Several weeks ago the inaugural Carolina Beach Practice took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, near where the Coastal Carolina University dojo is located. Nine members of the Chapel Hill dojo participated. Below is an experience report from one of them.
Like a perfect sweep, the wave pulled my feet up at the same time it knocked my torso back and then down. Before I could blink, I was fully enveloped by the water and swept back up towards the sand, until, as surely and determinedly as it had come, the wave faded, then receded, to make room for the next. I roared back up to standing and rushed back into the gap towards the sea, back in line, back in kibadachi, ready to punch above the next wave.
It was the last practice of the inaugural Carolina Beach Practice, and it embodied one more time some of my most salient experiences from the day. When we practice in the dojo, especially for those of us fortunate enough to practice on a nice wooden gym floor, we don’t ever need to be mindful of the floor. We come to simply expect it to be as present, as firm, as even, and with as much traction as it always has. Here on the beach, the subsconcious idea I clearly had of this was abruptly and entirely upended. The ground would change, often drastically, from one position to the next, from one technique to the next, from one kata to the next even if done in the “same” place. There really was no “same” anymore, because even one’s own moving would alter the ground.
As we made Bassai down the sand towards the water, and then the other way, I experienced how this lack of any trustable surface threw off my moves of a kata I had done thousands of times. I experienced how my foot seemed to negotiate with the sand that held it in place about how to modify the next move, such that some at least remotely faithful resemblance of what the kata commanded next could still be accomplished. To say that I was out of my comfort zone would have been a vast understatement. I loved this practice.
As the next wave approached, I was reminded of the comments Maurice Baker (Yodan, Charlotte Dojo), who led the practice with Jim Solazzo (Sandan, Coastal Carolina Dojo), made earlier. The waves carry no ill or good or any other intent, they simply come, at the speed, rythm, power and energy they have. No matter what we do, they will not stop, wait, slow, or take it easy or push harder. We can try to resist them with force and be knocked over, or we can try to find harmony with them, allowing us to move with rather than against their energy. This time I managed to find harmony. Standing waist-deep in the warm ocean water, for once I was elated.
Soon after, it was time to one more time sit in the sand and bow out as the sun set. After we hung up our gis to dry, we enjoyed each others company, delicious food, and libation. The next morning I walked one more time from our cabins to the beach in the dawn twilight, and was fortunate to share a rare moment with Ron Wafer, who had come all the way from Louisiana to participate, to watch a deep orange sun slowly emerge from the ocean. Did I say I loved this practice?
My deepest gratitude to Maurice and Jim, who made this instantly one of the most memorable and simultaneously fun SKA events I had been to.