In a school PE class there are two types of child. The child that can climb the gym rope, and the one that can’t. I was, and always have been, decidedly in the latter camp, dreading any kind of scenario that requires physical exertion, co-ordination and the bravery to put myself in a position where I might fall and brain myself. A sickening proposition at the best of times, never mind in front of a group of sniggering, capable individuals and an exasperated teacher.
So it was with massive apprehension that I stood on a plastic blue gymnastics mat this evening and greeted the burly man who, for the next four weeks, will be teaching me – wait for it – martial arts.
Yes, you did indeed read that correctly. I, of cack-handed running fame, am doing martial arts. Of my own free will.
Ever since The Event I have, I’ll admit, been pretty unhappy. Coming to terms with what happened, the reactions (or lack of) from people I considered friends, the brewing anger and resentment I foster towards the incident, the knock-on effects all these months later… it’s all come to a critical point during the last few weeks where I’ve been in serious danger of losing the plot completely. I’ve done that before, and it’s not a road I care to tread down again.
I’ve found some relief in my three-times-a-week gym slog (I know, right? I go to the gym. Shut up), mainly in that for 45 minutes or whatever I’m focused solely on reps and distances, rather than how much I want to kill everybody, and it was there that I saw the advert for the class I went to tonight.
I really don’t know what possessed me to sign up. Let’s be clear, martial arts is literally the last thing most people would think I’d do. In fact, when I told my mate Becky about it her reaction was: “WOW. I genuinely did not expect you to say that. I thought you were going to go see a musical or something.” Which I think that tells you all you need to know about the parameters of my comfort zone.
But sign up I did. And after a punishing ‘warm up’ and ten forward rolls in a row (from which I still feel nauseous), it was time to kick the shit out of things. And it was BRILLIANT. All my rage and anger channelled safely into a jab pad, while screaming – at my instructor’s suggestion – a list of all the things I’m mad at. Turns out there’s a lot of things I’m mad at.
And, it turns out, I don’t totally suck at martial arts. I’ve got good balance and thrust, apparently, and good focus. So I’m on a bit of a high. I’ve found a healthy channel for all the bad feels, I’ve stuck two fingers up to my increasingly restricted comfort zone and I got a pat on the back from someone who told me ‘You’re doing well’. And that’s what I really wanted to hear.