Sometimes, people surprise you.

My self-defense teacher was the last person I would’ve suspected of sexual misconduct with a minor, but he was arrested and charged with nine felonies related to it in September.

Obviously, that was not a pleasant surprise.

I discovered the bomb one lazy morning while rolling out of bed. As I scrolled through my morning news feed, I noticed a familiar face pop up beside an article.

My heart dropped to my knees. It was a mugshot of Mr. Simpson.

Mr. Simpson, or Michael Simpson, owned a martial arts dojo in Montpelier, Indiana, for several years. My brother, Myles, and I joined his school when I was in middle school, and we learned from him for nearly eight years.

As I scanned the story, my surprise turned to confusion. Apparently he pleaded guilty to a similar crime in 2018 with his wife, Tequilla.

Seeing his face and name plastered in an article detailing the macabre actions of a pedophile felt very out of place. But there it was.

No matter how many times I rubbed my eyes, no matter how long I spent splashing cold water against my face, no matter how often I checked the article to see if they “had the wrong guy” — he was still staring back at me from the news tab.

Disclaimer: Michael, who lives in Alexandria, hasn’t been found guilty by a court yet. I don’t know if he actually did commit these crimes.

I haven’t seen him in four years. But nine felonies?

I’ve deliberated visiting him in jail or attending his trial. Would he notice me in the crowd? I try to picture him admitting to his crimes, but I find the scene hard to visualize.

His face doesn’t belong in a mugshot, my dad and I both agreed while talking the other day. It’s difficult to wrap your mind around someone you know committing so many terrible acts. I admitted to Dad that if Michael were arrested for theft, robbery or drugs, I would’ve just assumed he’d hit a wall. Times are tough.

I would have forgiven him for almost anything else.

Our dojo started about 15 years ago in the old Chaney Hardware building near the intersection of Indiana 18 and Main Street in Montpelier. We studied mainly three different martial arts styles: Sho Da Kan, Bushi Kai and American Taekwondo.

We moved to the Montpelier Civic Center after a few years. Other pupils faded in and out of classes over time. As we progressed in the ranks, we started teaching others.

Myles and I weren’t prodigies by any means, but we enjoyed our classes. We were also terrible at practicing outside of class. At one point, it was only him and I attending lessons every week. We played around learning Wing Chun, a style that actor and martial artist Bruce Lee once practiced, and we tried different sparring and grappling maneuvers.

I was a purple belt (5th kyu) when I graduated from high school and moved to Bloomington for my first college semester. I haven’t touched my belt or gi (karate uniform) since.

Myles and I decided to tell our instructors we were leaving during our last class. We had a hard time putting together the words. Mr. Simpson and Mr. Crump (another instructor whom I loved dearly) looked at each other, and then at us. They admitted they were planning on closing the dojo after we left. They had been trying to find the right words, too.

It’s a somber moment in my memory — the end of an era.

And it still shocks me to think one of the same men has been charged with nine felonies. The same man who taught me how to defend myself against creeps turns out to be a creep himself.

I respected this man; I respected our dojo.

And I do have a lot of good memories from martial arts.

At the old building, we had tall mirrors along one wall near the mat where we practiced, and our sensei — teacher — made us young students turn our backs to the mirror wall because we couldn’t stop fidgeting with ourselves. The air conditioning was nonexistent, and in the winter, we’d try to wear our socks on the mat.

It reeked of old wood there. Sometimes Mr. Simpson would light incense.

The magic faded a bit when we moved to the civic center, but we stayed for several more years. We loved karate.

When I first moved to Portland, I noticed my pantry reminds me of the old dojo because the aged wood smell. It’s a stale, vacant aroma that is slowly disappearing from the house as Justin and I get settled.

Sometimes I open the pantry and take in a deep breath. I halfway expect a deep voice to yell at me to get in a ready stance.

But instead, I find myself pulling up the article about Michael again, skimming through the details for a reminder that he’s been convicted before.

I find myself looking at his sideview mugshot, noticing how his eyes are halfway closed and how his pupils aim steadily at the ground.

I wonder if he’s ashamed for his students to see him like this.