Dad Stories – The Pastor Sensei and the Flaming Sleeve

     Our entire family was involved in martial arts. Of course, being christian, we were nontraditional. Most traditionalist schools incorporate eastern religions. Dad saw the value in the discipline of the art, and of defense, even if he preached against offense.

Thus as he became a pastor, he and mom kept a class running as a church outreach ministry. In addition to bringing discipline and stability to at-risk youth, the demonstrations were a way to bring an audience to hear the word of God. An audience not likely to sit through ordinary sermons.

     Dad would incorporate the message throughout the entire theme of the demo, using each skit, display of skill or weapon, and every break as an illustration to his narration. One such break was the firebreak, performed usually either by mom or himself.

     Dad’s normal attire for demonstrations was the pants of his gi (or karate uniform in layman’s terms), his belt of rank, and a short-sleeved t-shirt with the school logo on the chest. On one particular demo, dad was wearing a brand new gi. This also meant that he was wearing the long-sleeved jacket to it. He forgot about this by the time the firebreak came around.

     A firebreak is essentially a speed and accuracy break. A series of wooden boards are stacked with spacers and are then coated in rubbing alcohol. The alcohol is then lit. If the performer has perfect technique, and does so before the alcohol is used up, then the lower burning temperature of the alcohol will not burn them. If the technique is off, or the performer is slow, they are burnt.

     When dad performed the firebreak this time his technique was flawless and his speed was sound. Just one problem. His long sleeve absorbed some of the still-burning alcohol!

Dad didn’t panic nor did he miss a beat. He simply kept preaching as he beat his arm against his body to extinguish the flames. He was unharmed, and the back of his right arm was as hairless as a chihuahua for weeks.


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