Karate-ka Sings the Blues
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa (Jun 2009)

       The remote control was a listless extension of my arm as I clicked from one daytime television program to the next. Through a drowsy fog, in search of better sick-day-background-noise than my own fits of coughing, I noticed a talk show guest who appeared to be a cross between Jack Nicholson and Dom DeLuise (may he rest in peace). As the man faced his Edith Bunkeresque wife, the host informed me that Jom had brought Edith on to the show twice before to inform her that he had been unfaithful. This can’t end well, I thought, wondering why in the world this woman had agreed to return for a third appearance. My thumb was poised over the “channel up” button by the time Jom opened his mouth to serve a fresh batch of nationally-televised spousal humiliation. But when Edith sprang out of her chair to leave the stage, Jom followed her. On his knees.

       Here I paused, as the absurdity of the chase scene surpassed that of the show itself. The couple circled the entire stage like this while he pleaded, “IMSOSORRYIMSOSORRYPLEASEFORGIVEMEIMSOSORRY” before he grasped her hand. She made several convulsive attempts to pull it free before resolving to drag him behind her since he would not let go, and thus began lap number two around the sofa chairs. I sat up, frowning, despite the audience’s laughter. “Kick him! He’s right there! Why won’t she kick him?!” I shouted to no one. Only upon reflection did I realize that, perhaps, this situation might not compel the average Edith to deliver a front snap kick to the sternum of one’s hopefully soon-to-be ex husband.

       I thought back to just a few years earlier, before I’d tied a white belt around my first karate uniform. How many hours had I spent in the dojo since then? How many social events had I attended with my fellow karate-ka? Over time this exposure was changing the way I viewed the world and behaved within it. This was not always convenient. One young instructor told the story of when his supervisor introduced him to the 70+ year-old CEO of another company. The venerable, hoary haired man reminded him of our Sensei on a level so instinctive that the young man was bowing deeply before he could stop himself. Explaining this afterward was, shall we say, awkward. At work or dance class I have heard myself offer a firm “Ossu” instead of “yes” or “OK.” Then I would cough or clear my throat to cover for the strange utterance. “Ossu” is pronounced something like “Ohsss” so I have found sentences beginning with, “Oh, sssometimes I wonder…” to be effective in a pinch. 

       One day I learned a simple blues progression from an instructional guitar DVD. Studies have shown that it is impossible not to compose your own blues song while doing this, and anyone who has seen Adventures in Babysitting knows that we all have material. When I began to ponder a topic for my song-to-be, karate class jumped out as the obvious choice. What a metaphor for life and love: sparring, getting wounded, getting back up and beating the crap out of your opponent… ah, well, maybe not that last part. That sounds kind of dysfunctional.

       Disclaimer – this song is not based on a true story, though a friend of mine told me it reminded him of his ex-girlfriend. Her sparring improved significantly after their breakup, and he takes much of the credit for giving her “all sorts of anger and bitterness to tap into.” He actually did get knocked down once in class when she kicked him in the head, but my lawyer informs me that my friend has no grounds to sue for copyright infringement. Not only was I unaware of the incident at the time of the writing of this song, but also, in his case, it was a roundhouse kick to the temple.

KEY: Mae geri (my gary) = front kick        
         Kime (key may)
= focus
         Kiyai (key eye) =shout

The Mae Geri Migraine Blues, by Nicole Maloy
(AKA Ambivalent Pearl Johnson according to a “find your Blues name” website)

can’t believe my baby got me
with a front kick to the head
can’t believe my baby got me
with a front kick to the head
oh I got a mae geri migraine baby
made me think that I was dead
should have used that X block baby
‘cause you know I do it good
yeah that rising X block baby
but I never thought I would
never thought you’d do it baby
never thought you really could


should have seen it coming baby
but my kime let me down
should have seen it coming baby
but I was focused on your frown
next thing I knew baby
oh I was lyin on the ground
I saw stars, so many stars
and they weren’t in the sky
I saw stars, so many stars
when I heard your last kiyai
much as this hurts me baby
I’m gonna have to say goodbye

       If I can come up with just 6 more songs I’ll be ready to put out my long-awaited album, Karate Hits. Do try your own. I know you’ll get a kick out of it.

       The fact that in no time at all I was churning out a four verse blues parody with karate terminology should have made it clear how much this art was changing me simply by becoming a part of me. Instead it took the echo of my passionate, congested outburst to a stranger in my TV who would not defend herself against the slovenly troll who refused to release her hand. I do not know what became of that woman and I wish her well. But had she been a student of the martial arts, I believe her talk show appearance would have been a great deal more satisfying to us both.

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