The Perfection of Character

Angelina Michetti - Herndon, Virginia
As heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, October 23, 2006
Angelina Michetti

For some people, beliefs are borne from the hard knocks of life experience. NPR listener Angelina Michetti forged her belief in the perfection of character through the battle scars of black-belt karate.

Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in the principles of my karate-do, my dojo-kun. It is my way.

Seek perfection of character!

Be faithful!

Endeavor!

Respect others!

Refrain from violent behavior!

It is my philosophy, my creed.

I believe in this as I sweat through my gi, rubbing my inner elbows raw on my sides. My beliefs are in my callused feet that once bore blood blisters as big as my palm. My beliefs are in my broken nose and soft jaw from walking into punches. My beliefs are in my kiai! I yelp, shout, bark, when striking, blocking, kicking. My beliefs are also in the hardwood floors, the concrete, the field house rubber matting I train on.

I believe in the dojo-kun as I line up with the others at the end of every training, sweated through. I kneel, close my eyes, meditate, open my eyes and recite. I recite in my own voice with all the others, trying not to pant. I recite in my head. We recite as one.

I know my beliefs are a paradox. My Judeo-Christian heritage says strive to create a meaningful life. Have respect for others. Be peaceful. It’s all me. My being, my life. But my beliefs are also a dojo-kun that are Japanese principles. There is no individual. No me. There is blind obedience, suppression of individual conscience, never ever questioning of a teacher or leader.

My beliefs are an ancient system created for bodyguards who lived and died for their emperor. But I am alive and breathing in America in the 21st century. And my belief is light and dark. Water and fire. Air and earth. Yin and yang.

I believe in contradictions. I believe in breathing as one. I bow my head as we kneel, as one, in one line before Sensei, our teacher. Once, twice, the line rises and falls as one. I raise my head to recite the dojo-kun.

Seek perfection of character!

Be faithful!

Endeavor!

Respect others!

Refrain from violent behavior!

This I Believe.

Angelina Michetti is a first-degree black belt in Shotokan karate-do. She began her study of karate at Pennsylvania State University where she received a degree in international business and management. Michetti lives in Herndon, Virginia.

Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.