New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Continued Violence

Our lives on this earth are filled with so much violence, it surpises and saddens me sometimes, but it's not all necessarily bad.

I can start by pointing out the obvious violence occuring in the Middle East, in Central Asia, on the streets of America, but it goes into the collective psyche of everybody, whether they're getting in fistfights or shooting bullets or dropping bombs.

I can stay on the theme by basically picking up from where I left off last night. I heated up the chicken fried rice and it was darn good for being leftovers of incredibly cheap food anyway. Then Jenn came home and we hung out, watched the Daily Show, and she went to bed. I stayed up and flipped through the channels on the TV.

There was a boxing match on between two welterweights, Miguel Cotto and DeMarcus Corley. It was broadcast from Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

It was a great match, with lots of heart and grit and pretty good technique from both fighters. Everybody likes to watch heavyweights fight but the lower weight classes are often more fun. They thow more punches, with cleaner technique (each punch is more articulated, easier to see if it scores), and they have better endurance than those big guys. Imagine George Foreman, later in his career. He was so strong he could knock a guy's block off, but he could hardly move around the ring in the later rounds.

Anway, this was a good fight, even with the sound turned way down, and Jenn complaining from bed to turn it even lower. (She likes to tell me what time it is. "Come on, it's 11:43," she'll bleat from under the covers.)

I thought the fight was called too early, with the referee calling a technical knockout in the fifth round, giving the victory to the hometown fighter, Miguel Cotto. The announcers agreed that Corley deserved another round, but they also agreed that he was probably finished and wasn't going to win. Watching the fight, and the way it ended, made the adrenaline rush through me, and this was almost at midnight, after a relaxing hot shower.

Cut to today, at work. I can't reveal exactly what I'm working on, but a story came up in my research about a boxing match from 40 years ago, also welterweight, in which one boxer beat the other so badly that he fell into a coma and died ten days later. I thought, maybe it's not so bad that last night's fight was called a TKO before anyone really got floored, even though I was kind of rooting for the big knockout. Maybe taking away a little bit of the crowd's blood lust pleasure was okay. They're trying to draw the line between acceptable and unnacceptable violence. They're trying to control it.

Cut to today's news, and I mean New York City news. Big beefs between rappers caused bullets to fly late Monday night, and details were starting to emerge. 50 Cent dissed the Game while doing an interview with Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97, and, apparently (details are sketchy) some of the Compton-bred Game's entourage rolled up on Queens-native 50's guys at the radio studio in the Village.

Bullets flew, one guy got shot in the leg, some people fled, some people were found on the scene, 50 left the studio through a side door, and nobody saw anything. It was snowing outside. There weren't many cars on the street. It was 10:00 p.m.

Later that night, shots were fired at 36 West 25th Street, where 50 Cent's management has offices. Nobody was hurt.

I read this story with great interest, not because I'm a gangsta rapper with an entourage (I'm a fact checker at Esquire) but because it's a local story, and I know both of those areas well. Also, 50's record label is Shady/Aftermath/Interscope, and Intescope's New York offices are in my building, 1790 Broadway. I've never personally seen 50 there, but there are frequent sightings. And I have seen "crews" there before, with several luxury SUVs parked out front, and well-dressed and very tough-looking bodyguards waiting in the lobby.

So, while it's unlikely, that beef could spill into our little corner of New York, and that would be bad. Let's keep it cool guys. Tupac got shot here, and checked himself out of the hospital way before he should have, given his injuries, because he was afraid they'd come to the hospital to finish him. (Of course they got him in Vegas.) Lil' Kim has her own lil' problem. Maybe I should feel silly even writing about this, but this is my city.

The thing is, these rap feuds are at the same time very real (people are getting shot) and very fake (the whole thing is contrived for publicity). I say it's not worth it, but 50 Cent made $50 million last year. Also, 50's new album drops tomorrow.

Cut to the dojo. It's the regular Wednesday night black belt class, only tonight we're doing something a little different. A group of eight people from our dojo in Florence, Italy are in town on a visit, and they're taking part in a special promotion while they are here.

(A promotion is the test you take to go up in rank. They were all moving up, two were getting higher colored belts, two were getting their first black belts (shodan) and the others were going for their second or fourth degree black belts.)

The promotion lasts for several weeks. This was the final day. They return to Italy on Friday.

Our regular New York group met and did a quick workout, and then the Italians came in, blindfolded. They had been training with our blind program at a special blind institute down the street. It's a standard part of the promotion. Learn what it's like to do karate blind. Learn what it's like to walk down the street blind. I did it, and I can tell you it's an enlightening experience.

They removed their blindfolds and stood in front of us in a row. There were fifty or sixty of us New York black belts. Kaicho asked the Italian group a few questions about what their training meant to them. Some of them spoke a bit of English, some used our Italian-New Yorker branch chief to translate. They answered very sincerely.

Then he had them go through a few forms. The black belts had to demonstrate techniques using a bo (long staff).

Finally, it was kumite time. I didn't bring my gear because I just wanted to watch this time, but a whole bunch of people did, and the fights were pretty good. Lots of energy, lots of spirit, good technique, and loud kiais (shouts). And then it was over.

They were all brought before us and Kaicho and his most senior black belts awarded them their new belts. Two guys got their first black belts, and I know how that feels. We gave them a huge round of applause. They were so happy they were beaming. These people are real Italians too. The two of them, brothers, race motorcycles and work in a motorcycle store. One 23-year-old woman is a student. Another guy is a policeman.

Not all the news at karate was good, though. We were informed of personal tragedies that had occured to three other members of our system, one of which involved both gunshots and multiple stabbings. Even if they are from far-flung dojos around the world, they are part of our family and it is a shared loss. We ache for them.

Violence is inescapable and incomprehensible sometimes. Perhaps it's better to have a positive relationship with it, as we do in karate, than to get on the wrong side.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jenn said...

Beautifully written. And point well made. I do think violence is inescapable--there's anger inside us all. What matters is what we do with it. Exercises like kumite--that help us appreciate and understand our strength and anger--help. As do the Keichos and the referees that stop the fight before our bloodlust gets the best of us.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Rob Horning said...

So many different levels of stylized violence: Boxing, rapper PR, karate. Are these attempts to master the fear caused by unreconstructed violence, the incipient chaos of the many ways in which people collide, do you think?

1:23 PM  

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