Time came when Desmond enthusiastically decided to make Tae Kwon-Do a lifelong endeavour. Practicing suited his solitary personality, unknowing that it was in keeping with his childhood wanderlust nurtured in transiency. He looked forward to his learning and training sessions interspersed with his nightly duties at the night club and its goings on. He sought other jobs fielded by his mother and her connections founded on his late-stepfathers efforts to assist his growth.


Months later, during the summer months, Desmond was made aware of another tournament a 5hr drive north of the city. A contingent departed to arrive Friday night for an early rise to compete. Two or three cars of competitors of all ranks, he being a senior orange-belt at the time, accompanied by his instructor. Arrival and overnight hotel stay was without incident. All arose early to register, warm-up and begin competition which involved Form, specialized imaginary fighting movements routine, as well as face2face Fighting with a combatant from another fighting-style school. 


The competition began with lower belts, before going on to the higher belts that included the black-belts. All of Desmond’s fellow students were felled by their opponents from other styles and clubs leaving him the last one to be defeated. He fought 7 fights in the Yellow2Green-belt rank, before suffering a blow to his back, floating-rib area. The competition broke for dinner to resume the Finals in the evening. He ate and laid on the grass in the setting Sun with his adrenaline still numbing the injured area, which was a bonus.


The Finals resumed with demonstrations the likes he has never seen, in-between lower to higher belt competitions. Unbeknownst to Desmond, a fighter who went to the hospital was allowed to return in the semi-final round, and he was selected to fight him instead of another fighter. It was suspected, he being the under-dog and Tae Kwon-Do stylist, he would be easily routed and the Open Competition would remain Karate style dominant. That was not the case, as he routed the interloper. He felled the following two fighters to take the first-place trophy, remaining undefeated after 9fights and becoming his school’s first champion fighter in Open Competition. 


The results of that experience became the start of something for him as well as the school’s training method, as his instructor became aware of what had made Desmond’s application of his input result in his victorious day. This did not dawn on Desmond’s psyche, being only aware of maintaining his training regimen in going forward. The next morning there was a tightness in the lower left-side of his back, while they all readied for the 5hr return drive into the city, the school’s 1st-place trophy in tow.


On Monday, Desmond entered the school and readied himself to train. During the day his limited movements gave no indication of the severity of his injury, save for a slight tightness. Warm-up routines began without incident, until the side-stretching routine ensued. He dropped like a sack-of-potatoes, accompanied by a painful flash-of-light, unable to lift his arm and/or move. He excused himself from the rank in file, bowed off the training area, gingerly dressed himself then slowly limped home.


He was 2weeks healing, doing partial-training in the laundry-room next to his basement apartment, until such time as he ascertained his proficiency to be acceptable and would be welcomed back in his return to the fold. He ‘licked his wound’, recovered in solitude as he had done almost a year earlier after the assault that led him into this martial arts realm. 


The World at-large went about Its business, and Desmond knew he had to navigate the flow of Its currents however he might get caught up in It going forward. He needed to increase what he knew, learning through The Way …










And so it began. Desmond blindly entering into the next phase of learning how to survive. He felt sufficiently recovered to return to the job from which he received a trouncing, only to face a double-edged reception. Higher pay with attendant staffing amidst increased clientele. He had not considered connecting the dots from what was to what is. Nonetheless, he got into step and went with the flow catching up as best he could with the lead character who replaced him. Fact of the matter, he was replaced by three, one of which was scheduled only on weekends as the need arose.


Desmond was now one-of-three, and they were functioning like a well oiled machine when he crossed path the karate champion who set him on his next route. The Korean master instructor was accepting, cautioning him about his current choice of employment as being dangerous. He heard the caution but was undeterred given his living conditions, which included being unaware to the extent his ethnicity was plating a role in the job market. He was always able to work being willing to do anything unknowing these jobs were aligned through the efforts of his mother. She would make connections through her daily goings on then present him with the information.


On one occasion he foraged through the classifieds finding a job which resulted in him being one among many who were scammed out of a day’s wages. Being told at the end of the day, “This was a trial run, come back tomorrow.” Since he was told he’d be paid daily, he requested transit fare to return home and was told, “That was on him.” He walked what seemed like hours to get home, and never did return. Especially, since he was not informed where to meet. Word of mouth and his mother’s input was his guidance to employment, henceforth.


His training in Tae Kwon-Do began to which he was quickly enthusiastic, training six-days a week. Three within the dojang and three days on his own, reviewing and improving on previous days lessons. Unknown to him, the instructor must have seen his capability because in eight weeks he was to accompany a senior of his class to a open competition in Ottawa. The experience was an eye-opener. He had never been in such an environment. A multitude of martial artists from far and wide, all intent of competing by fighting and displaying their prowess from the varying styles in which they trained. He rediscovered a nervous trait from his childhood waiting in the wings to perform in a stage-production. He felt the need to pee repeatedly.


