My first blood nose

Last night my friend Rob and I stayed back after training to do a little bit of gloved contact sparring. In our school we practice a form of sparring called randori. It is a slowed-down, bare-fisted, soft exchange of techniques where each person tries to help the other learn. It is not about “winning” – in fact, a humble person might deliberately allow the other person to land techniques to show them what works and what doesn’t. Up until black belt, it is non-contact for safety.

This is very different from “real fighting” (where the fight usually ends after the first punch) and tournament fighting (which might end after a set time limit or when the referee separates that competitors who are trying to score points against one another).

Randori is a wonderful training tool, but it lacks the tactility of knowing what it’s like to successfully hit someone with a degree of strength, and how being hit can affect your fighting.

My randori has much room for improvement. I am frustrated to say that I almost always make contact when I practice it with others – a soft tap on the face to let my partner know that a punch could have snuck through, a light snapping kick to a person’s abdomen to remind them to defend against the legs etc. Plus when my partner is worried about being hit, it gives them less opportunity to think about hitting me. But this is not in the spirit of randori. I have much to learn from the whitebelts who refrain from making contact because they fear injuring me. I carelessly beat others around the dojo because I hope that my sundome (control) is good enough to hit them lightly enough not to do damage. But just last week I punched my friend three times in the face, causing his lip to split. It was a clear example of how little control I actually have, made all the more dangerous by the illusion that I had enough experience to do better. But even Shihan hyperextended someone’s elbow last week – no amount of experience can compensate for carelessness or accidents. And if longevity is the goal of training, we must treat our partners with care.

A little while ago there was a free-style tournament open to all schools and all levels. I was reluctant to enter for reasons I couldn’t quite specify. I still haven’t quite worked it out, but the idea of someone trying their hardest to hit me, and me trying my hardest to hit them doesn’t appeal to me. I think a large part of it is the fear that I’m not good enough to survive such an encounter without getting hurt. And so I think a part of me wanted to test that last night, to say “Okay, I’ll do some sparring with you. Let’s see if my skill level is high enough to come out ‘victorious’ in this exchange, and to see what areas I need to work on.”

As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this blog, it didn’t go that well.

Rob’s jabs kept nailing me in the head, over and over. I couldn’t figure it out. I’d move my guard to deflect his left, then his right would come in and nail me. I’d deflect the left, then the right, then his left would come through and get me again. I’d stay where I was and he’d come straight through and punch me anyway. It was so frustrating that I kept making some kind of fundamental mistake which I couldn’t work out, no matter what I tried. Eventually sensei Jeff interrupted to make me aware of my error – every time Rob closed to attack, I would try and counter attack. As one hand shot out to hit him, my other hand would drop and Rob’s punch would get through every time. I took his advice and really focussed on keeping my guard up for the next exchange and the results (perhaps unsurprisingly) were very different. I could deflect his initial blow, and then as he launched his second my other hand was ready to intercept it. This worked once or twice, and then Rob shifted his angle slightly, saw an opening between my two fists and punched me straight in the nose with a right cross.

As I said a moment ago I am guilty of teaching others the weaknesses in their styles by exploiting the gaps in their defences and hitting them lightly. Rob was, I believe, doing the same, though with more force to try and reinforce the message that I just wasn’t getting: to stop getting punched in the face. Unfortunately my nose started bleeding for the first time ever and I left a trail of blood to the bathroom as I waited for it to stop. When I ceased leaking, we cleaned up, Rob asked me if I wanted to continue and I declined. He was very apologetic about not pulling the punch as much as he could have and was worried he’d broken my nose. I brushed it off as part of training, and promised to let him know if it got any worse.

In the car I started crying. The emotions that suddenly overwhelmed me when I was alone caught me, forgive my pun, off guard. My face hurt so much, especially under the weight of my glasses. But moreso, I was so frustrated, upset, even angry that Rob was able to punch me despite my greatest efforts to thwart him. I felt helpless against him. He moved calmly, even dropped his guard to his legs to give me openings, and in just about every exchange he came out on top. And it frustrated me so much that I’d been training for longer, years longer, and he had surpassed me. Not just in strength, speed, flexibility, stamina, dedication and technique (which are all very important things), but in the application of these. And I’m so proud of him, and so humbled by him, that the furious injustice I felt surprised me.

I don’t need to be a better martial artist than Rob. I don’t need to be a better martial artist than anyone. But I do want to be better. I do want to be able to protect my face from someone’s fists. And I don’t want to have to give up what’s important to me in order to attain that level of strength: I’m not going to follow a strict diet or exercise program. I’m going to be me, exactly as I am, and strive to become a better fighter. But I think the next time Rob and I spar, I’ll ask him to do it with less force, and at a pace I can manage so I can learn more, rather than just get beat up and hurt and frustrated.

