Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It Hurts

Monday was my first outdoor class with Randy.  In fact, it may be the first big outdoor workout that I've had in years.  The last time I really pushed myself outdoors was over two years ago when my older brother and I used to run together at a high school in Burnaby.  There's a viking that looks like Satan in front of the school that has purportedly driven down property values, if anyone knows what school it is, leave one in the comments.

I had a half cooked idea about joining the VPD, and in order to do that I needed to meet the basic physical requirements.  Run the obstacle course in I-can't-remember-how-many minutes, and run a mile and a half in less than 12 minutes.  I did those runs with my brother twice a week for two months.  My best time was 10:13 around the track.  Then we ran tobattas (did I spell that correctly?  doubtful) on the track; sprint as hard a we can for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds, eight times.  Then a brief set of body weight exercises that I could go through with reasonably little difficulty.  The sprints always ground me into dust.  I was always strong out of the gates, and on those occasions when my brother would bring another member of his ultimate team out, they'd always seem impressed that I could keep up, or outpace a few of them in the sprints.

I wasn't in incredible shape at any point, but I was passable, and it made me feel impressive being able to throw around a number around that was competitive to get on the VPD.

But I digress.

Monday was Randy's class.  Monday was an outdoor class.  Monday was rainy.  Monday destroyed me.

Sprint 2/3 of a block(ish) and walk back to the starting line.  Stop at a filthy pair of shirts that have been left on the ground.  Do it ten times, or until you can't anymore.  Alternative when you're bagged: Sprint a shorter distance with a nice steep uphill.  I made eight sprints, and thought I was going to die.  My legs were tired, my lungs were burning, and my tongue and jaw hurt from running and breathing so hard.  The last two sets up the small hill had me parking my ass on the unused kiddie pool and wondering if the sprints had left me too tired to vomit.  Class continued; as did the rain.  The gymnastics exercises were almost too much.  The cartwheels and handstands have gotten easier.  And then came boxing.  A whole class of boxing because no one wanted to bring their swords in the rain, except for me.  The drills have all blurred together, starting with a simple jab cross 2x2, and finishing with a spinning back elbow leading to a combination chokeslam and hip throw straight out of my favorite martial arts movies.  No lie, it made me feel like I was living a scene out of the Blood Sport director's cut.  The class finished with slow work sparring.  No gloves, no pads, just the implied trust from your partner, and the knowledge that everyone is there to make each other better.

I went home, showered, had some adventures that night, came home again, and went to bed. 

I awoke sore.  Sore to the point where my muscles wouldn't respond to my commands; sore like I was the first time Patricia put me through the archery stretches; sore like I was when I worked out with my brother. from my ankles to my neck was sore.  Unbelievably sore.  To the point... well, if you're reading this, you're either a facebook friend or a fencing nerd (probably both) so you probably know the feeling of the morning after a grinding workout.

And while I grumble and grouse about it, I know that the greatest change in my physical ability has always been accompanied by sprints.  The days on the track with my brother, wrestling in grade 12, and now twice a week, maybe thrice, with or without Randy, sprints and gymnastics.

It hurts, and I hate it, but the physique to pursue mastery awaits me on the other side of this threshold.

If I run fast enough, maybe I can just blitz through it...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Catholic Athleticism

Born on November 2nd, 1987 at 11:52 P.M.  My mom has reiterated this detail more than a few times during my life when talking about my birthday, because the only way I've ever remembered my best friend's birthday has been looking at the calendar for MY birthday, and sliding my finger up a week.  October 26th.  Thank God, remembered again.  My covenant with God was established shortly after my birth, and baptism came reasonably soon after that.

A bunch of stuff happened after that, and here I am today trying to make it work as a swordsman.  Oh, and I stopped believing in God shortly after I dropped out of university, because music school turns you into an unwashed liberal savage.  It was kind of hard on my mom, so I offered her a compromise:

I won't be religious, but I'll still be motivated by shame, guilt, and self-loathing.  Still basically Catholic, right?  Or if Robin Williams is to be believed, the anti-Episcopalian (same religion, half the guilt; none of the religion, twice the guilt).

And abandoning religious belief led me to view the world relative to how I could specifically change, shape, and control it.  I don't get bent out of shape about the weather, or other drivers being jerks; I get bent out of shape about being too broke to clothe myself for the weather, about not getting out of the house early enough to avoid or not worry about other people's driving.  Most of the problems are my problems, and the only means to fix them is to position myself so that they're not problems.  Get out the door early enough that you have time for supper before shift, bring extra clothes, prepare yourself with knowledge and practice so that you're equipped for whatever nonsense you have to deal with. 

And that certainly includes my classes, but this view has led to a few problems recently.  Martial arts training is the first thing that I've ever been SERIOUS serious about.  Like, willing to abandon all semblance of rational career choices because if I don't, I'm going to wake up someday and hate everything about myself.  An old professor of mine put it best, he sat me down one day and called me on two semesters worth of nonsense, and after giving me my forty lashes he told me why he does what he does.

"Aaron, I got my degree and practiced my ass off because I knew that if I didn't, I was going to wake up one day with a house in Halifax, a job that I'd hate, and a contant state of misery.  I need music in my life; it is incomplete without it."

The sword is what makes me complete.  I feel whole when I have a sword and a scabbard belted on.  Every day that I pick up a sword is a good day.  When I look back at it.  And I don't think about my fighting.

I hate my fighting most of the time, because of a few things that Randy talks about in his blog.  From my own perspective, I see that I have been given the rules to win.  And that an inability to use those rules to my benefit is a real and direct failure on my part.  There's one guy in the class whose fighting looks like a monkey whose limbs were amputated and replaced by pool noodles.  Everything I've been taught tells me that this guy is an easy mark.  And almost every time we fight I get tagged in the arm.  And it makes me furious.  Because he isn't fighting wrongly.  I am.  Victory is the only thing that determines rightness and wrongness in a fight, and my defeat makes me wrong.  And I have to expend energy just staying in the mindset of "don't fight to hurt" after several bad passes, and then my body is tight and tense, and then I'm spending more energy on controlling my breathing and my mental state, and it all detracts from the fight.  And all I can do is walk away with this overarching feeling of shame and self-loathing.  Because I can't control my ego, and because I'm not good enough, and because I'm not fast enough, and because I'm a miserable failure and what the fuck am I doing with myself anyway?  And then I'm getting changed and feeling myself get changed mechanically, and there's only a steep downward spiral after that.

I have had one night of good fighting in the last month.  I had scrounged workout clothes: shorts and a thin hoodie, no shoes, no gloves, and no gorget.  Randy told me to wiggle my hips.  Then my shoulders relaxed, and I realized that I looked ridiculous, and that made me giggle.  And then I was on fire for the whole rest of the night.  I was fast, and accurate, and agile, and holy SHIT I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT LANDED.  That landed, right?  That wasn't just a touch?  Wow.  DAMN what a nice hit.

And then it was back to the badness.

I'm told that I'm stronger; that my game is getting better.  But I don't believe it, and I won't until I'm either the best in town, or I reprogram myself.

Now to learn more about sport psychology, and meditation.