"I've done thousands of roundhouse kicks since that evening, and sure enough, I did eventually learn not to fall over when I did them. These days, I fall over when I attempt spinning kicks instead. I also fret over my hook kicks, which because I'm prone to underrotate my supporting foot, regularly threaten to land me on the floor. Glamorous it's not. And I've been training for fifteen years.

"But that's the point. Fifteen years of screwing up, and I keep coming back for more. This is an astonishing thing to be able to say about myself, that instead of dreading error, and shrinking from the possibility of committing it, I've discovered that I can just let it happen. I might learn something from it. I might not. Either way it's okay. Simply by putting myself in a place where I make mistakes, I'm doing the right thing.

"Because perfect technique doesn't carry over very well into real life, but the courage to make mistakes does. Success in defending yourself doesn't depend on memorizing the proper formula, like evade, block, and counter. Success comes from your willingness to do whatever it takes, to behave outlandishly, to scream and pummel and scare the holy shit out of people who want to hurt you. To find the nearest cannon, and touch off the spark. Or even to open your own karate school.

"It's a gift, all right, and perhaps it explains why I feel more at home in a dojo than almost anywhere else, and why I had been so desperate to return there — to the school where it was safe to make mistakes, and the teacher who could explain why mistakes were important. I live most of my life in constant fear of screwing up, so it was liberating to be given permission to do so — to actually be told, You need to make mistakes. Start now.

"And to answer, Osu, Sensei."