-Xin

Nourishing the soul and airing shame

This morning I was reading a blog post by Bethwyn which was a collaboration of wonderful things said by wonderful people. As I was reading some of the articles and watching the videos, I felt a lot of things. I realised that even though I’m unemployed, I’ve been keeping myself super busy so that I didn’t have to look at how terrifying it is to not have a job, to not feel purposeful and helpful to others. And I’m sure there’s a whole blog post on that topic, but I’m not going to talk about it right now. I realised that in spite of how scared I am about “not doing things”, if I actually take the time to “not do things” I really enjoy it. I really enjoy driving without listening to Hamish and Andy, to see the sky and feel the wind, to see the peacocks (I SAW A PEACOCK YESTERDAY. I did a U-turn to go back and stare at it, and I parked across the road while I contemplated calling the ranger. It wandered back through a fence on an apparently empty property and I decided that someone else could deal with the joyful surprise of a peacock in their back yard). I really enjoy not playing video games so that I can sit down and drink tea, and play with Bronte, and write blog posts and go through two weeks worth of emails which I’ve been procrastinating. I really enjoy not spending time with others so that I can spend more time with Beth, and myself. These are the things which I’ve become addicted to lately in order to mask how crappy I’ve been feeling. But ironically, when I stop trying to mask it, I realise I don’t feel crappy at all.

 

That said, I still really, really love playing Fallout. There are times when I use video games (and other leisures) as a distraction, and there are times when they are soul nourishing. It’s not always easy to tell sometimes, but I think it’s important to stop every now and then and go, “Am I doing this out of habit? Or am I doing this because I genuinely want to?” And if it turns out to be the former, to change something (the activity, the attitude, the people etc.) so that it becomes the latter.

 

I’m also inspired to talk a little more about some of the things that we (as a society) tend to pretend don’t exist. I want to talk about things that I’m ashamed of, and things I’m insecure about. I find that really, really hard. But I hope that if more people open up about their insecurities and shames, then it will allow other people to as well.

 

I feel insecure about my hair. If you don’t know, I’m trying to grow it into a sweet ponytail. I really love the feel and look of long hair, but I think that people judge me by it, and when I’m feeling very vulnerable I often want to cut it all off.

I’m too scared to be myself, to stand up and challenge others for what I want. I give in so easily to avoid conflict.

I put myself before others and often don’t consider how they are or how they’re feeling.

I often avoid social situations that would allow people to get to know me.

I still feel scared around Aboriginal Australians who meet my stereotypes, even though they’ve done nothing wrong.

 

This has been a poorly written blog post but I’m going to publish it anyway, because it segues into another blog that I’m a little bit scared to write… If this blog has been helpful to you, I’m very glad.

Peace all.

10 Questions to Help You Figure Out Who You Are Right Now

A wonderful reminder that we change from moment to moment, and being ourselves (whoever we are right now) is never wrong.

Kiriko Kikuchi

Photo By Danka Peter via Unsplash.com

Photo by Danka Peter via Unsplash

  1. Do I want to see others, or would I rather be alone at this very moment?
  2. Am I attracted to high energy situations and people, or do I prefer calm?
  3. Do I predominantly think warm, accepting thoughts when I look in the mirror, or do I quickly find something I don’t like or that needs fixing?
  4. Do I want to rest or do I want to do something?
  5. Do I feel too busy or do I feel bored? Or both?
  6. Does stretching feel good or does it feel uncomfortable?
  7. Does my digestion function well most of the time, or do I frequently have digestive problems?
  8. Does learning feel good, or do I avoid situations that require me to learn? Why?
  9. Who am I having strong reactions to? Why?
  10. What am I obsessed with? What is repeatedly distracting me? Is this worth focusing on in…

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On Not Being a Parrot

A blog I wrote recently for TINO. I haven’t been having the easiest time lately, but in recent days things have been going much more wonderfully. Sometimes I think I need to realise that even being a parrot can be pretty amazing. But right now, I’m pretty content being me. <3

 

***

 

A little while ago, I was struggling with learning how to enjoy life despite walking alongside anxiety (a process at which I’m much better versed since seeing my counsellor). I was working at a pet supply store, and I was thinking about parrots (who are really intelligent birds) being locked in cages, so bored and unstimulated that they would pull out their own feathers in distress. I couldn’t stop thinking about how horrible it would be to be a parrot without any toys or social interaction, and I eventually got so upset that I brought it up the next time I saw my counsellor. She looked at me right in the eye and said, “Well it’s a good thing you’re not a parrot.”

 

That simple sentence has changed my life. There are so many scenarios I imagine that stress me out. I stress about what to do if I failed uni, what it would be like to be a youth worker again, how I would respond if someone asked me to babysit their kids etcetera etcetera. I project endless situations that cause me stress, and I often work myself into a bit of a frenzy. Then all of a sudden I stop and ask: “Why am I worrying about this? Right here, right now, I don’t have to deal with any of those problems. And if they come up, I’ll worry about them then.”

 

How many of your problems are “because you’re a parrot”? And how many times have you actually turned into a parrot? I would venture to guess the answer would be less than one. We often worry about things that are going to happen in the future, but the simple truth of the matter is that no one knows what the future is going to be like. For instance, I was really nervous about giving a presentation a little while ago, so much so that I had trouble sleeping for days. The day before I was due to give it, I got a call from the organisers who told me the event had been cancelled. The world is full of infinite variables, and 99 times out of 100 the things we worry about turn out differently from how we imagined. Yet we waste so much time and energy worrying about them for no reason!

 

So my advice to you is this: whenever you find yourself worrying about some event in the future, take a deep breath and ask yourself: “Where am I? What time is it?” (The answer, by the way, is “Here” and “Now”.) Practice mindfulness, and by the time the future rolls around, you’ll probably find that there was nothing to worry about.

 

All the best everyone. I hope you’re finding joy in all your moments.

-Xin