Make a fist

In Karate, one of the most important lessons you learn is to take an ass-kicking. You understand that you need to pick yourself up and move on.

Before every session, you socialize with your opponents. They are your friends. You like each other. You also take pleasure in roundhouse-kicking them during a sparring match. Because there are competitive elements to it.

Karate breaks down the art of fighting into algorithms. A series of rapid-fire decisions. And at times, someone figures it out quicker than you do. Then, you will fall down, palming the bridge of your nose in pain. When you get back up on your feet, you are stronger in the broken places.


I studied at Budokai Karate Institute in Chennai. Its owner and resident Yoda, for over 8 years, was Renshi RVT Mani. Known as Karate Mani, he was a respected practitioner in India. A behemoth of a man, with a mustache that can body-shame the most promiscuous of prawns, he had also co-starred in a few unintentionally hilarious 80s Tamizh movies. He had issues. A wild fellow when he had alcohol in him. But he was sober whenever he was around us.

He had issues. A wild fellow when he had alcohol in him. But he was sober whenever he was around us. He was a father figure, of sorts. Or rather an uncle who showed up once a week to discipline, encourage and educate us in his own indomitable way.

He taught us many lessons that went beyond physicalities. None more than how we needed to pick our battles. He joked about a lesser known fighting technique called “Maan (Deer) Karate”. It is the act of confidently running away, like deer from a pack of wolves, if the situation calls for it. To back off when outnumbered. Or because of our inability to control our emotions

He spoke about the fight or flight response mechanism. How we should listen to our instincts, and respect them – no matter what our body and mind dictate, as separate entities. He told us that our gut instincts must decide whether we should run away or stand our ground.

At the end of every year, at the Budokai institute, we were evaluated to see if we deserved to graduate. If we did, our belts would sport a different color. One time, I got a double promotion from Brown IV to Brown II. Renshi Mani had preceded the daylong process. He came up to me and congratulated me. He said, “good”. Nothing earth-shattering or soul-immersing. He just thought I had done a good job. I felt proud of myself.

Then, I started to giggle. Because I couldn’t stop thinking about his strange acting choices. He looked at me, nodded his head with a smile, and walked away

I haven’t thought much about him in ages. I quit karate after he had to close down the school in 1997. But some of his teachings were etched in me. Especially the one in which I am able to leave a situation with my pride, dignity and body parts intact.

(Images: Pixabay, Google)

33 thoughts on “Make a fist

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  1. ah. The green pigeon. ah. The green pigeon. ah.
    Wanting to get ‘Green Pigeon’ tattooed in bad Chinese on chest


    Listening to this music again, oh. my. ah. It has the same effect on me as last time, tranced, to the point I want to take up karate whilst using a stethoscope to listen to my gut, and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A loving tribute to your Sensei. Have heard of him, was unaware that he met an untimely end. That haunting music is the perfect accompaniment 🙂

    We spotted imperial green and yellow footed pigeons in Kabini on our first trip. Have never seen this cousin before. Thanks for another lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Madhu. Glad you liked the music and the birds. It’s so wonderful how green they are, two years before I never knew they could be any other colour but blue and weird pink! I look forward to your pigeony post of course.


  3. Coming to your blog is like going to the candy store…and all the tastiest treats are free! I have not seen Sabotage. I’ve not been much of a Hitchcock fan and might enjoy the Tamil adaptation more; subtitles would be a must. We are enjoying karate and martial arts twice weekly, but our sensei (thankfully) has his demons under wraps. He too stresses how instinct (gut) and skill should always be used in concert and that once you commit to a situation, commit with your whole mind, heart, and body. This was a nice way to commemorate Mani’s impact on your life.

    PS — I think I’ve already said how much I love the pigeons and doves! He is such a beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful to know y’all practice karate. Maybe a post from you about your experiences? Yeah cats on walls make for lousy dreamers, if you are gonna go, just go for it. Hitchcock gets a bit cutesy with his version of my meta cinema, but his life camerawork is for the birds (which in our world is a good thing). I ll find a way to send a subtitled copy to you!


      1. I will certainly consider crafting a post about our martial arts experience. We have learned so much about ourselves, but since I am also one of the students, there aren’t t any media (photos, video) to go with a post. I’m not as clever with my words as you are, Christy! I need pictures to collect my thoughts.

        Is your Indian version available streaming? Say, YouTube or other means? Let me know! I promise a sit-down-and-watch.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Three cheers for childhood mentors and two thumbs up for your post.
    Its so amazing how you connect everything to life. I am off for Durga Puja but I hope you have the best October ever!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Really enjoyed your post. I was with Budokai Bangalore. Was taught ocassionaly by Sensi Vasanth. Never met R.V.T. Mani, but have always been very curious about him

        Liked by 1 person

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