Blocks, bruises and brutality

Last night’s training was a real high for me. I helped out with the kids’ class, as I love to do, trying my best to help Kristina (foundation instructor) by showing them what they needed to be doing (rather than what they were doing), then the adult kung fu class afterwards almost wore me out. So I stayed for more, this time the Fujian White Crane soft style and another kung fu (hard style) class. In the second hard style class, we partnered up – for every step forward, you punch three times – if you’re the one stepping backwards, you block the punches and too bad if you miss. I was determined to use the exercise to condition my wrists and, even when I was conscious of the pain, I ignored it and carried on going. When we changed partners, the punches came faster and I still managed to dodge 90 per cent of them, which I was quite pleased about, although my forearms are now covered in bruises (sexy), which I imagine all of us have who were training last night.

I’m beginning to truly understand, after two years of training, just how much stronger the mind is than the body. I knew this already, but had no idea the extent to which this was true. Only at the end of the exercise did I begin to flag, as my wrists were beginning to swell and go red (the bruises are currently at the early not-blue-yet stage, they’re a kind of maroon colour, which is very fetching and makes me look as though I’ve been fighting, which, in effect, I have).

So this morning I watched Chocolate, the Muay Thai film starring JeeJa Yanin, an amazing young actress whose balance and striking power is inspirational. It’s not all about martial arts – she plays an autistic character who can mimic the moves of her favourite film stars – and one part even made me well up because it was extraordinarily powerful. It’s extremely well done, especially when you realise there were no stunt doubles used and all the actors did their own, resulting in more than a few injuries over the two years it took to make the film.

It’s one I shall be watching time and again and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes martial arts films and especially women who are training in any kind of martial art. JeeJa Yanin proves, though the film is choreographed, that these things are possible, that you don’t have to be a big, strong, arrogant bully boy to hurt someone. All you need is the determination to do it and the knowledge of where and when to strike. Confidence, of course, has a lot to do with it, as well, and I know mine is growing. In class last night, for example, my instructor told us to do a series of moves and then we had to add a jumping kick to the end of the sequence. No one jumped very high until he said, ‘Jump higher!’ and something happened in my head – and I jumped higher. It felt spectacular.

For the last class, a few sparred and a few did pad work. I partnered with Ariana to practise punches and back-hammers and, at one stage, as we were discussing the club and how we both feel so happy in it, I said that it helps, of course, that I ‘absolutely, completely trust Dave.’ A second later, I hit that pad so hard they must have heard the thwack upstairs. Having confidence in yourself is part of making progress; but it helps if your instructor is someone you have complete faith in. If you ever decide to take up martial arts, you’d do well to remember this.

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