02 March 2011


I've been doing fighting class + kung fu for a month or so now, and I'm starting to get to the point where, as long as I eat enough before I go, I'm still mobile at the end of the night, rather than wanting to collapse into a heap.

Doing fighting class and then kung fu right in a row is like listening to an ipod on shuffle: one song is metal and the next is soothing pipes. I mean that literally. The actual music goes from one to the other.

The movements do, too. Fighting class is immensely practical. We stand like boxers. We block with whatever we can. We keep our shoulders up and our elbows in* and we punch and kick and fight dirty if we have to. (One of the instructors loves to say, "Ladies, don't be afraid to gouge the eyes. Also, if you can manage to grab in the right area, grab, pull, and turn." He demonstrates, and we practice the motion, and all the guys hunch over in imagined agony.) We pummel the tombstone pads. We hold people's heads down and knee them. We kick low and hard.

Kung fu is probably practical, too, once you really know how to do it, but for now, for me, it is all stances and poses and mechanics. The poses have purposes, I know - that hand over the head is a block, and so is the angle of the knee - but for now they are just movements. I can't get into them fast enough to make any use of them. I can't lift my leg high enough to get any force in that kick. They are beautiful, though. When the whole class moves through the poses as I stand off to the side trying to figure out the most basic stances, it all looks like a dance. Everyone's heads are up. Their shoulders are straight but relaxed. Their hands are held gracefully. It's a far cry from the gritty street fighting of the other class, right now, since I haven't yet made it to the sparring class.

That is why, despite it taking up my entire evening on Monday and Wednesday and nearly my entire evening on Thursday (I haven't exactly figured out when I'm going to do things like, say, clean the house), I keep going to both. I like both of them. I have this fantasy that someday I will be good at both, that my body will figure out how to be both graceful and strong, even though I've never before in my entire life managed to be graceful.


* Sometimes we are required to just stand there with our elbows together and our hands up in front of our faces to train our muscles. At first, my arms ached when I did it for more than a few seconds, but now I am fairly certain I could do it all night. Many of us in the class keep our arms like that the whole time we do squats, etc.

No comments: