Waco Chat

Jay Carbajal

By Kevin Tankersley

Graffiti Mural Artist, Boxer and Practitioner of Kendo

“I still remember waking up the day after surgery, and my hands were so warm, like you could feel the blood circulating.”

When I started boxing years ago, I completely fell in love with the sport. And ever since I joined this gym, the coach had a vision to have a big mural like this to showcase the (lion) mascot, and also the Bible verse that represents the gym. He was able to sponsor the paints that I use and so he told me to go as big as I can; do a big lion, make it fierce, make it powerful. This was actually the first mural that I did of this scale. It took two Saturdays, about six hours each. And it’s one of my best murals. I’ve only been doing graffiti for about a year-and-a-half.

Midway Middle School was having their new cafeteria built, and I saw a lot of white walls of Sheetrock, so I asked the principal, “Hey, would it be OK if I just paint a mural?” He said sure. I painted a panther on one side, and then Sonic the Hedgehog on the other, since he has the colors of Midway. And then on the cafeteria line, I did like a few variances of panthers.

Kendo is Japanese fencing. It is such an amazing sport that you can do for years to come. Boxing has its limitations, like on our bodies, but kendo allows us to still practice it even at the age of 80 or 90. And it’s such a beautiful sport — the culture, the language and also the history behind it. We use a bamboo sword. It’s called the shinai. Our sensei [Kenichi Hatakeyama] is an associate physics professor at Baylor University, and he’s also a two-time national champion. My ranking in this sport is equivalent to a brown belt like in any other martial art right now.

My first kidney replacement was my sophomore year of high school. That one was from a cadaver, and it lasted three years. The second one was given to me by my father. On the ninth of November, it’s going to be exactly 17 years since I’ve had it. And I take really good care of it. I eat right, and I exercise all the time. I do not drink or smoke, and I’m trying to get as much sleep as possible.

I still remember waking up the day after surgery, and my hands were so warm, like you could feel the blood circulating. And it’s something like that I didn’t feel before.

Jay Carbajal is a mural and graffiti artist, a boxer, a practitioner of kendo, the art of Japanese fencing — he went to the national kendo tournament last year — and a two-time kidney replacement recipient. He works out at Waco Boxing Academy, a gym where one wall is dominated by huge murals that he painted. He’s the son of Jesus and Maria Carbajal. He graduated from Waco High School in 2005 and then went on to study media arts and entertainment at the Art Institute of Dallas and education at McLennan Community College.