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Hole in the Wall April 26, 2014

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.

By Alex Sawit

April 26, 2014




My friend was holding a glass of red wine as he sat at the bar, contemplating something that he wanted to ask me. He then glanced again over his left shoulder to look at the black belt certificate displayed on the wall.

Adrian, who goes by the nickname “Aids” around here, has seen this framed certificate many times. He’s actually asked me about it before, but always in passing as a bit of trivia in between glasses with his drinking buddies, so we never really talked about it at length.

But having already socialized with friends at a posh whisky place earlier this evening, Aids just wanted to chill with a glass of wine or two before heading home. That, plus the late night ambience of a wine bar with mellow piano lounge music playing in the background, must have put him in the mood to finally make proper conversation about it.

“Do you,” he asked over his glass of Shiraz, “still practice martial arts?”

I explained it casually. I used to train in something Korean, the kind that presumably originated with Buddhist fighting monks who used flying kicks in the absence of modern projectile weapons. But no, I told Aids, I don’t practice anymore.

“The last time I trained seriously was back in the 20th century,” I said, feeling very apologetic about how embarrassingly out of shape I am now. “And I haven’t practiced informally in nearly ten years.”

It’s funny. Ever since I put that black belt certificate on display, I’ve gotten used to receiving questions like, “Have you ever killed anyone?” or “Have you ever used your training to throw drunks out?” That’s what I get for hanging that thing inside a bar.

But Aids was in a cheerful disposition and kept the conversation rolling pleasantly. So I told him more.

I told him about our Korean master, a genuine gentleman with a sharp, unnerving gaze and with a skill set of the kind you will never see employed inside a sports fighting ring.

“He can use his hands like knife points,” I told Aids. “He knows the weak spots in human anatomy where he can penetrate with a bare hand to make a kill, if need be. And he always ends the fight in a matter of seconds. He’s old school that way. He’s the real thing.”

I wasn’t able to elaborate to Aids, though, that the group I belong to is a tiny one – a hole in the wall, so to speak, in the local martial arts community. But we’ve always been a close-knit family, which is why I sometimes can’t help feeling wistful about having discontinued things, especially since it happened at a time when our group was actively promoting full proficiency in MMA techniques for those who had time to cross-train.

“I gave it up so that I could devote my evening hours to my wine biz,” I explained.

By now, Aids was on his second glass of red, so I felt it was okay to tell him the funny secret hiding behind that certificate of mine.

“But the real reason why that thing is up there,” I told him as I returned his cheerful attention in the direction of the wall, “is because there’s a huge, ugly hole in the wall behind it.”



Yes, Cyrano friends. A lot of you didn’t notice this in all your regular visits to the wine shop, but a couple of years ago I had the old displays ripped out in order to install nicer ones. Unfortunately, the new shelves were too short to cover up the unsightly traces of the old ones. I put two frames (the other being the black & white Doisneau poster) on the wall only as a temporary covering, but the set-up worked so well that I wound up keeping it permanently.

We’re planning to renovate eventually anyway, so I’m content to leave things untouched for now. And right now, I kind of like having those holes in the wall. For me it’s something quirky to tell about our wine shop, a modern equivalent of traditional stories about how the old cellar masters didn’t like removing cobwebs from their vaults for fear of disturbing the delicate aging process in the barrels. It makes a tiny, close-knit home like Cyrano feel more laid back that way…which is just the way you Cyrano friends like it.

Besides, what other practical excuse am I going to find for displaying a black belt certificate at a wine establishment?








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