24 March 2011


I came back from advanced fighting class tonight (this week featuring how to break someone's elbow when they've wrestled you to the ground and how to tear all the ligaments in their ankle when they have you trapped between their legs), and I came down to my room because my roommate was having a party and the attendees all shared a single interest which is an interest that I do not have, and I thought about how much I love fighting class, and I wished that I had discovered martial arts much younger.

It isn't that I regret my lack of skill. You can only do what you can do, and nowhere is that more accepted and acceptable than in a martial arts class, where you all line up in the order that you started the class, but the belt colors do not necessarily go in the same order. I feel like I am progressing acceptably quickly. I am satisfied, anyway, and that is all that matters. Fighting class comes more naturally to me than any sort of sport I've ever tried, which isn't saying much, since I have been universally abysmal at anything requiring hand-eye coordination. But I work hard, and I get better.

The reason I wish I had started martial arts long ago is because of the people. I went to school when I was young, and I was good at school, but everything was stratified there. There were groups, and you knew yours. There were sports, but you had to be good at them to fit in on a team. I've never attended anything where everyone was as quickly and surely helpful and friendly as a martial arts class. It's a place where anyone fits, without really needing to do anything but work hard. I think I would have been a different person back then if I knew that one could interact so comfortably with such different people.

There is a teenager in my kung fu class who is probably fifteen or so, maybe younger. He is tall and gangly, and he seems to balance impossibly low in his stances on his spider legs. He is also just about the nicest kid I've ever met. I base this primarily on the fact that he says, every single time I end up near him after doing some ridiculous kick or movement that I can't actually do, "Good job!" with such enthusiasm that I can't help bursting into smile.

Today I was the only woman in the advanced class, again. We do this warm-up where one person lies on their back and the other person lays sideways over them, with their elbows on one side and knees on the other. The person on their back gets their arms under the top person, lifts their torso, and flips the top person over their head, then scrambles over to be the top person. (This is the drill during which I dropped the instructor on my head two weeks ago.) The flipping is very hard to do when you are smaller and weaker than the top person. The guy I was practicing with today practically threw me across the room, but I could barely heave him over my head, and all of me hurts now.

"This is especially important for women," the instructor said. "You have got to be able to get your attacker off you. You have just got to have the core strength." And as we finished the drill, as I hauled the guy over my head once again, I heard the female half of the owner couple and the top woman from the kung fu class cheering for me.

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