“Some people think that having a black belt in Karate is the ultimate prize,” says Patrick Goodluck, on-site manager for CEC’s weatherization crews and Karate artist extraordinaire. “It is not. In our philosophy, you reach the mountaintop, where do you go from there? Start over. A belt is a symbolic gesture of your progression in the art, not the main objective. The main objective is you.”
We are sitting one morning in the crew managers’ office, overlooking CEC’s garage. For the moment the garage is quiet: trucks and crews are out, and the metal door is down, shutting out the December chill. Patrick, looking trim and serious but occasionally flashing a dazzling smile, is talking about Karate’s impact on his life and career, including his work at CEC.
In short, he is telling his story.
He was born in St. Vincent’s — “A small, beautiful island,” says Patrick — one of 32 islands called the Grenadines, in the Caribbean. His father’s family came from Portugal, his mother’s from Africa and the East Indies. The name “Goodluck” belonged to his mother’s father – in the Caribbean at that time you could give or be called any name you wished — but how his grandfather acquired the intriguing name, Patrick never learned.
His family farmed the land, growing spices, pineapples and mangoes and bananas, coconut and sugarcane. But at his mother’s urging, when Patrick left school he mastered a craft instead, for his mother believed that would give him personal independence. Joining his father’s cousin, who made metal furniture, Patrick learned welding and how to construct furniture out of iron and steel. Then at 18, again on his mother’s advice, he left St. Vincent’s for Trinidad, “to get a better opportunity.”
Trinidad is the birthplace of the Steelpan drum and the Limbo, congenial host to festive parties and an annual carnival, and a bustling center for industry and commerce. There, Patrick met his wife, Veronica, and proudly became the father of two daughters, Patrice and Crystal, and a stepson, Richard. His third daughter, Precious, would be born in the U.S.
In Trinidad, Patrick discovered that welding hurt his eyes, so he moved into masonry and the construction trades. “That’s the ability of Caribbean guy,” he says. “We don’t just hold on to one craft, we do a number of things.”
And in Trinidad, at around the age of 19, he discovered Karate.
“My style of martial art is Kyokushin,” Patrick explains. “Its founder was Sosai Masutatsu Oyama, who was from Korea and grew up in Japan.”
“Kyokushin is budō karate,” says Patrick. “The Samurai way: full contact. Bare knuckle. The only protective gear you have is a mouthpiece and something at the groin. It’s similar to street fighting. The cage fighting you have? All that stem from what we do.”
Patrick stresses the toughness of the form, which demands that you train “mind and body and soul.”
“If you want to compete at a high level you have to be committed,” he emphasizes, “because the training is really intense and rigorous. I formally trained with a teacher, but you got to train on your own.” In Trinidad, after his Karate classes were over, he would go home and practice for hours.
The common perception is that Karate prepares you to fight. But as Patrick experiences the world of Kyokushin, much more than physical aggression is involved. “The actual exercises make your body respond as a weapon,” he says, “but within the exercises there is training for the mind to overcome some of your weaknesses. You have physical training, psychological training, spiritual training. They all interlock.”
The highpoint of Patrick’s Karate studies came in 1987, when he traveled to Shinjuku, Japan, to compete in an international tournament. A competitor has three minutes in which to knock down or knock out an opponent, and Patrick, who by then carried a black belt, made it to the quarterfinals, fighting men from France, Guyana, Norway, and Japan.
After the tournament he took a much-needed vacation and visited one of his half-brothers, in New York City. Patrick’s relatives encouraged him to remain in the U.S. and helped him get a green card, and in 1988 Patrick moved to New York with his family and soon found construction jobs. In 1994 he was working on a crew for the Urban Coalition, and when the Coalition dissolved and Richard Cherry founded CEC, Patrick went with him.
Today Patrick is responsible for ensuring the high quality of the CEC weatherization crews’ work. He helps homeowners prepare their houses, and once CEC’s workmen and women are at a site, he oversees the job, often teaching a new crew member weatherization skills.
What does he like best about his role? “Helping the environment and helping people,” says Patrick. “I also like to do the job. The hands-on part. Reduce air infiltration, install light bulbs. I like to know that what I do physically and mentally really makes a difference.”
As with Karate, he dedicates himself rigorously to the task at hand. Certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), he goes to conferences, reads books about the environment and weatherization. “You got to read,” he states, “because there’s a constant flow of information.”
Reading happens at home in Canarsie, Brooklyn. “Where you live,” says Patrick, “should always be controlled in such a way that, when you get home from work, it’s quiet, you relax. Not to say I don’t play music, but I want to be able to reflect.”
He assists around the house, although he acknowledges that many men of his background and generation might question whether that’s a man’s function. But Patrick has no problem sharing household duties. “I cook, I wash, I press my clothes. I do everything. I think that, as a husband, as a father, I should be there.”
He relishes politics and he likes to travel. He competed in another world-class Karate event in Japan in 1999. Often he goes back to Trinidad and to St. Vincent’s, where his mother, who is now 82, still lives. “I’m a Caribbean person,” he says, smiling affectionately. “But I’m American now. So I have allegiance to America first, no doubt about that. I love America. But there are some things that we could do better. We fighting and killing each other because of some men color, sometime your class, sometime your status in society, sometime where you live. It makes no sense. All of us are human beings.”
And of course he always, studiously, practices Karate. Because training your body and your mind and your soul never stops.