Of Empowerment

by fyarlgiles

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Being in a gi again.

Tying my belt, again.

The meditation, knelt, eyes closed

As on the precipice of a great plunge.

 –

I am changed now :

My skin is not as young,

Not quite as pretty as I was.

My joints not quite as limber.

But my sweat still smells the same.

A clenched fist – remembered – is the same.

“A fist is a fist is a fist.”

Five years ago, when I began, tying my white belt, that’s what they said.

And now, dusting off my green-brown, I hear again

And again:

“A fist

is a fist

is a fist”.

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I look at my fist.

I remember keeping my nails short.

I remember wearing no makeup with confidence.

I remember

Balance

and

I could defend myself

if I had to.

Bowing into this keyhold door,

This is my dojo

my school

my home.

Deep somewhere in the roots beneath the floor boards

and the fibers of the carpet

is engrained my sweat

and my blood

and my tears

And there is magic here

underfoot

Because it is here I first saw

The glimmers of who is my true self.

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And I miss it

As a tree after a drought might remember its first bloom.

A level of introspection unparalleled as

what you do when a punch is coming at you.

I miss the intimacy of Kumite

Because to fight in this way is to know someone better

than a lover might know one.

I set my hands on guard,

I look you in the eyes,

and it is essential that I know you.

A strike and block exchanged —

The wing of a crane

or The bite of a snake,

and I know you.

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Oh, and I would rake as tigers claws might do.

I flew on wings and “rode the wind”.

My feet they moved as leopards do.

“A fist is a fist is a fist.”

And over clenched fist is set

an open one.

This means “Peace over Power”

To temper jagged steel

as I might have been.

But I’m back now. Things are different,

as I’ve said —

Ephemeral things like

the skin around the eyes.

But there are other things that are just the same.

And in these timeless stances,

That’s where I will find myself.

Untitled Martial Arts Poem by Vanessa Cate

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