Movie theaters demand you turn off your cell phone and zip your lip, but take off your shoes? For the Chicago premiere of “SHADYA”—a documentary about an Arab-Israeli karate champion—most audience members shed their shoes without a second thought. They shuffle in amongst punching bags dangling from the ceiling and an assortment of weapons lining the walls at the Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center—turned theater for an evening of cinema and conversation.
“Our goal is for everybody to leave with a broader perspective on all the issues,” says Nancy Lanoue, co-executive director of Thousand Waves. Shadya’s independent streak certainly provided enough fodder for the thirty-person discussion: She defies expectations both on and off the floor, storming off after losing matches, draping herself in both Israeli and Palestinian flags and refuses to learn how to cook.
In the midst of all the cultural, political and gender controversy, the topic that gets the most talk time is Shadya’s focus on competing. The Thousand Waves Center students practice seido—a form of karate that focuses less on annihilating opponents and more on nurturing the individual. In fact, posters scattered throughout the dojo, as members affectionately call their studio, declare Thousand Waves to be a “Violence Free Zone.”
“I’ve competed a few times, and if I never compete again, that would be OK,” says six-year Thousand Waves student and high-school history teacher Aileen Geary. But she doesn’t want to stop training. To end the evening, 10-year-old Emily Porter, weighs in with her thoughts. “I think it’s cool that Shadya kept going to karate even if she was married.” And she agrees that some people don’t think it’s cool for girls to do karate. “But you should keep doing it,” she replies without missing a beat. However, this green belt doesn’t agree with most of the audience on one thing. Watching a movie in a karate studio? “I thought it was weird.” (Julie French)