I watched 47 Ronin (2013) for the first time this past weekend and really enjoyed it, regardless of its Box Office woes. Give me a decent love story, an underdog, a band of warriors, an evil lord and a supernatural creature or two and I’m good. Add in bonus points for the fact that it’s fiction but based on a true story (of the real 47 Ronin in Japanese history). I was a happy pup. (You know, if they hadn’t spent so doggone much on the filming budget, things might not have gone so far south. But, I digress.)
Watching the movie brought me back to a period in my life that I treasure but hadn’t thought about in a while. The time when I — a black, overweight, single mom and worker bee in Corporate America — was ronin.
Yep, I was.
When I enrolled my then 11-year-old son in a shorin ryu karate school in Clarkston, I had no idea that somehow the head sensei would cleverly rope me into class as well (he was a sneaky one, that guy). I also had no idea how much belonging to our dojo for 3 years would enrich my life and change the way I saw myself. With my physical limitations, I saw myself not getting very far at all. I mean, really, who was I fooling. But I at least wanted to be a good example for my son, and that meant not knuckling under to fear and at least giving it a try.
In the process of earning 3 belts (our mother/son bond strengthened from white to yellow to orange to green, though we had to bow out before earning our brown and black), I found out that even with my mental disorders and challenges, even though I was very overweight and ungainly, even though I was 35 and past my expiration date according to some sections of society, I could push through and do more than I ever thought I could. I could do anything I put my mind to or at least come damn close.
Talk about a light bulb going on.
While not taking it easy on me, Sensei made it clear that he valued my efforts and believed in me. I’ll never forget him.
More on that stuff later. Gotta get to the ronin part of the story.
There was a young brown belt in our school who deserved a black belt several times over but was being denied that belt by the official karate authority in our state because of his age. At 13, he was considered too young. That did not sit well with my sensei. He believed in reward where reward was due, period. So, before dawn one Saturday morning, we climbed Stone Mountain (I do mean climbed, no cable car for us, no leisurely hike either, no sir), had class when the sun came up, burned incense and watched Sensei cut our official dojo patch off of his gi in half.
“We’re considered ronin now, On our own, But it’s important to Always do right by your fellow human being.”
The ceremony where he granted my young classmate his black belt happened shortly thereafter.
I was pretty nervous when I attended a professional mixed martial arts tournament with Sensei a few months later because I didn’t know what to expect. Was anyone gunning for us? Were we going to have to fight our way out of there or something? My imagination was working overtime. I’d watched way too many Shô Kosugi films. 🙂
Turns out all we had to do was take a few seconds to pay our respects to the elders in attendance and then enjoy watching all the matches. Whew. Lol~
Even though we got off a lot easier than the 47, it’s hard out there for a ronin, y’all!
READ: Linda G. Hill, One-Liner Wednesday — The Past Meets The Future