I had studied karate at a local dojo in North Western Ontario for three years, but because of a bad bout of mononucleosis and an injured hip decided that I needed to retire my gi for stretchier pants. Also, I will admit, I had reached the point in martial arts where I either needed to develop a more competitive attitude or get out. With a blue belt, there could be no more avoidance of sparring, breaking blocks of wood with a bare hand, or training for longer hours than I had time. Thus began my inner questioning. What exactly did I love about martial arts? Where could I get the same fulfillment without the stress of competition?
My clearest memory of school when I was a child is the yearly project on culture. I say, yearly, because it seems like every teacher in the world thinks that they have developed the “BEST IDEA” to get kids to not only explore their personal histories, but to appreciate the cultures that they come from. I wouldn’t say that I was a cynical recipient of the ever-present “culture” project, but I wouldn’t say that I was enthusiastic either. In fact, my general thought was that my culture was pretty boring, and I’d really rather study someone else’s culture. Any culture.
Dutiful, obedient, compliant – I would trudge to the front of the room to collect the large sheet of white paper that my teacher wanted me to fill with the patterns of my cultural background. Then, there I would sit, wondering just what was my culture? As I had already done this project the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that I already knew what my mother would tell me when I asked her for help. “You are Canadian,” she would say, “just show what it means to be Canadian”. And I would sigh and stare at that big piece of white paper. Are we Scottish? Irish? English? Continue reading