Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, particularly as I grow older. Adults are encouraged to unwrap their imaginations and act as children again. We’re allowed to be scared of the dark and feel the apprehensive exhilaration of a good fright. We allow the atmosphere of spirits and ghouls and the all manner of supernatural a little closer to our conscious. The air becomes think and palpable. Our subconscious fill our reality with shapes, colors, and perceived movements in shadowed corners.
For an evening, we’re taken back to skulking around our primeval campfires, both curious and afraid of the sounds emanating from the darkness around us. Our constraints on the bounds of existence slacken ever so little. We’re allowed to doubt our convictions and re-create ourselves.
One Friday evening two years ago, on Halloween, I trekked out the park I regularly train at to get some intense martial arts practice in before heading out with the pack for some late-night decadence. It was already well past sunset, but the park was illuminated with a large full moon low on the horizon, casting a yellow pallor over the grass and trees. It was a trickster’s moon, throwing subtle shadows through the foliage and drizzling rain, encouraging the senses to heighten to the point of self-doubt.
That evening, I was concentrating on a dance themed after the unknown and the mysterious. At one level of the dance, past punching and kicking, you unlock subsequent doors to different planes and combat your inner demons. You summon your will and utterly destroy that which seeks to destroy you, you’re tearing away the false veils of the world, destroying facades. I was had created this world, turned myself inside out, conjuring reality out of myth. Every sense was hyper-acute, I could see every enemy and smell their odor. I could feel their scaly hides as I struck them, I could hear them sneak up behind be. I knew where the coyotes were running in the ravine behind the park, and was aware of the crows flapping three trees over. I could feel the elders watching me, directing me, and the Tengu dancing through their legs.
Before too long, I was soaked with sweat and rain and the film of my imagination. My black gi snapped against my skin with each movement, punctuating my techniques, the only sound radiating from park. My legs burned from exertion, steam flowed from my body and floated about world. I grew feral, crouched, snarling, explosive, looking a cornered cat but inside, a tiger, taunting my demons before dispatching them at will. I was fierce, alive, uncompromising.
After an hour or so, I pulled my legs underneath me, controlling my breath, and sat. First, eyes closed, settling myself, returning to this world. Letting my creation dissolve in the mist, allowing the cold and rain to seep back in. The world was less dangerous, I was still alive, and upon opening my eyes, grateful for the expansive view of Mission Bay glazed slick in the winder chill. The rain had stopped, and the neighborhoods below were frozen under a delicate slab of ice, a snapshot in time.
This was the first time martial arts become truly real for me. Digging deeper, pushing harder, driving through exhaustion and intemperance, focusing, creating, building, finding your metal.