TRAINING FOR LIFE
Against a Typhoon
From “My Way of Life”
By Master Gichin Funakoshi
Perhaps it would be more modest to let another person describe one’s youthful feats than to do so oneself. But resolutely swallowing my sense of shame, I shall here quote the words of Yukio Togawa, the author, taking no responsibility for them beyond assuring my readers that the incident described is a true one. The reader may see a touch of madness, but I have no regrets.
“The sky above,” writes Mr. Togawa, “was black, and out of it there came a howling wind that laid waste to whatever stood in its path. Huge branches were torn like twigs from great trees, and dust and pebbles flew through the air, stinging a man’s face.
“Okinawa is known as the island of typhoons, and the ferocity of its tropical storms defies description. To withstand the onslaught of the winds that devastate the island regularly every year during the storm season, the houses of Okinawa stand low and are built as sturdily as possible; they are surrounded by high stone walls, and the slate tiles on the roofs are secured by mortar. But the winds are so tremendous (sometimes attaining a velocity of one hundred miles per hour) that despite all precautions the houses shiver and tremble.
“During one particular typhoon that I remember, all the people of Shuri huddled together within their homes, praying for the typhoon to pass without wreaking any great damage. No, I was wrong when I said all the people of Shuri huddled at home: there was one young man, up on the roof of his house in Yamakawa-cho, who was determinedly battling the typhoon.
“Anyone observing this solitary figure would surely have concluded that he had lost his wits. Wearing only a loincloth, he stood on the slippery tiles of the roof and held in both hands, as though to protect him from the howling wind, a tatami mat. He must have fallen off the roof to the ground time and again, for his nearly naked body was smeared all over with mud.
“The young man seemed to be about twenty years old, or perhaps even younger. He was of small stature, hardly more than five feet tall, but his shoulders were huge and his biceps bulged. His hair was dressed like that of a sumo wrestler, with a topknot and a small silver pin, indicating that he belonged to the shizoku.
“But all this is of little importance. What matters is the expression on his face: wide eyes glittering with a strange light, a wide brow, copper red skin. Clenching his teeth as the wind tore at him, he gave off an aura of tremendous power. One might have said he was one of the guardian Deva kings.
“Now the young man on the roof assumed a low posture, holding the straw mat aloft against the raging wind. The stance he took was most impressive, for he stood as if astride a horse. Indeed, anyone who knew karate could readily have seen that the youth was taking the horse-riding stance, the most stable of all karate stances, and that he was making use of the howling typhoon to refine his technique and to further strengthen both body and mind. The wind struck the mat and the youth with full force, but he stood his ground and did not flinch.”