On Fighting and Healing31 October 2012
“Smile – it’s good to be alive.”
I hear our instructor’s voice as I lie on the grass, arms by my side, looking at the sky. Overhanging branches divide an otherwise endless blue. I’m not exactly smiling. It’s more of a grimace. A kid playing soccer looks over, wondering why a bunch of grown-ups are lying on the ground with their feet in their air. Someone kicks him the ball and he misses it.
I lower my legs to the ground and soak in the stillness
I lift my legs five inches off the ground. They start trembling and I look to the sky.
Over about five months of training, I’ve built up a pretty good training-to-fight-montage. Let me break it down for you. Five scruffy reprobates (that’s us) form a neat line, kicking and punching the air. It’s a sunny Sunday morning, we’re in a field. The sound of lawnmowers punctuates our struggle. Now we’re doing push-ups in the rain. Now, under the light of a street lamp, our instructor’s voice calls out:
And we begin squatting up and down.
The squatting is a recurring theme.
This style of martial arts is not really traditional, although the style was developed from a type of Okinawan karate. It’s called ‘least harm’, which is ironic because we learn about breaking arms and gouging eyes–desperate, street fighting stuff. So, really, it’s all about most harm.
Teh most unusual thing about this style is the stance. The back foot faces forward, heel off the ground. The front foot is turned inwards and, unlike in boxing, your hips are square to your opponent. The reason for this is that least harm is designed for fighting multiple people at once. Having your hips square allows you to use their movement to propel you in another direction. This is why we practice hundreds of turns, swinging our hips around with one arm over our heads to protect our necks. Again, the soccer kid forgets his game to watch our ungainly pirouettes. Well, sonny, you just wait until the revolution comes!
The fighting’s really cool because I could probably, like, kill you by looking at you crossly. But that’s not really why we’re here. Our instructor once called training a lost dogs’ home–I wasn’t lying when I said that we were a bunch of scruffy reprobates. Everyone brings their shit with them, and holds it in them. The space that we create between us when we’re all suffering from too many squats is a safe place to hold the real pain, the old pain. So, lying on the ground with my feet in the air, I know I can’t stop because everybody else is still going. You just have to grin–or grimace–and remember that it’s good to be alive.