I Was A Ninja Warrior (For A Day)

Florida A&M University; Tallahassee, Florida; Spring 1986

It was my freshman year and I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to pursue as my major. I was stuck between Math Sciences and Psychology. Being my first classes, I knew I had a little freedom and wiggle room with making my selections. Particularly the Electives. Thus, when I saw that Tae Kwon Do was offered as a course, I jumped on it.

Nothing like free karate lessons!!!!

I think my first mistake was referring to it as such.

I also knew that several members of the marching band had taken the course. Some, for several years, advancing in belt status over time.

And I also heard that a lot of the fine-ass girls were taking it to learn self-defense.

Tae Kwon Do it is, then.

As happy as I was to see several of my musical brothers, as well as Miles Flowers, one of the coolest members of the band, I was happier to see the WOMEN. And believe you-me, there WERE some fine-ass girls in there.

Being my usual self, I came in with a cockiness about me as if I was a Purple belt. Of course, that was dispelled when I put my White belt on, with all the other newbies, indicating I was a novice.

The first couple of sessions were easy enough, learning basic stances, forms and Korean phrases and commands. The problem for me, was during the stretching.

Each day, at the beginning of class, we went through a series of stretches to prepare ourselves for the exercises. One particular stretch brought unnecessary attention from the fellas, the teacher…

…and those fine-ass girls.

We sat, with legs outstretched in a V-patttern as we leaned back, arms extended behind us for support. In that position, we curled our toes forward, then stretched them backwards, widening the toes.

Balling them up like a fist wasn’t a problem. It was the stretching BACK that caused them to crack and pop like a new bowl of Rice Krispies or a comb pulling through a nappy-headed child. Loud enough to make an arthritic old man look at me with pity.

“Whose toes are those, popping like that?” our instructor asked.

“Mine!” I yelled back proudly, knowing the class was laughing.

Especially those fine-ass girls…

“Well, you need to put some WD-40 in your joints before you come here,” she answered unrealistically.

Not one to be outdone, I quickly retorted.

“What do I look like? The TIN MAN?”

“What did you say?” she asked, obviously giving me the opportunity to recant.

“Why the hell should I oil my joints? I ain’t training to be a Ninja Warrior or nothin’ like that!”

The room immediately became deathly silent. I could see dust particles, suspended in mid-air as flies stopped in flight. Every wide eye in the room was nervously trained on one of two people, her or me. I looked over at Miles, who quietly shook his head, obviously knowing what I didn’t, but was surely about to learn.

In front of those fine-ass girls…

“Stand up!” she commanded, obviously angered by my mouth and attitude.

I stood, laughing as I climbed to my feet.

She walked to me so quickly and smoothly that I could barely see her body bounce to each step, almost as if she was gliding along the classroom floor.

As she stood directly in front of me, I looked down and fought the urge to laugh even harder at her small frame. She stood 5′ tall, to my 6′. A full 12 inches shorter. Her low percentage of body fat made her lean frame seem that much smaller.

I glanced slyly at two of the many fine-ass girls in my peripheral vision.

“You think my class is FUNNY?” she challenged.

Don’t say it, Kenny. For Heaven’s sake, don’t say it...

“No, I think YOU’RE funny if you think-“

I never saw the kick.

All I heard were the collective “Oooooohs” and “WOOOOAHS” of my fellow classmates and those fine-ass girls, as I lay on my back, waiting for the singing birds to stop circling my rapidly swelling face.


It wasn’t until the next band practice that I learned, AFTER everyone else in the band, that she had kicked me with one foot, on the opposite side of my face, like in the television movie, “Billy Jack”. It was also there that I learned that she was a multiple-degree Black belt (I forgot how many).

It was something that I thought about from that point on, each day that I greeted her with reverence, not looking her in the eyes, knowing that a 12-inch difference meant nothing to a woman who could raise her leg 90 degrees from its starting position without warning.

It was something that I thought about as I soaked my feet in hot water and coated them with lotion, each day in my dorm room before going to future classes, praying my “toe knuckles” would not crack in her class.

It was something that I though about, each time I heard giggling at the beginning of each class…

…coming from those fine-ass girls.

Yeah, I was a Ninja Warrior reject, for a day…

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