The Karate Trips

In the summer of 1984, I developed a shoe fetish. Check that, it was actually a Shue fetish. As in Elisabeth Shue. You know, the unassuming hottie who played Ralph Macchio’s love interest in that deplorable movie, The Karate Kid?

Yet as memorable as Elisabeth proved to be, it was Mr. Miyagi who made the biggest impression on me. In fact, even after all these years, I still think about him every day. Can you guess why? No? Maybe the following exchange will help.

Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have?
Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?
Daniel: [laughs] No, I meant…
Miyagi: In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants. [laughs; then, seriously] Daniel-san… [taps his head] Karate here. [taps his heart] Karate here. [points toward his belt] Karate never here. Understand?

Give up? I’ll always remember Mr. Miyagi for telling Daniel-san that, no matter how much he practiced, his, um, “johnson” would never be able to administer a karate chop.

Kidding. Sorry about that.

So seriously. You still don’t know why I think of Mr. Miyagi every day? Here. Read this exchange and see if you can figure it out.

Daniel: Hey – you ever get into fights when you were a kid?
Miyagi: Huh – plenty.
Daniel: Yeah, but it wasn’t like the problem I have, right?
Miyagi: Why? Fighting fighting. Same same.
Daniel: Yeah, but you knew karate.
Miyagi: Someone always know more.
Daniel: You mean there were times when you were scared to fight?
Miyagi: Always scared. Miyagi hate fighting.
Daniel: Yeah, but you like karate.
Miyagi: So?
Daniel: So, karate’s fighting. You train to fight.
Miyagi: That what you think?
Daniel: [pondering] No.
Miyagi: Then why train?
Daniel: [thinks] So I won’t have to fight?
Miyagi: [laughs] Miyagi have hope for you.

Give up? I think of Mr. Miyagi every day because my toddlers talk just like him. They’re finally able to express their thoughts, and like the karate master, they do so with surprisingly few words as well as with little or no regard to grammatical nuances such as subject-verb agreement. The nouns in their short sentences may not be preceded by articles, but Sam, Jack, and Kirby are able to make their points nonetheless, even if they choose to make them while referring to themselves in the third person. Just like Mr. Miyagi. (And that annoying, little red bastard, Elmo.)

Whenever I happen upon Jack, he’s quick to tell me what he’s doing. And he’s always doing the same thing.

“Jack play with twuck, Daddy. Jack like twuck.”

“I know you do, buddy. Here. Let Daddy play, too.”

“Daddy play with twuck? Jack turn. Jack play with twuck now.”

It’s the same thing with Kirby, only with a twist. She, too, speaks like Mr. Miyagi, but she does so while treating me like an unwanted suitor.

“I love you, Kirby.”

“Kirby love Mommy.”

“Don’t you love Daddy, too?”

[Like Daniel-san, she ponders before giving her answer.] “No. Kirby love Mommy.”

While Jack is busy playing with “twucks,” and Kirby is busy worshiping Lovie, at least I can always count on Sam for a little back and forth. The other day, we were walking into his room when I made the mistake of opening the door.

“No, Daddy. Sammy open door. Sammy do it. Sammy do it!”

So I closed the door and let him open it. Once he did, he ran into the room with a grin that begged me to chase him. So I did. And once I caught him, I pulled up his shirt, buried my face on his belly, and gave him a world class zerbert, causing the little guy to laugh uncontrollably.

“Daddy tickle Sammy,” he said as he touched the stubble on my chin that had exacerbated his reaction.

“That’s Daddy’s beard,” I explained.

“Daddy beard,” he repeated.

“That’s right, buddy. Sammy will have a beard one day, too.”

Sam touched his smooth face and looked into my eyes with wonder. “Sammy beard?” he asked.

“Yep.”

He smiled at the prospect of his eventual manliness, until a look of concern swept over his face.

“Daddy?” he began as he reached up and touched the bare spot on the top of my head. “Sammy bald?” he asked in a serious tone.

And just like that, Sammy took the Mr. Miyagi thing to the next level. After all, Sammy-san not only talk like Miyagi, he think like him, too. Wise Sammy know when some man grow hair in one place, he lose hair in other.

“You’ll probably be okay, buddy.”

A look of relief accompanied his widest smile yet. “Sammy no bald, Daddy. Sammy no bald.”

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