19 - Martial Arts and Me

In Tae Kwon Do uniform

Over the CB Radio, some time ago, I met an interesting chap whose handle was “Mike, The Irish Viking”. I have a weakness for good radio voices and he certainly had one of those. Mike played a Fighter/Hero in my CB radio Dungeons & Dragons game, and he played his role to the hilt. He was also into the mythos of martial arts. Bruce Lee was his hero. He’d seen a number of Bruce’s epics, more than once. I became interested and, being a doer more than a dreamer, I signed up at a Tae Kwon Do gym. Mike was dumbfounded.

Now started a rigorous physical regimen completely unfamiliar to my sedentary office body. It was like paying to join the Marines.

I learned the difference between good and bad pain. Good pain comes when you’re pushing your body to its limits. Bad pain is from an injury. You work through the one but not the other.

I have a physical anomaly. I can’t do aerobics. Once my heartbeat gets up to a certain level it starts skipping a beat and oxygen does not get delivered to my brain in a timely fashion. At least that’s how it seems to me. I could get through the intense warm-up exercises in martial arts classes but once I’d done them I was functionally stupid. Couldn’t learn the fancy moves for beans. Adding to this problem was an inability to form pictures in my head. It’s a known conditon called Aphantasia. I think in abstracts. Works for me. Doesn’t work in Tae Kwon Do or Tae Chi or any of those disciplines with fancy moves in sequence. If you can’t see them in your head, you can’t do them. End of story.

The classes tired me out a lot so I went on Fridays so I would have the weekend to rest up afterwards. This is how I met my doom. Fred, the martinet, was the teacher on Fridays and he didn’t allow anybody any slack at all, at all. I never got beyond my lowly white belt BUT I did develop a lovely turning-back-kick. My one skill and a powerful weapon in unarmed combat.

After some back and forth over the CB, Mike an I arranged to meet in a local park. He wanted to test my “real martial art skills” against his imaginary ones. Bad move Mike. He tried to catch a turning-back-kick and ended up with a badly sprained wrist and severe embarrassment.

I observed several interesting things in martial arts class.

Two attractive, upscale, young ladies-of-the-evening came to martial arts classes to learn to defend themselves and they were the most dedicated and sincere students you might ever hope to find.

There was a piece of arcane equipment on the dojo floor. It was a rope with a loop in it run through a pulley in the ceiling. You put your foot in the loop, grabbed the other end of the rope and pulled your leg heavenward. Limb flexibility and stretch was a prized objective.

The entrance room just before the martial arts practice floor served as a kind of parlour and in it were stacked the trophies won by students for the Master. Most of these trophies were quite tall and spiky. They were everywhere, on shelves and on the floor. You could have met your demise had you tripped and been speared by a trophy.

The Master of the Tae Kwon Do establishment was doing reasonably well. He decided to open up a more palatial establishment across the street and one flight up. It was done up splendidly with polished hardwood floors and fancy fittings. A party was held there to celebrate the grand opening. The Master sat on a throne-like chair with his teachers around him. The students of varying degrees hung about on the edge of what would later be the practice floor but which was now a dance floor. Music was playing but no-one wanted to be the first to step out on that pristine hardwood. Black, brown and red belts all held back and waited and waited. They were, God forbid, embarrassing the Master.

A tune came up that I liked. I think it was ‘Eye of the Tiger’. I stepped out on the floor and danced solo for about one minute. Then, the ice was broken and the other students began easing out on the floor to dance. The Master smiled a little smile and his head teacher gave me a very formal martial arts bow. I won that one!

Wavy Line

© Sonia Brock 2005

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