I was just checking my email when I saw it. Subject: YOU'RE INVITED. The words alone sent a chill down my spine. I turned sharply, looking over my shoulder to see if it were some sort of joke. Where's the camcorder. None. So it was no joke. I wiped my sweating palms on my pants and held my finger above the mouse before I blinked myself back to reality and opened the email. There on the screen in front of me, was what I was prepared to fear. A challenge...
The memories came flooding back. My father had died at the hands of a challenge. I still remember the carnage. I was only 12 at the time but my dad’s last words were “Uphold the family honor. Never refuse and never lose a challenge”. Since that time I have accepted too many challenges to count. My first challenge match was scarcely a year later when I was “invited” by my father’s enemy, Munisai. At the young age of thirteen, I killed him. Two years later his son Shinmen Musashi had attempted to extract revenge by ambushing me while I was bathing. I escaped with only a slight injury but word of my injury fell on evil ears and I was challenged immediately…I now had killed two by the young age of fifteen.
It seems the three sisters of fate had sealed my life’s destiny early in my existence. Again I would have to say farewell to my wife, tend to all unsettled matters and prepare for the worst. I shut down my computer and walked the street to the center of town. A path I had trodden many times. There I strode up to the ude-kake-shi. A crowd had already formed. I wondered how word could travel so fast. Once there I pressed my forearm firmly on “challenge rock” and announced “I Kime, accept the challenge!” Many in the crowd gasped. As I left the crowd behind I could hear the betting begin. “Fifty yen says he loses!” Who’ll match my bet!! As the sun set, I left the voices behind.
Challenges always come as an “invitation” for me to show my techniques but I knew the true reason. Another tough man trying to make a name for himself by beating me. I had fought sixty matches, many to the death, and still many a young samurai wanted to test their wears against my mettle.
When the day approached, I kissed my tearful wife goodbye; my children clung to my hakama in a futile effort to keep me.
The town square was alive with cheering fans as we approached the arena from opposite sides. The “arena” was actually a very large circle of hardened sand approximately thirty feet in diameter. There would be no timeouts no water breaks no doctors. The only way out was to give up and acknowledge defeat or death.
My opponent this time was a giant of a man. Sort of a cross between Choki Motobu and Royce Gracie. This would be a match of all matches.
We approached each other extending our right hands, and gripping each other high on the forearm, readied for the cry of Hajime!.
We sprung apart both not wanting to begin grappling. I strike first with Maewashi geri to the thigh and he countered with a flicking right jab which nearly struck my left temple. He had a longer reach than I expected. A fight is decided by a half an inch and that first punch was a half inch in my favor! He barreled toward me, arms outstretched and I defended with double chudan uke followed by double punches but my fists had no effect on the muscular chest of my opponent. When I realized this I moved like flint and steel whirling low with a leg sweep trying to topple this monster of a tree. But at the last possible moment he jumped. A great leap for a large man and shot out a mae tobi geri! The best I could counter with would be a jodan juji uke (high X block). My opponent lost his balance in landing and my moment of recovery was assured.
On our feet again, my Motobu look alike shuffled, throwing jab, jab, and hook. My duces countered, clipping him in the jaw. I had drawn first blood.
My chance was now. I grabbed his gi strap and holding tightly to his right elbow gi, I attempted O-Goshi but his weight was too much. I spun opposite in an attempt to throw him with Tai O-toshi but he was too strong. I turned into him with a viscous hiza to the groin. He blocked perfectly as in Wansu and now I’m flying through the air. I manage a roll and regain my feet. Again I round house his leg, this time hitting the outside of the knee. He stumbled, I pounced. As he fell towards me I inserted my right forearm under his neck and throat. Even as he fell on top of me, my legs had already encircled his waist. I stretched him apart with all my might closing off his breathing in a secret move my father taught me called guillotine. He begins punching my ribs. We are one big ball of sweat and I try to protect my ribs from the onslaught. But His fist is like a rock and I feel at least one rib crack, but I cannot let go of my hold. I still have advantage on this behemoth like neck. The crowd is cheering and my eyes are full of sweat. My strength is waning but the punches to my broken ribs are getting weaker until finally…Crack… The neck, I’m sure is broken. I have long stopped feeling any emotion for it could have been me. There is no celebration in a Challenge. When two tigers fight one will surely be maimed and the other will surely die.
61. I could stop counting if I would stop being challenged. Although I have successfully defended the honor of my family name there will surely be a next time. A time when I am on a young samurai’s test.
Challenges. They always start with…“YOU’RE INVITED”A warrior rambling
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