Writing: ‘An Instructor To Bad Influences’ by Daniel Guerrero

This piece placed first for high school submissions in the Ánimo Voices Competition, which invited students to write about innovators, upstanders, visionaries, or rebels that have made a difference in their local or broader communities. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.

An Instructor To Bad Influences

Down in the streets, cracked and torn
By the violence ever present since the time I was born
Was a simple school
A school newly handed off by a departing master
To the most promising student
Then young and inexperienced
He was guided by the master’s right hand
An instructor whose name was similar to Julius
At the simple age of Ten, I watched
I saw and learned along with the new owner
Becoming one of his prized students

So when the school moved, he was glad I followed
But the location was worse than before
It was a hole in the wall
Near a liquor store and Insurance shop
Now this is where the new owner’s story begins
The story where he taught the worst of influences
We were a martial arts school, a rather flamboyant one
Tae Kwon Do
Translated to Kick, Punch and a Way of Life
Some weren’t too keen on our lifestyle

They came, loud like the crashing waves,
And berated us
So, the new owner, my instructor, gave them a challenge
To fight me
Should they lose, they’ll join the school
Should they win, he’ll give up the money he had saved for a new dojo
They accepted

I never doubted my instructor until that moment
I never doubted him ever again
They came at me one at a time
Their movements as ungraceful like their speech
Three motions, knockout, next
Block, counter, knockout, next
Block, throw, knockout, done

My instructor knelt as they laid
And spoke of a rematch after some training
He flaunted, speaking that they were free to bring more to challenge me
They agreed to both propositions
Promising to train under my instructor, Luis Barrera,
And to win a fight against me
They came daily, pushing themselves to match my pace
Withstanding olympic regimens, all for their grudge
Within the time frame of three months, they had breezed through a year’s worth
They were fairly talented and adjusted well to our way of life
But they were eager to have their promised rematch
And I was eager to deliver
On the day that the three matches were due
They brought guests
The three disciples brought friends to both watch
And challenge me

Before the match, Instructor Barrera made a statement
He was proud
Proud of the three young men before him
Who quit their abuse of the fist on the streets
For the study of the kick at our dojo
Sneers came from the stands, the guests
But the Instructor said nothing
It was one of the young men who spoke up, Andrew
A goliath of a man, he spoke down to the jeers
Displaying both self-control and growth
Then he faced me
Then he bowed
It had been seven years since my start
And three months since I met Andrew
And never have I felt such a heartfelt gesture
I bowed back, then took a stance
Our match was about to begin

Our movements were our thoughts
And they flowed like a debate
An opening statement, the rebuttal, followed by a counterargument
We fought like clashing ballet dancers
Graceful but full of emotion

There was no knockout, there was no need
We were enjoying ourselves, so it didn't need to end
But the timer disagreed
Three minutes, the next fighter was up
Short man named Jonathan
He was gung-ho and quick
But never without thought

Our clash was a race
No hit was unblocked
No movement was unmatched
Feints were simultaneous
By the buzzer, no one landed a single hit
But, we were satisfied because of that
Jonathan had proved himself
And I was happy for him

Lastly, a stout man
Pablo was his name
Considerably older than the other two, but only by a few years
He had been the most adjusted
Enjoying both the philosophy and the gentler of techniques
Our fight was one of flicks
Our uniform sleeves snapped
As our arms, our wrists, our bodies flicked forward
Our limbs were whips, with quick motion and gentle retreat
We were bruised but they were worn with pride

By the end, the guests were appalled
Their friends were like the fighter they saw in movies
And soon they rushed to Instructor Barrera
Asking what they had to do to join
And Luis accepted them all
News soon spread and the Dojo became a center of reform
Converting the misguided to honest martial artists
Through training and lecture, Luis taught them the philosophy of Tae Kwon Do
Leaving his mark in the community
Unfortunately, with as big as his Dojo got
It attracted those who wanted nothing more than to discredit our lifestyle
Luis Barrera was forced to move locations several time

But, he could not afford to keep up as a nomadic instructor
The school still operates
But, it is hidden under closed gates and alleys
Those truly dedicated followed his every step
But others became occupied by careers
Andrew became a pre-med student
Jonathan, currently a mechanic
Pablo continues his training
And I, an aspiring author

But, we will never truly forget the moments we were taught
Under Luis Barrera
The Instructor of Bad Influences

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