Sepai of us stand in the snow, waiting for the janitor to open the community centre. I expected it would be open, so have no coat: Chris lends me one he has in his car for use on building sites.

We practise kata, beginning with the first. We break it down, without the arm movements at one point: Place the foot, then turn. My temptation is, instead, to fling the leg and arm round and let the body follow: this is one of the points I work on. In blocking, I need the muscle tension at the moment where my fist blocks the blow. We have long preparative moves before the effective part, and those moves should be made in a relaxed manner, without tension. The temptation is to be tense throughout, which inhibits the move; if I do it relaxed and freely, it flows better. We practice with the whole of each move relaxed, and then with tension at the end where it is needed.

In this class I am an orange belt, and the other adults are brown belts. I am glad to be here, and hope Sensei need not teach only at my level. In Saifa, he tells me hints- the back leg comes up, then you turn following the raised leg- and says “Your body knows it. Don’t overthink it, trust your body to make the moves.”

Much of the bunkai (purpose explanation) of the kata Sepai (watch here, it is beautiful) relate to breaking free of grapples. Sensei Andy demonstrates with Chris, who grasps him from behind, his hips up against Sensei’s. “Chris remembers I have told him this before: in a fight you do not lean in like that, you your whole body close to control the opponent.” It is like the more intimate hug, I think, rather than the leaning in, touching shoulders only hug.

And I am triggered.

I try to hold my feelings, and carry on, but they are too strong and I weep. I have to bow out. “Are you OK?” -Er, it’s my ‘stuff’ coming up- I wonder whether my jargon is understood. Andy sets the others up to practise the kata then comes over to ask how I am.

No, it is nothing he has said or done. But- unselfconsciously using the body as in that grapple to hold an opponent reminded me of a closer hug. The physical is so close to the sexual, and it brings up for me how I have seen my own sexuality as wicked and perverted. So I have controlled my body with inhibitions, fighting myself. I want that unselfconscious action which is so much more elegant and effective, in bodily movement, in relating and in conflict- in an office, as well as physically- and it is so hard for me.

I do not wish to act as if uninhibited, normally, but for my actions to be at conscious choice rather than fearful inhibition. How completely I restrict myself!

Last Saturday was tough on the thigh muscles. Chris really felt it next day. Moving with the knees bent all the time was a strain and my thighs eventually started trembling. They were weak and I limped until Wednesday. “Pain is weakness draining away,” says Andy happily. I am glad I have the willpower to hold a pose to self-harm.

Grace, schoolgirl brown belt, asks if I do yoga to deal with these feelings. No, I meditate. She is concerned and accepting. I would rather not weep in a karate class, but it is alright.

4 thoughts on “Sepai

    • Grace mentioned yoga, I think, because I had quoted a yoga teacher. We have to stretch, and I quoted “relax into the pose”- do not strain, but let the body go to the place. A yoga teacher would say more of qi, but I find ki here.


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