Wednesday, September 19, 2007

So long, and thanks for all the Goju

Last week my friend Rakesh (back center of the picture), a fellow FX artist and Goju karate instructor left for the west coast. Even with free long distance, e-mail, and occasional visits, I'll still miss him.

We met through a Lightwave user group several years ago, and became fast friends. The group sort of fizzled out, but we had so much in common, we continued working on and discussing CGI on our own. In fact, I recruited him to work on Timewarp's CGI-heavy feature Crawler. Work has been slow-going, but he's made progress--and he insists he wants to keep working in spite of the distance. I'm holding you to that, bud.

One day about 4 years ago, we discovered that we were both long-time martial artists, and he was an instructor. The timing couldn't have been better for me, because I was in between schools and looking for a place to train. His school, a Kodokan flavor of Goju Ryu located in D.C., was run out of a small activity room in an apartment complex. It was a little bit of a trek from Rockville, but worth it. At that time, there were only 3 regulars, including the two of us, so the small space suited us. And it was great training again.

I actually came from a completely different style, Shorinji-Ryu, a Japanese style (Goju is Okinawan.) Boy did I have a lot to learn... or, rather, unlearn. But Rakesh was up to the challenge of dealing with an old warhorse that was a little set in his ways. And with the help of the other instructors, Josh (bottom right), Jay (back, second from the left) and Vu (back, second from the right), I was able to make the transition.

Thursdays became a night-long ritual of training for 2 hours, then dinner (where we'd talk about movies, computer geekery, and Goju, of course), and then more chatting by one of our cars. There were several nights that I didn't get home until 1 or 2AM. That made for an unproductive Friday at work.

It's about 4 years since I joined, and our school has really grown. Among the regulars are Sampak (bottom, second from the left), Johann (back left), John-Joseph (back right), and James (bottom left). We also have several part-time students and two more black belts. And we added two more weekly classes on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sometimes we train outside on Saturdays if the weather is nice.

Of course, the activity room has started to show its size, or lack thereof. As I said, it's small and we share the room with 2 couches, a treadmill, and 3 tables. It's not so bad when we're all doing the same thing, but we often get in each other's way when we branch off. And don't get me started on the parking. But that doesn't stop us. After all, we're Samurai. Inconvenience matters, not.

But the absence of a friend does matter. I'm sure we'll feel the effect, at least for a while. It's certainly the greatest challenge to our Samurai persistence. But I think I speak for all of us in wishing Rakesh Sensei well, and we look forward to his occasional return for a class.