Monday, November 5, 2012

Project Fear Less: Artes Marciales, part 1

When you start coming into work with a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of random bruises, the sweet little Mexican grill cook ladies will worry about you very much, and ask who hurt you so they can hurt them.  And so you will have to find out how to say "martial arts" in Spanish, so they stop worrying, but then they will shake their heads and roll their eyes and cluck at you for being so loca.  Until the butcher makes a stupid joke to his wife and they all shriek and grab you to show them interesting ways to make him apologize.  (Don't worry, various senseis who might be reading this blog...or whatever the correct plural form of "sensei" is.  I didn't show them anything that'll leave lasting damage.  Just some bruises on the sternum at worst).

There's a fella in my chemistry class who I'd noticed at the very start of the semester, not only because he was sharp and spoke up in class with the right answers, but also because the way he carried himself made it seem like he'd spent a good deal of time training in some kind of movement art.  It's just this sort of flow that dancers and traceurs and martial artists tend to have about them, and the more time you spend practicing that sort of thing, the better you can tell if someone else has it.  One day, he came to class wearing a shirt featuring a picture of a mountain and some Japanese characters, which was finally enough for me to say "hey um that shirt, so what's that all about now?"  You know.  It's how I do.  And then he was all like "well now funny you should ask because I just happen to be a ninjitsu instructor and you should totally come to a class tonight!"

I meet some freaking awesome people.

So I went to the class.  Chem Fella was kind enough to lend me an old gi and white belt of his, so I blended right in with the rest of the ninjas-in-training.  I remembered bits and pieces from my couple of years in jiu-jitsu so many years ago, so I wasn't totally lost - there are distinct similarities in the flow of movement that you use for both arts.  After warming up all together, we split into two groups by belt level, and my group practiced a number of different strikes, defenses and takedowns for the rest of the class.  It was a little surprising how quickly certain things came back to me (it's been a hiatus of...oh geez, like five years) and how other things - namely blocks where you strike out, making it as much an attack as a defense - are so hard to get a handle on after practicing a different style for just a few months.  But it was an absolutely rollicking time, nonetheless.  I think I freaked a few people out when even getting thrown didn't fade my grin.

After that class, there was a black belt practice session, followed by an all-belt...thing.  I wasn't sure what it was exactly, other than just more of what we'd already done, but I was encouraged to stay by numerous people, so I sat and talked to the non-black-belts who were also waiting for the other part to start.  Once it did, we all warmed up as a group and then got in lines at one end of the dojo.  I shuffled to the back of one line on the pretense of being polite, but really just wasn't sure what we were about to do.  And then the people in the front of the lines started doing...

 THIS.  In case the link stops working, it's a standing forward roll.  And it's FAST.

Back in the dojo at Hiram, rolls were one of the things that I could never, but NEVER, get a handle on.  I don't know what it was, but I'd freeze up and go all blocky instead of round and it would hurt horribly because I'd roll like a square and hit the ground with sharp angles, all head and then shoulders and then spine and then hips instead of one fluid movement.  I'd worked on them a bit with Colin in recent months, specifically because I was still scared of them, and seen some improvement, but I still tended to freak out and stiffen up and breathe all funny.  These things were minimized if I tried to just shut my brain off, but there was no way of analyzing my movement there because I just couldn't remember what exactly I'd done, or change it the next time.  So I was pretty nervous.  I don't like to look like a fool in front of one caveman ninja, let alone a whole room full of black belts.

I don't know how I did it.  My brain was on the whole time.  I didn't hyperventilate or stiffen up.  I just...fell. But I did it with style.  Still went a little to the side, as is usual for my best attempts, but I didn't hit anything hard and I came up on my feet and I DID IT FROM COMPLETELY STANDING, meaning my head went from appoximately five-and-three-quarters feet in the air to abruptly zero feet in the air and back up in the space of about a second and I was in full, conscious control of it the whole time.

And then I did it eleventy billion more times and continued to kick the hell out of the ass of it.  And then we did a bunch of groundfighting, which makes me happy.  It was a good day.



  1. Hmm, I'm guessing that had to be Justin for sure. :)

    1. Nope! Austin. He also cracked me a good one in the head while we were rolling. Nice guy :)