WEEK 27: The Owl

WEEK 27: The Owl


If you’ve ever watched Hanna-Barbera’s speaking-canine murder-mystery caper Scooby-Doo (as for Scrappy-Doo’s arrival in 1979, let’s not go there), you’ll know that owls make a distinctive twit-twoo call, usually within a forest setting with a few swirls of mist floating in the background… while a crime takes place. I always thought the owl noise on Scooby-Doo was overdone for dramatic cartoon effect. But we’ve got a visiting owl in Winchmore Hill that has become a major talking point among us locals. If anything, Hanna-Barbera downplayed the sound. Owls are outrageously loud. Wer-wer-wer-wer-wooooooo!

Throughout our earlier-in-the-week karate session at sensei Amrit and Harris’s backyard gym, Winchmore Hill Owl could clearly be heard, its haunted hooting a soundtrack as we punched, kicked and attempted our best Spider-Man press-ups. Spider-Man press-ups? Hmm, almost impossible for me. You have to a drag a leg up to your arms… or as far as is possible. It’s great for stretching but for someone like me with thighs and knees made of tropical hardwood it’s a humongous task.

I don’t know how it happened, but straight after this earlier-in-the-week karate session it became apparent that I’d trapped a nerve or muscle in my shoulder so that it felt like I’d had a spear thrown into my back. As you can imagine, you receive little sympathy from workmates over karate-inflicted injuries. I’ve become a bit of a karate evangelist in the office but my cajoling, telling them to follow my lead and get training, falls not just on deaf ears, but deaf, dumb and blind ears.

Movement in my shoulder had returned before the second karate stint of the week and my “ooohs” and “ffffs” had thankfully ceased. I was grafting at home that day and when I’d finished my shift at the screen, I clicked on YouTube to watch my main man Shotokankataman showboating around his dojo to pick up some of his robotic heian nidan manoeuvres. He’s absolutely electric. I remember watching a video in the early 1980s of Michael Jackson moonwalking but Shotokankataman is equally mesmerising. I tried copying his moves in easy to digest chunks but heian nidan is complicated. “I know,” I thought. “I’ll get into my gi early and come back to it.”

My gi is all white and my trousers are not the thickest of material. I wear a pair of white shorts underneath so nobody can see my undercrackers. But could I find my shorts? Mrs Gale soon got in from work and took the full brunt of my deranged hunt. Her common sense Columbo investigation guided us to the dirty washing basket and there lay my sorry white shorts, untouched since my karate exertions three nights previously. They were dirty. On they went. Christmas list: second pair of white shorts. Not sure you needed to know this.

The owl couldn’t be heard from the confines of the Church Of The Holy Trinity, N21 but it came up in conversation – as did my widening biceps, although I was the instigator of this subject. There was a fair amount of bunkai work, which I desperately need. This, as you now know, is giving a purpose to every move in a kata – and is my weak point. Plan: I’m going to make a bunkai chart with an answer to every move in the katas I’ve learnt thus far. That’s my homework for my next free weekend when I’m not working.

Other things to remember: manners in the dojo – bowing to your fellow karateka (nice word that, isn’t it?) before and after one-on-one training. As the teenager Monty is roughly my height, he often draws the short straw partnering me. We were told not to pull our punches but I pointed out that if I knocked Monty out, I’d probably go to prison for three years, whereas if Monty knocked me out, he might go to a sort of modern-day borstal for six weeks… although I wouldn’t press charges.

There was talk of grading. Before Christmas? Possibly. I need to get kata heian nidan mastered asap. I’ve got three days off work this week, so that time will be used wisely. Wise as an owl! I really want that yellow belt. Well, as Scoobs might say, “Rooby-Rooby-Doo!”