The Black Belt Wall Street Ninja

by : mark smith

Growing up in my quiet, little suburb of New York City, my three children and I were surrounded by martial arts equipment, movies and activities.? My father, a Wall Street lawyer and his son were attending judo lessons.? In addition to traditional judo, the class provided a combination of various styles and techniques, an approach popular these days with the synthesis of different cultures and traditions.
Never allowed to attend class myself, I was always told I was too young.? I had to live vicariously through my older brother Daniel. My brother was never into mainstream sports and in some ways could have even been considered on the "geeky" side, but when it came to the sport of judo, he was a true success and in my eyes-a star.? We would often attend these tournaments held in some big gym in a "far away land" such as Washington D.C. or Pennsylvania, me, my siblings and my mother, would all watch him compete, cheering him on as a family.? Judo night for my brother and father was a bonding experience. Together they worked themselves up through the ranks to black belt, when my brother abruptly stopped, deciding to devote most of his time and energy to academics.? Subsequently, his trophies, which I held in such high admiration, began to collect dust in his closet, he was seventeen when he quit.

?My father however, continued on for many years, until recently, when he hurt his leg in a tragic chainsaw accident, the shock from the wound on his leg caused complications with his digestive track. A true warrior, he is recovering quite well and vows to return to his martial arts. When my brother quit, my Dad was only at the beginning of his career, continuing on to second and third degree black belt while in his late fifties.? He is now seventy two.

My father went to his class twice a week for more than twenty years, becoming good friends with the men in his class at the local YMCA.? When he recently was forced to stop, he spoke not only about missing the activity, but missing the community that was formed through the class over the years.

To excel in judo or any martial art, one needs discipline in the subject. I learned this myself from dropping out of the hopkido class I took in college, after less than one year (though I still practice).? My father certainly had an abundance of discipline. Every night after working in Manhattan, for up to twelve-hour days, he would come home and do his martial arts?forms in our back yard under the cloak of darkness, his mouth breathing into his hooded sweatshirt in the winter to conserve heat.? We still joke around the house about when my neighbor, a twelve year old boy, commented to my brother, "I think I saw a ninja in your back yard last night."

Anyone who is interested in pursuing or continuing ?in the martial arts should be inspired by this story, as my father, an overworked New York City lawyer, found time to work his way up to third degree black belt, in a house full of four demanding children, with a very demanding lifestyle.