He joined the ranks of novices, some like him getting their first experience in combat in unfamiliar territory, under unfamiliar conditions. Fear filled, and desiring not to get hit by combatants much larger than he, there was no weight class during that juncture, Desmond faced the challengers as presented. He fared unsatisfactorily, in his estimation, since he lost his third fight and could no longer continue. Disappointed, but without injury, he returned to Toronto to resume his training with practical insights as a New Year began.





Snowed Walkway




Desmond began the second year of his intended return to university with the task of how to be employed so as not to unnecessarily burden his single mother coping with being recently widowed, two children entering adulthood and everyone still getting accustomed to each another in a foreign country. He’s had to deal with the mantle of responsibility from an early age, of necessity, while being inexperienced in the ways of maleness due from an absent father. However, he was not totally ignorant having gleaned behaviours through lessons in Christianity in tandem with insights garnered from the silver screen. He may not have understood their nuances and intricacies of goings on, but his unsullied mind absorbed what he felt was the role of the ways and means of being a good man.


Desmond was allowed the freedom to comprehend and interpret the teachings in the Scriptures, especially that of the role of Jesus Christ. Through those lens he chose to see, select and interpret what he considered the best characteristics of being male. The screen added good biblical male characters. Of course, those whom he felt were less than favourable in accordance to lacking kindness, gentle-manners and honour he chose to let go absorbing into his mindset. There were numerous personality types, some he recalled as he grew while others he simply subsumed into his demeanour. Many characteristics were modified according to reality and context, even into his adult years.


A major characteristic he had to modify occurred after his untimely, unexpected assault. During the two-months recovery period he reflected on what occurred. The most daunting was the fact he felt at a loss as to what inspired/motivated his attack? The known excuse of him getting hired to replace his attackers, and them calling him the ’N’ word overheard on the telephone, did not make any sense. 


What his mother said in response to his query while driving from the hospital’s emergency room kept replaying in his mind during his recovery.


Desmond had asked her about the rationale of his attackers? She in her calm way replied, “They didn’t go to the same Sunday School as you”. It gradually became clear the values he placed on his human exchanges were not in synch with others, especially that of friendship. He recalled an assault a year earlier with two other companions who disappeared into the gathering crowd during his attack and his subsequent encounter with a police officer. The experience was made worse, but not critical, learning their Jewish heritage was a factor of non-involvement being the 70s. His “Tale of Two Cities” model/principle of friendship, albeit admirable, was idealistic. He was being taught the actuality of the biblical parable, “of not throwing pearls among swines”, actual empirical data.


Desmond returned to work, informed of changes which included an increase in salary and having two stalwart doormen as support. His ‘bouncer’ moniker was upgraded to ‘doorman’, although the function remained the same. These fellows were bigger and stronger, but he was the essential resident diplomat. His skillset was decidedly needed the way these fellows conducted themselves. He was the scalpel and they the hammers, according to their overall conduct. The crowd had grown massive, a selected few in the line were accorded ‘favours’ to circumvent qualifications on entry which he elected to ignore being unwilling to participate, in spite of being a practice accepted as the norm.


One a fateful night an entourage of martial artists were in the lounge and he was asked to survey the atmosphere, in case trouble might be feasible. As it turned out in the centre of the group was a martial arts champion with whom he was familiar from his earlier school days, as well as being friends with his sibling. On discovering this, and observing the way the club scene was evolving, Desmond inquired as to where this active martial arts champion would recommend he begin training to develop a similar skillset, since he was to continue working in this venue. To his surprise, the champion suggested he see a Korean stylist with whom he had recent exchanges. He interpreted the recommendation to be based on admiration. The back-story to this recommendation Desmond was not to know until a later time.

Two attempts failed; but, eventually, Desmond met with this instructor and told him of his desire to develop a skillset motivated by recovering from his assault and of current employment status. His occupation being at night, it was agreed his training was to occur during the daytime, three times per week. This meeting was pivotal for the two of, but each were none the wiser. The benefits incoming were to be reciprocal in unexpected and unusual ways.

This was Desmond’s introduction into the world of International Tae Kwon-Do Federation martial arts. It began with two noon classes per week, a Saturday practice session, with him adding three days per week at-home review sessions to cement what he was taught on previous days. Of course, added motivation came from the life-and-death experience occupying private/intimate moments, waking and sleeping …





23. The View Above the NM

%d bloggers like this: