Caution: long entry

Just for my own benefit, I’d like to write for a moment. Here’s as good as any medium.

A few days ago I told someone I have a black belt in Taekwondo. He asked if it was a traditional or pop culture school. To be honest, I believe Oh Do Kwan to be halfway in between. At least, as far as Taekwondo goes, Oh Do Kwan has the best reputation in Australia by quite a landslide, and the centre at Maddington has two near grand masters as instructors, so we’re doing all right.

But a good friend of mine has started learning Kung Fu of the Choy Lay Fut variety. After doing a little reading and hitting youtube (and my book on various martial art forms) I’ve decided that the Chinese martial arts were almost positively more lethal, or at the very least more hardcore. Taekwondo Oh Do Kwan, as I see it, trains its disciples to be light on their feet, to minimise one’s own target while being able to kick one’s opponent efficiently, quickly and with strength. One hopes that the opponent will be downed after sufficient kicks have been landed. Its forms and taeguk are based on ancient (2000 year old?) Korean techniques and are relatively simple and easy to master. I mastered most of my forms after doing them a dozen times or less.

Recalling what experiences I have with Kung Fu and particularly Wushu, I realise now that if I went up against a disciple of either who was my rank- 1st dan or equivalent), I would almost certainly lose. The techniques they learn are vast and complex, intricate and meticulous, with grace and beauty rather than simplicity. They styles are vast and adaptable in ways that Taekwondo cannot hope to counter. Stances are varied, hand techniques extremely important, dodging at close-range rather than keeping out of range, actually blocking, close quarters attacks with the fingers and elbows as well as fists and ridgehands… But the fluidity and adaptability of a master would just absolutely floor me.

While it’s a much more… hardcore art to devote onesself to, I am unsure I have what it takes. Lately I have not practiced Taekwondo for discipline as I once did, but to keep up my ass-kicking skills (which is not a particularly noble reason). I’ve become dependent on the idea that I could not possibly lose a fight, and while I have confidence in my ability to intimidate, it cannot be denied that Taekwondo has flaws which I am struggling to overcome. Sherman or Roy, two practitioners at the club, would probably never lose a fight because, even though they only use TKD techniques, they apply them with such ferocity, speed and composure it’s hard to imagine anyone getting close enough to defeat them. But I am neither Sherman nor Roy. And I think I’ve somewhat plateaued out. My skills are keeping roughly the same with little improvement- it’s merely maintenance hereon with little separating the first dans from the third. Fourth dans and up are more serious, but I lack the patience to devote myself to the art that long. I seek diversity, variation, the new. Maybe not wushu as of yet, but some day perhaps, if my joints will allow it.

So, because I feel Taekwondo is somewhat lacking, I’ll move on to capoiera because it looks enjoyable and has its own beauty.
I’ll learn aikido because Ueshiba sensei, its founder, lasted a half hour in a duel with a master swordsman without ever drawing his sword. At last the swordsman gave up, and Ueshiba, untouched, realised he had founded ‘way of the harmonious spirit’, as aikido roughly translates.
I might try my hand at boxing to strengthen my punches and improve my reflexes.
Maybe kickboxing or possibly Muay Thai (Thai boxing) to learn how to use my elbows and knees properly.
Definitely judo or some equivalent to learn how to grapple so I’m not just taken to the ground and beaten to a pulp.
And once I’ve learned all of the above, I will challenge a Wushu or Kung fu master. And if I lose, I will forget it all and devote myself to the eastern art which bested me.

All in the name of self-defence? I think my ego may be involved. Either way, I seek to be invincible in combat. And it seems like such a miserable goal, spending years of time and effort just to reassure myself I can’t be beaten. Maybe I’ll just stick to aikido and hope I never face a Wushu master.

EDIT: Now that I think about it, I think what might be worrying me is that I might not be the best. I have, for a very long time, considered myself the best fighter I know (with a few exceptions at Taekwondo and a certain Jack Goodrick). My drive to learn more arts to cover the various weaknesses of the others is based on the fear that, someone might come along and beat me because I haven’t been trained to block five strikes to the eyes within the span of two seconds. So I feel I have to go out and learn it myself, or learn how to defend from it, so no matter what’s thrown at me I can still reassure myself with the knowledge I cannot lose. Why is it so hard to let go? Why do I always have to prove myself? Hm…

It’s not like I’m going to get attacked by a grand master anyway. I’d be surprised if I ever got into another fight in my life outside a training hall. So it’s apparently all about my ego…

Soul of Rebirth

Tonight, I wore my black belt for the first time. My new uniform with the black collar fits me far better than my old- and to my great satisfaction, makes an indescribably crisp snap with every sharp movement. I look, sound and feel better than I ever have. Tonight, I recommenced training, headband and all.

I came expecting I’d lost most of my flexibility and would have to work around my injury to heal it. Not so. My injury, it seems, is mostly self-healed. I was concerned that my speed had fallen, that my reflexes had dulled. In sparring, I found, nothing had changed, except perhaps I was a little too confident when testing my peers. Had I been partnered with higher belts I’m sure my arrogance would have resulted in pain. At any rate, the lesson Senpai (Sherms-daddy) imprinted upon me is not to over-train this time. I’ve been given, as far as I can tell for the moment, a clean slate. Although I’m not quite what I once was, I’m certainly not complaining, and in the weeks to come, I anticipate only improvement.

There are a few changes to the club. Unfamiliar faces- white belts and yellow belts I’ve never seen before. I felt a pang of regret I hadn’t been there to welcome them in to Taekwondo Oh Do Kwan, but as time continues, I’ll do my best as a black belt to make them feel welcome. Those I do know have changed the colours or stripes on their belts- it seems while I’ve been resting, they’ve been training to better themselves. It gladdens me to know they have not slacked off, though Osman is slacker than ever. The other major change is the new paddle they have. When it’s kicked in the right spot with enough force, it makes a boing nice, or yells out "Well done!" or some other encouragement. I thought it was hilarious, and perhaps I pushed myself a little harder than I should have to hear praise shouted at me.

Little rusty on my poomsae (patterns) but not too shabby. It’s only up from here. It really was remarkable to hear Carmella referring to the "black belts" and to consider myself included. To stand with them and be amongst them… It’s like getting a promotion with better pay and an ocean view. But of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and at present, my ego is holding me far back. Something I’ll have to work on as of now.

So that was my evening. After thinking about returning every single day since I’ve left, I finally got my wish granted. I bet I’ll be sore in the morning, but hot diggedy dog, it sure was worth it. Peace all!

Pending

So I saw a specialist today about my legs, ne? Went to St John of God and waited for an hour to have a five minute session where he, perhaps a little coldly, tells me that I’m perfectly fine and that there’s no need to see him again. Certain people are more flexible than others, and because I’ve grown a great deal recently (he assumes), that’s what’s halting my flexibility.

I do not believe any of the above. I trust myself more than I trust him, and all I’ve gained from the encounter is the knowledge that, maybe I should stop waiting around for people to fix me. If I’m broken, I will fix myself. Patiently, with my knowledge of the human body and spirit. Kind of like Bruce Lee, who defied the people who said he would never walk again after taking a flying kick while his back was turned. At any rate, if there’s nothing wrong with me, great. If there is, I’ll deal with it.

Unfortunately, the wound from my stitches isn’t healing yet (it should have healed last week or so) but once that’s recovered, it’s back to training.
And from there maybe I can find time for kenjutsu.
And aikido.
And tai chi.
And yoga.
And swimming…

.

When I started Taekwondo on the 23rd of January, 2007, I was one of two white belts in a class composed entirely of black belts. I trained with diligence and dedication, and I can say now that my technique was better than most of the coloured belts and some of the black belts. I was a star, and I strived to improve, always pushing myself, always eager to leap ahead.

As I am now, I am less flexible than the day I joined. The tendons in my legs are scarily tight, and they seriously limit the height of my kicks. It went from above my head to just above my shoulders. And every day I train, it gets a little bit worse.

The black belt grading is in nine days. The 25th of May. I feel it quite cruel that the longer I am made to train, the less chance I have of going for it. Master Ross has made no sign that he’ll let me sit it, and if I am denied, I will have to train another four to six months for the next grading. I’m worried that, by then, I won’t be able to kick at all.

But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep training, and I’m going to get my black belt. It has been my dream for so many years, and I believe that it’s probably worth being crippled for life by a build-up of scar tissue. Kinda sucks though.

Wish me luck for getting in. Rar.

Fight of the Valkyrie

So I rock up to grade today, even though I graded last month. Carmela bent the rules for me, for which I am grateful. As I was warming up and stretching, I felt a little anxious because my legs were suffering from pangs of unexplainable pain whenever I moved them, at all. So I figure, Damn, must need more time to warm up. So I stretched until I was feeling all right and the grading began.

First up, Taeguk (pattern) 5, scored the magical number of 69. Taeguk 6 was the same, but Taeguk 7… I did the first four moves and froze, unable to remember what came next. Strike one.

Second up, kicks, which I’m fairly good at.
"One." Push-kick, axe kick, turning kick. No problem. I go for the first one, and BAM. Felt something in my leg stretch beyond the point of no return. I followed up with the next two kicks anyway.
"Two." Push kick, axe kick, turning kick. God that hurts, just ignore it, it’ll be over soon.
"Three." Felt it get worse. To borrow a phrase from a website somewhere, ‘It felt like someone was stabbing my hamstring with rusty daggers of fire.’
"Four." My left hamstring suddenly burned with heat and my first thought (as a human biology student) was, "Heat = blood. Damn, must’ve ripped the muscle. I hope it isn’t staining my uniform. If it is, Carmela will let me know."

So I continued on for about 20 more kicks of all different kinds. My height, balance and power suffered as a result, but I didn’t do too badly overall with an above-average score of 68.

Board-breaking: my old nemesis. Mr Red Board was feeling all cocky and stuff, so I thought I’d teach him a lesson with my buddy Mr Side Kick. I didn’t break the board. That said, my other very good friend, Mr Back Kick sure showed him.

All in all, I passed "adequately". Which is one above pass, and one below honours. Don’t think I deserved it, but I’m grateful. Probably won’t be training for a while, which is as good as any an excuse to start studying for TEE now that Taekwondo’s out of the picture. Hope my leg doesn’t fall off or anything, cheerio.

Competition class

On the 21st of October (2007), there’s a tournament coming up for novices. That is, people who haven’t been in tournaments before. There are two divisions- sparring and poomsae (patterns). When it was announced about a month ago, I decided I would give it a miss because of TEE and all that nonsense (:P), but because Mum (against my intentions) signed me up for the Gold Plus membership, I decided to go for it and cram into three weeks what everyone else will cram into seven. I’m going to enter both the sparring and the patterns. If by any chance any of you want to watch (I’m really not expecting much of a response here), let me know and I’ll get you the details.

Oh Do Kwan holds two classes a week that train students for competitions. Nervously, I rocked up to my first one tonight. After a quick warmup, we strapped on chestguards and helmets and partnered off. Wouldn’t you know it, I got Jason. Jason is the first person I ever met in Oh Do Kwan- being a whitebelt, he was assigned to correct my technique for the first few lessons. Jason’s one of the best tournament fighters in the club, so it was an honour to have him show us (a yellowbelt who had also joined that day) what to do. We basically practiced body kicks against one another, full speed, full power hoping the guards would absorb the shock. Even with the chestguards, let me tell you: getting kicked by a blackbelt bloody hurts. I actually learned a few things, and the style of fighting was a little different. The kicks and sequences taught were designed to train explosive speed, and although my technique’s still shite, I’m getting there.

At the end of class, we all sat down huffing and puffing on the side of the dojan. Two people were called up, and I realised to my delight that they were going to spar. Sabomnim (instructor) Graham called everyone up, including me! And who was I pitted against? Jason. Novice vs pro. That, my friends, was one of the defining moments of my life. Surprisingly, I actually managed to land a few hits, but I suspect he was taking it easy because I’d never done it before. Nevertheless, it really does feel satisfying aiming to kick someone and landing a solid blow. The sound, the thwhack as your foot hits the guard… Something special, let me tell you.

After being kicked by Jason for the better part of an hour, I was actually in some pain. I was a little bit worried, but eventually it went away by itself about 15 minutes later. Or maybe I just imagined it was there, because as soon as I started concentrating on kicking, it ceased to hurt. Regardless, being the fool I am, I went to the next class for regular training. Sure, the competition class drained the majority of my chakra and left me a little shaky, and sure Jason said it was a bad idea to train too much, and sure there came a point when my legs hurt too much to kick, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m extraordinarily sore right now, so methinks I’ll be concentrating on, you know, exams and stuff until the Friday competition class.

*yawn* Not too sure why I wrote this entry. Prolly cause it would have taken too long by hand. Night then.