I’ve been trying to watch Cobra Kai on Netflix, and realized that I’ve totally forgotten anything about the movie, other than Ralph Machio jumping and kicking his opponent’s face. I rewatched it, and suddenly wished I had pursued martial arts more seriously when I was in high school. I used to be in a tae-kwon-do team in school, but I think after that one summer and that one competition where I miserably lost I quickly retired and hang my yellow belt in my closet, beside my rarely used guitar and other shameful momentoes of being a total dilettante.

Three years ago I got to wear a martial arts-related uniform again, albeit in a tourist attraction. After escaping a boring conference lecture in Tokyo I went to a Ninja Samurai Dojo studio, along with my friends Alanis Cornucopia, Mrs. G, and Turbidity. We had been thinking of an activity to do in the middle of the afternoon, other than walk and eat Japanese food. We had already eaten batsa-fuls of ramen by that time, and we needed to do something that would justify being hungry again. Apparently Alanis had already planned on becoming a ninja long before the actual trip.

We quickly donned ninja costumes, and under the guidance of the mystical ninja master Shintaro threw sharp objects against the wall. I fared rather poorly at shuriken, but was an excellent blowdarter and weaponized chopsticks thrower, if I may say so myself. All these activities, of course, were done after a few seconds of the requisite Shintaro Valdez jokes, because really, who could resist. When we had our fill of ninja play and nobody had incurred any injuries, we trooped into another ramen store. In Tokyo, it seemed, every activity was nothing but an intermission to eating.

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