PHIL IN THE BLANK: Eighties enough

The film “Karate Kid” hit theaters on my 15th birthday, June 22, 1984. I was about the same age Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence were supposed to be, though actor Ralph Macchio in particular was quite a bit older.
Like Daniel and Johnny, I was a student of the martial arts, at a karate studio a couple miles from my house.
I didn’t have to deal with any of the physical bullying, choreographed fighting, or tournament dramatics of the film, but one time I did call out for sparring a classmate at my high school and dojo, a guy I heard disparaging the marching band of which I was a part.
I still remember the look on his face. Very eighties.
My sensei was Japanese, like Karate Kids’ Mr. Miyagi. He taught us to count in Japanese, and a couple phrases.
He was closer to the Pat Morita character’s educational philosophy than Sensei Kreese of Cobra Kai. But one of his teachings I remember – if you are picked on at school, just walk away. And then come to the dojo and train. Then when you are ready, call him out.
He was a good sensei. We had a special event once where everyone did a thousand kicks. It took hours, after which he served us sake.
A few years later when I was in the Army, I joined a dojo in Clarksville, Tenn. I remember training there as an E-4 enlisted guy, with a belt color outranking commissioned officers. Got to boss them around a little bit.
Good times.
Turns out I’m still about the same age as Mr. LaRusso and down-on-his-luck Johnny, as shown in the new series “Cobra Kai” on Youtube Red.
The series is awesome, showing how events in a person’s youth can continue to make an impact decades later in adulthood. I went to my 30th high school reunion last year and, yes, people do not change that much. I had the same types of conversations with people I haven’t seen in decades as I had when they were classmates. Less hair, and some other physical changes, perhaps.
My former nemesis wasn’t there so no renewed karate rivalry for me. A television show my life is not.
But it’s close enough that I’m now a Youtube Red subscriber.

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