Painballing

I went paintballing for the first time yesterday. When I was showing people my incredible bruises (only seven in all, I think), a lot of people wondered why I would enjoy being shot with high velocity balls of paint that (should) explode on contact. I answer that the bruising is simply one of the prices to pay for two hours of shooting other people. It’s a trade I’d make any day.

Before I get into recounting the details of what happened, I’ll say this upfront: I do not remember everything that happened. Much of this blog entry will likely be exaggeration, because every time I replay what happened in my mind, I see myself as more more awesome than I probably really was.

Being my first time I was uncertain of the rules and more or less imagining myself swerving out of the way of paintballs as I dove through the air, shooting accurate burstfire rounds before rolling behind cover. The reality wasn’t quite as romantic, but even in the first round there was something incredibly satisfying about seeing a target, lining the gun up and pelting him with a string of paintballs before he threw his hand up in surrender. I soon found that cover was your best friend- it didn’t matter how accurate or inaccurate the opposition was, if they didn’t have a clear line of fire, you could not be hit. Thus the game was a negotiation of cover- leaving yours in order to catch the opposition when they were out of theirs. Sometimes this involved crouching behind a wall, leaning out to shoot at someone else who was hiding behind a wall, and exchanging round after round until someone else shoots you in the hand causing your knuckles to bleed. Other times this involved waiting for minutes on end (despite the ten minute time limit) without moving a muscle, becoming part of the environment until the opposition crept out of cover to try and take the flag.

And what a glorious flag it was. We played a few deathmatches (nothing worth mentioning, except the manic cackle I let out before the game started. The adrenaline was in the air, well and truly) and four games of capture the flag. The first one I lay in wait defensively, guarding my team’s home base. Ten minutes passed and not once did I see the a member of the opposing team. The next round I decided to be proactive- I moved from cover to cover to the central building where the flag was waiting, but I took only a few steps before I was pegged on the arm. I didn’t see where it came from but it was probably from one of the 6 windows lining the corridor. And believe me, when someone gets a clear enough shot at you, you don’t freaking wait to see if the shot counted (has to explode to disqualify)- you stick up your hand before they cover you with bruises.

The third round was better for me- I mixed offense and defence and cautiously moved in to capture the flag. Throwing it around my neck (making me an incredibly visible target- it never occured to me to stick it in my ammunition belt), I proceeded to move from cover to cover around the outside of the field. I engaged in a lengthy exchange of fire with one of the opposition (eventually needing to reload in the middle of the firefight- I was so hyped on adrenaline I dropped half my paintballs with a curse) and eventually shot him, allowing me to sneak around behind them. I saw two of them staked out in buildings, facing the other side of the field while I crept behind them to their base. When I reached it, no one realised I had won the game so I thought I would announce my victory. Returning to where the first member of the opposing team was perched on the windowsill, I held the flag high in my left hand and raised the rifle in my right. There is something indescribably satisfying about seeing him jump and swearwhen the paintball exploded on his back. I walked to where the other was crouching and fired three or four rounds at him for good measure before the game was declared over. Unfortunately I was disqualified because someone had landed a shot on my marker (gun) and I hadn’t realised it, so we lost that round.

The fourth round was equally wonderful. I basically moved around the outskirts of the field, taking out  as many people as I could. One particularly memorable moment was when I was hiding in one of the buildings, checking and double-checking the next building to see if it was safe to move up. Before I moved on, I saw movement in the building perpendicular to me, where I could see down an entire corridor to the other end of the field. Two of the opposition were creeping forward and fanning out across the windows to effectively block off that half of the field. I registered all this within a second and started firing. The paintball markers are semi-automatic, firing up to 20 rounds a second depending on how fast you can pull the trigger. I assaulted them with a stream of paintballs and they both surrendered within moments of being hit. As I said earlier, it’s a reflex to throw up your hand when you know you’re under (or about to be under) heavy fire. After circling the eerily silent field I eventually found two of my team members in a building with the flag, and I offered to run it to our base. By the time I got there the referee was counting down the seconds until the match was over, and we won with with four seconds. Laughing, he told me I’d been circling the empty field three times after I’d already eliminated all the opposition.

The remainder of the game was spent in a game of rejuvenation, where neither team could cross the halfway mark and had to expend all their ammunition. It was much more calculating because of the territorial nature- checking under buildings for shoes to see where a person is or which way they’re moving; aiming through tiny gaps between barrels and windows to shoot through buildings… I ran out of ammo about halfway through and stood with my back to a barrel I was hiding behind for cover, my gun ready but nothing in it, waiting more or less to die. Michael’s friend however gave me his spare cannister of 100 paintballs (just as I gave Mikey one of mine) so I fought on until I took a shot in the face (it exploded on my goggles!) while I was peeking out of cover. It was great, apart from the now soaked carpet, sometimes slick with the vegetable dye they use instead of paint (so it’s both biodegradable and doesn’t stain). It did make it a little slippery on the clutch as I drove home- I’ll have to wear something other than Dunlop volley’s next time I go.

