Think of Chuck Norris, Jet Li or Van Damn. You might think that they are the epitome of a black belt. Strong. Agile. Killing machines.
The truth is anyone can be a black belt. No one looking at me would suspect that I have trained eighteen years in a number of martial arts or that I love tonfa (nightstick).
When someone walks into a dojo, it's rarely with the express purpose of becoming a deadly fighting master. Maybe it's to get in better physical shape. Some people do it because their friends train and it seems like a good use of a couple of evenings a night. Others have had a bad experience and want to have options should it happen again.
Whatever the reasons people start training, very few will actually stay to earn their black belt. After years of training, countless hours spent sweating and untold bruises, getting that black belt can feel like the end of a long journey. In truth it's just the beginning.
Sometimes you need to learn enough to know what you don't know before you can really start your training.
I started training because I loved the regimented order of class. The fact that I was a Jackie Chang fan may have also played some part in it. I was overweight, painfully shy and not very athletic or graceful.
So how did I earn a black belt?
I made it to nearly every class I could. I kept training when I broke my thumb sparring. I didn't let my mistakes and failures discourage me for too long. I didn't quit when I moved and had to find a new school. I started over as a white belt when required to. I watched. I trained. I stuck with it when others didn't.
Jet Li I am not, but I know how to throw a punch and I know how to get out of the way of one. I may never have to use my training in a fight outside of the dojo, but the most important lesson I've learned stays with me. Show up and you can be a black belt or whatever else you want to be.
A closeted black belt finds more than a sparring partner when he takes an openly gay student under his wing.
As a black belt, Tyler helps his students face their fears, but he has yet to come to terms with his own bisexuality. When he finds a new sparring partner in Jaime, an openly gay man struggling to find his place in the dojo, Tyler is surprised at how right it feels to be intertwined with him.
Determined to put his partying days behind him, Jaime returns to martial arts training and swears off one-night stands. He is finally ready to look for something more when Tyler approaches him with a request -- help Tyler explore his new found sexuality. Their physical relationship intensifies in secret. It isn’t long before their time together becomes about something more than just sex.
Despite their growing closeness, Tyler refuses to acknowledge their relationship in public. Now Jaime must choose between returning to his former lifestyle and falling in love with someone afraid to embrace him in front of their friends. Tyler doesn’t want to lose Jaime as a student, much less as a lover, but can he overcome his fears and accept his new identity?
With a choke and a sputter, Jaime set down his beer and struggled to keep a straight face.
“Come again?” Jaime asked. Maybe he’d misunderstood what Sempai Tyler was getting at. Sempai Tyler’s unwavering gaze was all the confirmation he needed to know he hadn’t misheard. “You don’t mean that. It’s the breakup talking. Just give it some time, and you’ll be back to your skirt-chasing self in no time.”
“I don’t chase skirts.”
“I know.” Jaime stared at his beer with a wan smile. He had to be in a pretty bad place to be saying something so drastic. Even though Jaime had only known him for a couple of months, he had never heard or seen anything to indicate the man was anything other than a red-blooded heterosexual.
“You’re a good guy. The kind that’s few and far between. Any woman would be lucky to find herself in your arms.”
“What about you?”
“I told you, women aren’t my thing,” Jaime stopped short and looked at him. Sempai Tyler couldn’t mean what he just said. Jaime felt his mind freeze on the possibility of a thousand what ifs and if onlies. “You mean, literally me? In your arms?”
Sempai Tyler nodded.
Jaime opened his mouth then closed it again. He made another aborted attempt at a response while he continued to stare. Leave it to him to find the one bi-curious guy to have a crush on. The unobtainable was suddenly within his reach. That was if Sempai Tyler really meant what he was saying and wasn’t just having a momentary crisis. Although Jaime had never heard of someone turning gay from stress. A faint blush touched his cheeks, but he didn’t look away. Sempai Tyler was being honest with him.
“I need to know.” Sempai Tyler started and struggled to find his words. He ran his hand through his hair and shook his head. “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
Jaime longed to reach out and put his hand on Sempai Tyler’s arm if only to ground him. The poor guy must be feeling pretty confused and lonely. Jaime felt compelled to reveal himself even though it went against his normal arm’s reach distance he preferred to keep with most people.
“Would I be interested in you, if you were gay?” Jaime wanted to give him room to back out of his comment. Jaime had been wrong before about an attraction being mutual when it wasn’t.
“I’m not gay.”
Jaime pulled back. Sempai Tyler might as well have hit him with a back fist for all the force behind his denial. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard that line, even from a guy about to go down on him. The thought of Sempai Tyler on his knees pleasing Jaime lit his senses up like a pinball machine.
“But you are,” Sempai Tyler said quickly without any accusation or slander.
“And I trust you to help me figure this out.”
Finally, Jaime was starting to understand what Sempai Tyler was looking for. His unobtainable man was still unobtainable. He was asking him for help not proposing a committed relationship. Jaime thought about Tomas and how excited he had been for the promised second date. And he still was. This thing was different. It was more like a favor for a friend. And he’s only gone on one date with Tomas. Jaime struggled to see the situation from all angles before he made a decision they both would regret.
“Won’t that make being in class awkward?” Jaime asked.
“Randy and Sarah hooked up while they were both students,” Sempai Tyler pointed out. He scraped at the label on his beer bottle until it was coming off in shreds. “It wouldn’t be the first time two people in class had more intimate associations outside of class. Besides, you said you never sleep with a guy twice. Call it an experiment. We’d never have to speak of it again.”
Jaime had been in enough onetime experiments to know how to walk away. He wasn’t sure if Sempai Tyler could do the same. If it went wrong, it could ruin their friendship. That, if nothing else, gave Jaime pause even if his body was ten steps ahead of him.
“If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s okay.” He started to back pedal. “We can just pretend this conversation never happened.”
“You are determined to do this aren’t you?”
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Spar-Nikko-Lee/dp/1986675335
About the Author
The author is a scientific curator who enjoys writing genre fiction from erotica to horror under the pen name Nikko Lee. Born in Canada, she moved to Maine after completing a PhD in Zoology and her post-doctoral training. She resides near Bar Harbor with her husband, two children, cat and malamute.
Social media links
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Nikko-Lee
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3132914.Nikko_Lee