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martial arts

It’s been a few days since I blogged, and the reason is that my hand, currently looks like this:

It is not, I hasten to add, a life-threatening injury!  There’s nothing broken, nothing bleeding, no bits are going to fall off.  All I have are some rather bruised knuckles, and an impressive swollen thumb – hardly life threatening, but a real bugger to type with.  I acquired these injuries while doing escrima, the martial art which I am continually surprised to find myself enjoying.  I haven’t been hurt doing it before, and doubt I’ll be hurt doing it in time to come, as the instructors are alert and the students, generally, very careful.  But it was while doing a drill with a rather more experienced student, that I realised there are certain key things required to be really good at martial arts.  There’s strength… perhaps more debatable with weapons based combat, since a big stick is a big stick regardless of who’s holding it… there’s speed, agility, technique, focus – courage, I’d argue, is also useful as you need to be confident enough of yourself and your adversary to walk up to them with a cry of ‘come on with your big stick if you dare’ and thus hopefully avoid having to use all of the other qualities – and finally there’s awareness.  The person I was sparring with has strength – lots of it – and technique – plenty, and enough focus that I sometimes wonder if he’s trying to fry an invisible ant on my forehead whenever we spar.  What he doesn’t necessarily have, is a wider awareness of the rest of the room.  Thus, when the teacher said ‘now block a side attack’ I went to block a side attack, and was startled to discover a stick coming inbound for my head.  The good news is that the stick did not hit my head.  The bad news is that to save my skull, I sacrificed a few other bodily parts en route.


Once through the initial indignity of physical distress, this entire experience is also a reminder of how difficult it can sometimes be, being the junior kitten in a room of senior cats.  I am still fairly new at escrima, and so if someone with better technique, more experience and a look that could cut through titanium, decides that he’s going to swing his stick at your head when you’ve just heard the teacher ask him to try and take out a few ribs instead, what can a girl do?  I did politely point out, while hopping with pain, that I expected him to go for the side rather than the top, but he informed me he believed he was doing all-round attacks and when it’s junior kitten’s word vs. senior cat’s word, and when senior cat has just removed junior kitten’s right thumb, I ask you again, what is a girl to do other than grin, bare it and hope there’s some arnica at home.  I like to tell myself that the fact this man entirely failed to notice that I was now clutching a rapidly swelling limb, as he came barreling in with his next, very strong and beautifully executed attack, is more a reflection on my warrior spirit, than on his being a plonker.

Make no mistake – I still enjoy martial arts and don’t particularly blame my sparring partner, in the sense that it’s unusual for an attacker to declare their intentions before attacking.  It turns out – and no one should really be surprised – that I am better at weapon fighting than close-quarters wrestling, owing, I suspect, to the fact that I lack any kind of strength or endurance, but can move quickly if pressed to and have a great advantage in terms of reach.  However, considering that I am, in all other ways, forms and means, an utter wuss, I might just carry on thinking about these things as purely an academic exercise…