“Be like the bamboo. It is pushed around by the wind and yet it bounces back. It endures the stress and bends but does not break. This is called resilience.” Zen Master
What seemed like a long time ago in a galaxy sans facebook, selfies and Kim Kardashian disciples, I summoned the nerve for my first self-defence fitness experience: a group Karate class.
With tantalising visions of becoming a “grasshopper” and doors opening to better fitness, hand-to-hand skill enhancement and more confidence, I was all skip and jump. Enlightening times ahead! No, Grasshopper. That is not how it was to be.
At class completion, rather than the anticipated dynamics leaving me flushed with images of growth and seducing return to lesson 2, my optimism had eroded.
Brand new to planet Karate with its full contact, unflinching style and swift kicks, not a natural (I need lots of practice) and feeling very alien in a strange place, I didn’t know the language. Kate? Kumite? And couldn’t hiyah (cue empathic Ms Piggy sound effects) to save my life. Reinforcing my alienness, droid rigid and conspicuous in appearance, I wore shorts and t-shirt. All others, white Gi regimental, were equally precise and synchronized in movement as they were in dress. They were smart. C3PO here was sloppy.
During the assorted moves and grooves other fighters were sniggering and openly commenting at my imprecise movements and lack of skill. Not loud, nor overt but like food lodged between your teeth, you sensed its presence even if unobtrusive. I tried to dismiss, as you do, but the harder I tried, the more I noticed, and the more I noticed, the more my little universe disintegrated. By the end of the mistake-riddled affair, my movements were clumsy and in all directions like a facehugger’s eager tentacles in Aliens.
The clueless and dreadfully-unaware trainer, lost in his own space of oblivious wasn’t in league with Satan and didn’t breathe imposingly through a sinister black mask but damn sure he be light years away from the enlightened Master Yoda or wise Mr. Miyagi. Confidence light-sabered and red-knuckled (we did countless pushups on wooden floor), I never returned. My empire never struck back. Looking back, emotional harassment and passive bullying comes to mind.
Let’s face it, the truth commission states I wasn’t treated visibly badly, given a savaging or dragged to hell by demons but boundaries were crossed. No one has a right to make you feel like crap.
In the beginning (and beyond for some) many need a little encouragement to triumph nerves and escape the uncomfort zone. Any self-defence or fight-fit class can be majorly intimidating and uncomfortable for newbies and anyone low on skill and self-confidence.
A standout motive for choosing fight training is to develop the confidence to help you overcome the challenges of life. And if the training process mismanages and doesn’t nurture or fulfill that need, the timid, the shy and the introverted can quickly disappear through the cracks. Beginners should be welcomed not ridiculed.
That’s one of the reasons why personalised attention received in 1-on-1 Fight Style training (over group classes) is gold. I don’t deny that group classes have their place but 1-on-1 is thumbs up for anyone whose self-consciousness is a cause of agitation and this can be an insurmountable barrier for some. For those with minimum Fight-Style training experience, a clued-in trainer will nurture you through the beginnings, tactfully encourage your effort throughout every non-intimidating session (ditching the knuckle pushups on hard floors) and help make you feel good about yourself. It’s called empathy.
I came to the class, motivated to learn how to fight back and stand up to bullies. Ironic to experience that which I sought to conquer.
And the long time significance of my experience… it was years before I tried Fight-Style training again. In hindsight, young grasshopper should have recognised the impermanence of his short-lived experience – sticks and stones, right? – hardened up and quickly moved on. Blind mentor, Master Po who always had something intensely sensible to say, would probably have advised such action. “Be like the bamboo, Grasshopper…” But I didn’t. Not for a long time.
In these best of times and worst of times of ubiquitous technology and the monster phenomenon of worshipping women who offer little to humanity other than promoting affordable perfume whilst parading eye-catching sizeables in superhero-tight attire, some Mr Miyagi awareness and patience travels galactic distances in my language. Wax on, Wax off.
Get healthy. Eat smart. Train smart.