Things have gone up a gear at kickboxing, for the most pathetic reasons.
I was perfectly happy in my rut at the Monday beginners class with my trusty partner V. She was petite and light on her feet while I lumbered and failed to distinguish left from right. But we made a good pair – always urging the other to hit harder and kick higher; both in love with the faux violence.
Then V said she fancied adding in the Wednesday night Intermediate class, did I want to come? Her pal M was going to start too. Alas, I was in the midst of Moonwalk training and didn’t have enough legs to fit it in.
That was my first twinge of panic. What’s wrong with our cosy wee beginners class? Why would you want to join the scary class with the scary chicks with the fancy team trousers? And you’ve found someone else to go with too? Am I not enough for you?!
It tore me up inside, knowing V was learning new moves without me. But I played it cool. Sorta. I joined the Wednesday class as soon as my Moonwalk wounds had healed.
But then! Then she had to go and buy the fancy trousers! The bright blue team dacks with the white stripe up the sides. Once you get the trousers, you mean business.
And then! V said she wanted to get into sparring. That’s when you start thumping actual people. Now I know some of you lovelies out there are proper martial arty types who do proper fighting, so please don’t laugh at me. It took me six years to graduate from punching the air at Body Combat class to punching a focus pad, so I wasn’t planning on punching people for at least seventeen more.
V was placing a big order at our favourite online martial arts shoppe and asked did I want anything? I ordered the protective puffy hat, the shin guards, the gum shield and the padded shoe thingos with no intention of using them. But if V and M were ordering sparring gear then I had to at least create the illusion of interest so I wouldn’t be written off altogether.
People ask me all the time, "How do you stay motivated?" Well, you can spur yourself on by sticking an unbecoming photo on your fridge or training for a charity event… but don’t underestimate less noble motivations, such as:
- fear of abandonment
- desire to not look like a sissy in front of your friends
They fire me up just fine and dandy.
It may sound negative on the surface, but they compliment the other side of my personality: the lazy, complacent underachiever. Sometimes it doesn’t occur to that I could be pushing myself harder until I see someone else pushing themselves harder and then, frothing with envy, decide that perhaps it’s time to up the ante.
So in addition to the Wednesday night class, last week I graduated to the Monday Advanced class, again because V and M were doing it. It was so intense I almost spewed all over the mirrors and that was just the warm-up. I’ve never felt so incompetent in my life. I’m paranoid that I shouldn’t be there and the proper fighter chicks want me dead.
But I kept up. I need to remember that I was hopeless when I started the beginners class too, and hopeless when I started Body Combat in 2001. Baby steps, etc etc.
I’ve also had a wee sparring session. To psyche myself up I put on all my gear – puffy hat and gloves and gum shield (we call them mouthguards in Australia) – and asked Gareth to hit me.
Honestly, the tiny tap to my well-padded noggin was about as powerful as a mosquito’s fart but I shrieked, "You’re a prick! I’m calling the police!"
It is hard to describe the gut-wrenching alarm of seeing a punch coming at you for the first time. You spend your life avoiding that kind of thing, so it’s unsettling and unnatural to deliberately seek it out. I had a big sook, ripped off all my gear and vowed to eBay the lot.
But a few days later I rocked up to the class to try it for real, not wanting my pals to think I’d gone soft. I had to ask V to tie on my padded shoes for me because I was panicking too much to figure it out.
Finally, ready to rumble. V and I touched gloves. Immediately every technique fell out of my brain. Kick? Punch? What? Where? How?
I could not connect my brain with my arms and legs at all. Instead I muttered, "Shit! Shit! Shit a brick!" and turned into a human punch bag.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be more shit, I had to swap to one of the experienced chicks. I was so intimidated, despite her being so polite and only using 2% of her actual fighting power. She was literally instructing me how to attack her, but my legs and arms just froze up and said, WE GOT NOTHIN!
At the end of the session I had to spar with our instructor. Arrgh! Honestly, you’ve never met a bloke so encouraging. He has built up a safe, friendly atmosphere and a great team who are so supportive of each other – even clods like me. He shuffled round saying, "Just go for it! Don’t be polite!" But I felt so bloody uncoordinated and embarrassed and wanted to go home and eat toast. He wouldn’t let me give up though. Eventually I managed to loosen up and connect a few moves, thanks to him pretty much standing there and telling me exactly what to do.
Oh yes. Champion in the making.
But still, at least I had a go. There is a perverse satisfaction in doing something that scares you. I thought the biggest fear would be the Flying Fists and Feet but I was too busy being consumed by the Fear of Looking Like A Dickhead. When it comes to physical activity my mantra has always been, to butcher a phrase: It is better to stand still and be thought a fool than to move around and remove all doubt.
So this is uncomfortable ground but I am going to keep trying. I was overdue a change in routine and I know that many things great things in life start out feeling awkward. Better to be filled with dread and nausea as you explore new frontiers than languish in a rut. Besides, I gotta at least pretend to keep up with my mates for awhile before I go waving a white flag.