I didn’t only learn about science at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center. Twice a week, for two or three years, I also trained in the art of Shotokan karate . The attainment of my yellow belt marked the pinnacle of what had been a rocky autumn at the dojo.
I earned the belt by memorising and performing the steps of the first kata, which is called, as I literally just found out, the Taikyoku Shodan. My sensei Eveyln was transfixed by my deft and decisive manoeuvres, which brought to mind images of the great Gichin Funakoshi himself. With such great skill on display, the furthest thing from her mind was the first day of class, when she watched me whimpering in my father’s arms at the back of the classroom, lamenting that I would have to take my shoes off in public.
In olden times (post-World War II), when a karateka achieved the next kyu, he would not receive a new obi of the according colour. Instead, he would dye his original white belt each successive colour, which necessitated that progressively darker hues accompany higher ranks. Presumably, this led to a strong sentimental connection between the practitioner and his equipment, at least to the extent that such a belt, unlike the yellow, orange, and green ones I obtained during my brief career, would not be thoughtlessly discarded after spending years wallowing at the bottom of a dresser drawer.