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Open Features: Petronella - The Karate-Ka

...Petronella began to feel quite dizzy. Her heart threatened to pound right out of her body. She collapsed on to the floor...

Marianne Hall tells another choice tale.

Petronella sat at the kitchen table holding a long wooden spoon. She plunged the spoon into the plate of mealie pap in front of her and then slowly and carefully manouevred it towards her mouth trying not to bend her elbow. Every movement was agony.

Her friend, Sannie, watched in amazement.

“What happened to you?” she asked.

“I did twenty push-ups last night,” mumbled Petronella, the porridge dribbling down her

“You did WHAT!”

It had not been a very successful evening. Every bone in her body ached. It was a miracle that she had actually survived.

A great fan of Bruce Lee, Petronella had always nursed the ambition to learn the art of Karate. Then, yesterday afternoon, the Gods had led her into the dojo at the Mall, where a class of juniors were in progress. She watched, fascinated. Attack and defend. Thrust and parry. Arms and legs were flying in all directions.

The Sensei came over to her.

“Can I learn that?” she wanted to know, pointing to the karateka.

Did she imagine it? “Er…” A smile of amusement lurked behind those eyes. He looked her up and down.

“You can try.” He pointed to the notice board. “See you tonight.”

She ran her finger down the notice. “Seniors: 7pm-8pm.” Petronella was no junior.

Finding something to wear presented a problem. She dug out an old pair of baggy black pants and a T-shirt with a few paint spots on it. The one black takkie had a hole where her corn had worked through but a spot of shoe polish did the trick.

When Petronella arrived at the class it had already formed a circle. She squeezed her way in between two amazons who viewed her with great suspicion.

The warm-up began in great earnest. “Legs up and down,” shouted the Sensei. He started counting. “Ichi, ni, san…”

He stopped. The class stopped.

“What are your doing?” he yelled at Petronella, who was scratching her knee.

“Nothing, nothing,” she mumbled.

The exercises went on and on. “Heads up and down, side to side, at a circle”.

Petronella began to feel quite dizzy. Her heart threatened to pound right out of her body. She collapsed on to the floor.

“Sit-ups!” shouted the Sensei.

Her coccyx felt on fire as the full weight of her body ground on to it. Then, with a tremendous effort she managed to do a few pushups.

Stomach and arm muscles screamed with pain.

Petronella was allocated a Black Belt to teach her the basic moves. He taught her how to close her fist properly to avoid broken fingers. Punching had a technique of it’s own. Her arms flailed like an octopus when attempting to do a block.

She noticed that his Black belt was very tatty and offered to buy him a new one. He politely declined.

Then they rejoined the circle.

“All turn to the right,” shouted the Sensei. “Then jump over the man in front of you.”

Everyone turned.

“Jump!” came the command.

Petronella looked up at the mountain of flesh in front of her. She had never yet been able to jump, not even over a small puddle, never mind straddle an ox.

“Jump!” came the command again.

She felt herself being propelled from the back, flew into the air and landed on the the karateka in front of her. Panic-stricken, she clung on. Then, in desperation she grabbed his mullet of hair.

“Get off me!” he yelled, trying to shake her off.

Suddenly he lost his balance, slid on the floor and lay there spread-eagled with Petronella still clinging on. Two Black Belts yanked her off and pulled him back on his feet. The blood was pouring out of his nose.

The dojo tittered with laughter.

His murderous looks did not augur well for her future development.

“Well, how did you go?” asked the Sensei as she tottered out in a daze.

“Er…fine, fine,” mumbled Petronella, hobbling out to her car.

The Sensei walked back into the dojo. An irate Third Dan was waiting for him. Wads of cottonwool protruded from his nostrils.

“Who was that old bag?”

“Heaven knows. She won’t be back. You O.K?”

Copyright © 2007 by Marianne Hall
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