All in all? A fantastic day out. I’ll definitely have to do it again some time. Ja!

PS: Can you spot all four bruises? That one on the collarbone’s a beauty, let me tell you!

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A half step to walking

I had my first karate grading tonight. My God I was nervous. I tried to empty my mind and make it like the surface of a clear lake so that it might reflect the stars, but underlying the calm surface was this maelstrom of anxiety. I tried burning off the stress, but any exercise at all was difficult. My limbs felt so heavy even raising them to shoulder height or bending my knees was a strain. Of course that just made me freak out even more- I’d almost never felt so tired, and yet felt so incredibly restless.

Sensei was wearing a suit with the club jacket- he helps coach the state teams and he’s seriously professional about what he does. There were desks set up to grade, and he got his subordinates (the black belts) to instruct the gradees on the moves they wanted to perform. Due to miscommunication (between sensei and the sempai, and the sempai and us), a whole bundle of nerves, and just plain carelessness, I made plenty of mistakes in the first few minutes. Wrong techniques, not listening to instructions, it wasn’t looking good. When it was time to rest I felt disappointed- if it was a normal class I think I would have excelled.

When it came to kata I was feeling better. My limbs weren’t as heavy because I wasn’t concentrating as intently on what I was being instructed to do- it was familiar, a matter of combining all the elements of good technique. I wasn’t perfect but I was much more in control of my body. One of the highlights was watching Kentaro move- that boy (13?-years-old) has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the martial arts, and he takes them very seriously. His balance, form and power were superb- he was so perfectly in control of all his movements. I was very impressed. I hope I can move like that some day.

Ippon, sequences of counter-attacks, was next. I forgot to kiai on most of them, and I hit Albert square in the chest on the very first one, but I felt like I knew more about what I was doing. It went smoother than I could have hoped for, and while nerve-wracking, wasn’t terrible.

Kumite was next. Normally I love sparring. It’s a chance to apply technique and learn timing and distance in live combat. I didn’t score a single point (I think the score was 0-4 by the end), but I continued to learn about myself and the weaknesses of my fighting style. I’m looking forward to sparring again so I might apply what I’ve learned. I basically got my arse handed to me though, but I like to think I received it gracefully.

The end result? Each of the sempai gave critique on how we did, offering insight to improvement and complimenting us on our strengths. Sensei reinforced this, adding his own advice.
For me, my nekodachi (cat stance) is too coiled- I need to extend and open it a little. My techniques can sometimes fall short so I need to stretch them to their limit to score in tournaments. My kiai was negligable (which surprised me- I’ll have to work on my ‘secret technique: paralyzing shout’) and my kime (focus point) was poor. What that means is that all techniques should be focused on a certain point- a punch should be directed towards the solar plexis of the invisible opponent in front of me, and all my energy must go into penetrating that person’s body. That point is called kime, and something I’ll need to work on by visualising the point I wish to attack as I execute all my techniques, offensive and defensive. Finally in sparring I must not be afraid of getting hit. By backing away, I can never counter- I must face my fears and learn to negotiate the millimeters between a hit and a miss so that I might return or even land a strike.

All in all, shout louder, stretch further, have no fear and pretend every technique is for real. In recognition of my prior training, I received the rank of 5th kyu. I was honoured- I was barely hoping for 6th. I will try hard to live up to sensei‘s expectations. Henceforth I will actively seek to learn the higher level techniques so that by next grading, I am ready to go for 1st kyu, if not 1st dan. Ambitious, but I will train as if I wear the black belt already, so that I might be ready to accept it some day.

I’m enterring Yoseikan’s "Tournament of Champions" on the 20th of March. If you’re free that day, come on down to watch me get whooped again. I’ll buy the drinks if I manage to score a point (a feat I’ve never accomplished since joining karate). Hope to see you then!

Naivete

I have been blessed with the gift of naivete. Most of the time I’ll believe what someone tells me, occasionally foolishly taking their word for what others perceive as a blatant lie. I just don’t see fault in most people, and if I do, I tend to believe the best of reasons for the person having them. I realised today that it might be more than blind ignorance. It’s an opportunity, as so many things are in life. It is my gift, to be able to see the best in people even when it is not fully visible. It is my gift not to seek out faults and complaints, but to enjoy life’s pleasures without tarnish of defamation. Ignorant I might be, but blissfully so. And that’s not a bad thing.

Another day’s work

WIFE: So how was your day today dear?
LINK: It was shit. A fucking Like Like ate my shield again, causing me to run out of medicine and die towards the end of the temple. I had to roam around Hyrule field killing every monster I saw until I saved up 198 rupees before I could try again.
WIFE: Aw, honey… If only a fairy would heal more than three hearts…