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It’s Good To Be Us

martial arts

Things I learnt at my Grade 4 Escrima Exam:
1.     If you wanted to unleash pathogenic mayhem on East London, my escrima club is the perfect place to do so.  When we meet for a class, there is a ritual shaking of hands.  Doesn’t matter who you are or how long you’ve been training, you must shake the hands of everyone you’ve meet, regardless of how many are stood in the circle.  This is something I appreciate hugely, since every decent martial system has some form of preliminary salute.  In jiu jitsu you draw an imaginary katana across your body while kowtowing to your sensei.  In taekwondo you recite an oath in Korean to use your skills only for good.  In escrima, we shake hands and greet our fellow comrades in arms with the sacredly enshrined words: ‘how you doing, mate?’

2. Have intent.  Actually, technically the phrase was – have intent, have a plan, but at my level of training I’m focusing mostly on the intent part.  My intention, should you decide to come at me with a weapon or just a really nasty leer, is to stop you dead in your tracks, and I’ll use a range of methods for doing so.  However,  I don’t yet feel in a position to break this overall strategic goal down into tactical segments, and say firmly that first I’ll break your kneecap and then I’ll punch you in the nose and then I’ll lock your arm behind your back and ask you if you want to reconsider your life’s purpose… simply because such a detailed plan doesn’t necessarily permit the possibility that you too have a scheme of your own…

3. Arnica.  Does it work?  I don’t know.  I’ve been using a lot lately, and  while I’ve promised not to name the two gentlemen who bashed my fingers to bits, I will say that they should have known better, really…  What I really regret about this, however, is my failure to actually conduct a useful study.  Because on my left hand I have two fingers which are black and swollen, and on my right I have three which are bruised, bloodied and inflamed, and I realise now what a marvellous opportunity this could have been to test arnica on the left, savlon on the right and see which had the better response.  Alas, sheer bloody pain and anxiety trumped any scientific inclination, and besides, what I really need is a third hand anyway to serve as control group… or just general backup spare…

4. The club motto.  So I only noticed this on my fourth grade.  We were given the certificates (to everyone’s shaking relief) and they look like Good Certificates.  They have a Good Martial Font and are all black and red and other colours of Strong Martial Stuff.  They have your name, your grade, your instructor’s name, place of grading and just generally look like something your Gran might frame, along with your Grade 2 Recorder Exam or that Merit you got from Tiddly Tots Ballet One.  And then at the bottom you spot the motto of the group.  Every week we train how to beat people with sticks, to punch, kick, throttle, impale, stab, slash and generally do unto others what we would not have done unto ourselves, and yet there it is, tucked away at the bottom of the page….
Urban Escrima:  It’s good to be us.
I don’t know about you, but this blows my tiny mind.  Because if I attended a particularly happy church, perhaps, or even just went along to a team hugging session once a week where people were united by happy fondness and a love of good tea, it might be good to be us.  If I belonged to a secret club of gleeful National Lottery winners, or had received a certificate of dental excellence and told I never needed have another gum examination as long as I live, it’d be good to be us.   But I don’t!  Every week I learn how to hit people with a variety of weapons and get hit back (ow my hands did I mention?) and it’s good to be us?  I mean, sure, yes, obviously it is, but I’m sure if we put our heads together we could come up with a something more… I dunno… hardy for Escrima, maybe ‘Violence: Tactical Awareness: Hand Cream’  the use of colons making it clear that this is a manly escalation of concepts rather than just three things bundled together.  All suggestions gratefully received, please…