and Sis heard a mighty hollering. “On Dasher… on Comet… on Rudolph and… and… Prancer… you karate ka dancer… Dojo Boy you got it right… Win by not losing and without a fight… and you’ll have it just right… a black belt will be… around your waist… Ah… I must make haste… children are awaiting… my boots are fully laced... good and tight… Merry Christmas and Good Night!”

Dojo Boy and Sis ran to their stockings. Inside Dojo Boy’s and full of Christmas Magic, a black belt glowed with golden Japanese letters saying loud and clear, “Dojo Boy, you got it right! You earned your black belt tonight. You can win… without a fight!”

A card tied to the belt and in Sensei’s handwriting said,

“Congratulations, Dojo Boy.



Sensei … a.k.a. … Santa”

Sis smiled, outside this time, so Dojo Boy could see how proud she was. A black belt Dojo Boy had come to be.

The End 


*Back fist: A strike made with a closed fist and with the top two/two largest knuckles

*Back Kick: like a donkey kick; a backward kick with great power and thrust striking ideally with the heel

*Bo: wooden staff used in martial arts

*Dojo: where martial artists train under the direction of a master, their Sensei.

*Dan: black belt level; preceded by a number such as 7 Dan denoting 7 degree black belt.

*Front kick: a simple kick made by raising the knee and kicking forward striking with the fleshy part of the foot; toes are curled back to prevent injury

*Ichi, ni, san: one two, three in Japanese

*Karate ka: a student of karate

*Kata: specific, complex routines like Tai Chi that a karate-ka must learn to advance. Although done alone, these movement patterns resemble fighting many foes from a variety of directions, and are a combination of slow and fast attacks and defences. At its root, karate and kata can, at the highest levels, lead one to the meditative, body-mind integration and groundedness that occurs in practices such as yoga and Tai Chi.

*Kiai: is the name given the short, loud yell shouted by karate-ka at the contact point of a movement. This expression is believed to add power, energy and force to the action be it defensive or offensive. And it does.

*Mawashi Geri: the kicking leg is raised sideways and bent at the knee so the leg points back and the knee points at the target to the front. In a fluid motion the kicking leg rotates, flicking out and striking the target.

*OSU! : an expression of respect used in karate to acknowledge another’s presence, words or actions; it can also mean to exhibit endurance in the face of adversity, to be patient and to persevere and in both the dojo and life

*Sensei: a Japanese word referring to someone who has attained mastery in an art or skill, such as the martial arts, music, writing, any life-dynamic where mastery has been attained; refers to a teacher, master in her/his field; in a karate dojo, Sensei is usually what the head instructor is called; non-head instructors are often called Sempai, although this can vary from style to style; Sensei or Renshi can also be used to refer to any karate practitioner who has attained great skill, respect within the dojo’s community as an assigned honour for exemplary achievement, dedication or longevity in the martial arts;

*Sparring: practice fighting with single or multiple opponents where absolute control is the epitome, so attackers and defenders are not injured, but moves are quick, vigorous and could be lethal with contact, much like a real fight. The supreme karate-ka moves through attacks and defences avoiding injurious contact to herself/himself or opponents by stopping an action just short of full impact. This is the epitome of control.

*Yoko Uraken: back fist with a side stance