Monday, March 30, 2015

How Shotokan Karate Saved My Life

On 29 March, 2015, at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, my Shotokan training saved my life. It also kept my temper in check, preventing a knee-jerk reaction to the incident, fueled by anger and adrenaline.

It was a busy Sunday afternoon as I departed 99 Ranch Market on my 150cc scooter, heading down McKinley towards the Magnolia detour. In the vicinity of the on and off ramps for the 91 freeway, a woman in a dark blue SUV was too engrossed in conversing with her traveling companions to watch her surroundings and merged into me, forcing me into oncoming traffic. With a small, red pickup truck coming at me from the front and this SUV bearing down on me and pushing me into them from the side, I simultaneously witnessed a short film about the finer points of my life while being forced to do some quick math.

Before beginning on my path to learning Shotokan, I was in a major accident on my 750cc motorcycle, in which I nearly lost my leg and had to endure an seven hour surgery in addition to six months which, when they were not spent in bed, were spent in a wheelchair, as well as seven months of physical therapy. The accident was my fault, and mine was the only vehicle involved; it had happened because I panicked in a much less dire situation and made a newbie riding mistake. Shotokan has proven to be a form of therapy for me, showing me I can do more than I thought I could and pushing me far past the limitations my physicians had placed on my recovery. It has sharpened my reflexes and my own situational awareness, helping to make me a better rider and, I'd like to believe, a better person through discipline and taking the dojo kun to heart.

And without it this day, I surely would have been severely injured, or perhaps even killed.

Even if I had managed to get lucky if this incident had happened before my Shotokan training, I can almost guarantee that I would have lost my temper, climbed off of my scoot, and confronted the driver. While I am not a violent person, I do have a serious problem with idiots, which is amplified when said idiots get behind the wheel of a two ton vehicle and carelessly endanger the lives of others.

However, neither of these things happened. While I was understandably frightened (read: scared witless), I managed not to panic as I had in my previous accident. Instead, I got out of the SUV's way and rode the double yellow line until I was past both truck and SUV—and out of harm's way. Upon halting at the next red light with the SUV still behind me, some choice phrases that could burn a sailor's ears ran through my mind like a news ticker as fear cooled and clarified into anger. I must admit: I was livid. The blatant lack of situational awareness and further unawareness of this person who had just jeopardized my life was burning in my brain. I wanted to park my scooter at the intersection and walk back to the SUV to give the driver a piece of my mind. But, I refrained, as the mantra of 'to refrain from violent behavior' replaced the more colorful phrases of the insult-ticker. Instead, I just looked back at her, shook my head and said a comparatively tame 'what the hell is wrong with you' into the muffling confines of my helmet. She stopped talking to one of her passengers and just stared at me in that certain manner that a bovine, standing on a set of tracks, stares down an oncoming train.

I truly believe that my Shotokan training saved my life today, and kept my behavior to a higher standard than I expect of others. When I realized this at 1:30 in the morning, long after the adrenaline and the anger had worn off, when the realization of just how close a call I'd had sank in, I broke down and cried, safe in my home, my scooter in her parking space without so much as a scratch.