Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Up you game!

There is a type of martial artist out there who will say that all they hope to do is do a little bit, not take what they do so seriously, and when they reach a certain level, be satisfied. In other words, they see the martial arts as something no more than an occasional hit of badminton, or a few minutes of table tennis. A time filler, a nice hobby and a bit of exercise

Well, sure..that's possible. May I recommend a Tae Bo DVD for you to watch at home so your little fantasy world isn't challenged? Because that's the only arena in which all your presumptions are going to be fulfilled

Martial sports like MMA, Jits etc are more like tennis than table tennis. I can pick up a paddle in ping pong and within a few minutes, get the ball over the net with an ugly push shot and my partner can do the same. The learning curve is fast. Tennis on the other hand is different. If you never played it before, it can be immensely frustrating and unforgiving. Just getting a ball over the net is hard, and anything more than a three shot level takes a certain modicum of skill, training and hard work

In other words, you need to commit a lot more than the bare minimum. And martial sports are the same. You always need to 'up your game' otherwise you're not going to see that progress you were looking for, and you won't be able to come close to pulling off those fantastic techniques you saw people like Marcello Garcia do. Because the moment you think you want to stop at being able to hit three shots in a row over the net, your opponent hits four; and you will start losing, and tennis won't be fun anymore. Trust me.

This doesn't mean that you have to be some crazy, obsessed martial arts junkie that lives in a dojo 24-7 (But if you want to, hey, that's your life). It does engender the awareness that it's difficult to set the bar so low that it's ridiculously easy to achieve your goals

My goal in BJJ was to get a blue belt. I thought that was the equivalent of swimming the English channel. Now, I'm gunning for purple, and that is beginning to feel like trying to swim the Atlantic ocean! I once said that I would end my time in Judo at Brown. Black was impossible. Too difficult, too painful etc. Now I'm just working on hanging with the other Blacks and trying to move up the totem pole.

This is not the equivalent of the unhealthy beggar my neighbour manipulation and political skull duggery that you might see in, say, the corporate office. This is healthy co-operative competition. You want to get better, and you want your opponent to get better because then both of you can work for greater heights. And in doing so, new vistas in training and experience open up to you. Everybody wins. Nobody loses.

And finally, now you're actually playing tennis as it was meant to

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Crossing the Rubicon

What I am about to post soon almost contradicts what was written in my last post. I previously railed against the training-more-training mentality and argued for a saner schedule. But what did I do today? I trained literally in the morning, afternoon and night.

Yes, my faithful less than a handful of readers out there, I spent the morning in Brickfields doing Judo, then boxing and BJJ in the afternoon. To cap it off, five very hard randori sessions in the evening. I literally lived martial arts today. It was insane, something probably never to be repeated normally, but it was fantastic.

Why? Because every now and then, you have to cross the Rubicon of your training. The body, mind and spirit imposes limits way before it crosses the line. I think it's partly a survival mechanism, but recently, I think it's a product of environment. We seek comfort on our own terms. Thus, we apply the same to workouts similarly - it's got to be 'hard' but we define it as such and we reserve to right to walk away from it if it is too hard

But in real life, sometimes you can't walk away from whatever annoys, pisses you off or is trying to hurt you. It probably means that the only option is to stand and face it head on. This is what the martial arts is all about. It cares less about your self esteem than tearing it down and making you see that you are a whinging, soft, out of shape marshmallow who can't walk the talk. Yes, it's painful. But it does that

Today, I had a crummy session in the morning but the patience of my Judo sensei was almost Nelson Mandela like. He knew that I sucked, but he tried to make me suck less, even though I did at the end. I wanted to leave early, but I didn't and vowed that the best thing for me to do was to bugger this rest of the day and forget open mats; sleep in and feel sorry for myself

A few hours later, I was sparring with some pretty handy boxers at KDTA. You can't think about what a crappy day you have when something is jabbing at your head with GPS like precision. All you can do is react. This went on for couple of hours, by then I was physically and mentally spent. All I could think off was a hot, relaxing bath and a good meal. In the end,I found myself wearing my morning-soaked judogi eating a yoghurt to carbo load for one session of hard Judo randori

Or make that five. Everytime I slammed into the mat, the impulse was to stay down, or get up, sulk and make an excuse to leave. My timing was off, I was beat, and I was sucking more than what I was in the morning. But then suddenly, I started making some throws. Big ones. Not all the time, I was still the group whipping boy..but slowly enough...it was all coming together.

I had crossed the Rubicon.

At the end, I nearly passed out on the floor and the sound of me dry retching definitely was not my finest moment. But I didn't cop out. I stood face to face with the Bear, and God willing, I'll do it again.

You don't cross it once. It's got to be done again and again, until someday, you cross it for the last time. But that's another story