No Smile

I am taking a creative writing and narrative theory class at Folkuniversitet in Stockholm, so I thought I would share what I wrote for an exercise where we have to write a long sentence with no punctuation. I am simultaneously finishing a short story I am going to submit to a contest, so the creative writing juices are flowing at the moment.


Domo arigato, gozaimashita. I bowed to my partner and we rose to begin our training. I focussed my ki and cleared my mind of all the unresolved things the day had delivered to me.

Sean feigned a punch to my stomach and I swiftly followed his forward motion with my arm, running it down the length of his to reach the fleshy part of the thumb. We were ballet dancers, following preset choreography, graceful, synchronized, visually stunning. Sean’s body followed the turn of his hand and he landed with a thud on the tatami mat. I rotated his hand until bone and tendons resisted one another and Sean naturally turned on his stomach. I lifted his arm to full extension, locking the shoulder joint and pressing down on his hand. I felt his grimace before he tapped the mat. I let go and we switched roles.

It was my turn to be the attacker, the uke.

No smile. My serious Sensei wandered the room with his hands behind his back. His black hakama swished along the floor, the soles of his feet always in contact with the mat, drawing energy from his student’s collective ki.

I saw him in my peripheral vision. He had taught us to be aware of our surroundings at all times, to keep our inner eyes open. Sensei had surprised me before, but not tonight.

From opposite sides, Sean and Sensei attacked me. My instincts took over.

Sliding to the left and to the right I hooked my elbow into an open space and Sean lost his balance enough to reposition him further away Sensei filled the space instead ICHI my hand naturally found the curve of his neck turning it so he had to follow NI it was not enough to throw an expert off balance by now Sean had the bokken in his hand and he arched it to aim for the side of my head SAN I was able to throw him off balance to block Sensei as he came at me from behind the bokken in my possession instead SHI sinking into my center weight powerful clear-headed figure eight movements caused collisions between opponents the wooden sword providing the leverage needed to throw Sensei far enough away GO so I could focus on Sean as he attacked from the ground rising up up up from seiza to his toes turning on his knees and tilting my own balance enough to ROKU rolling away the daily ukemi training a natural result of the opening as Sensei returned to the dance his black belt almost white SHICHI the forgotten bokken now in his hand aimed at the center of my head breathing life into distant reactions embedded into my being the tip of the sword pointing back at my teacher my partner my life HACHI floating flung across the dojo to meet the mat and there he lay heavy while I focussed on Sensei wise wired wiry man who brought me back behind me KU arm across my windpipe weighted into the mat turn my head to torque and spin top and bottom releasing both men JU

We knelt and bowed to one another. Domo arigato, gozaimashita.

I rose to my feet and saw Sensei wink at me.

Now Smile.


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