Enter The Danny: Round 10


"To give a person an opinion one must first judge well whether that person is of the disposition to receive it or not....  Praise his good points and use every device to encourage him, perhaps by talking about one's own faults without touching on his, but so that they will occur to him.  Have him receive this in the way that a man would drink water when his throat is dry, and it will be an opinion that will correct faults."  From The Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai

First things first - I'm pleased to tell you that Zach Haney, my classmate at Blackbelt Universe, won his fight in Arlington this weekend!  The fight went three rounds, and he won by a submission in the third round.  I'm happy for him, and also kind of amazed.  Not amazed that he won, because he's really good, but just amazed at the stones that it takes to fight in front of that many people.  I've only spoken with Zach a few times, but he's a really mild, thoughtful guy.  The dude wears glasses!  But he has the courage and the drive to put his skills to the test in that kind of venue, and that's really impressive to me.  I guess it all comes with training and experience.

I used to perform on an improv comedy troupe in college, and was often asked how we came up with ideas on the spot.  The answer was just that we spent a lot of time practicing together.  Even though there's a widely known (and just as widely attributed) quote, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard," it never really occurred to me to be nervous once we stepped onstage.  It all comes with practice.

Here is how last night's class started: Tony announced that we have focused heavily on technique for the past few weeks, and that this class was going to be much more physical.  Well, crap - I kind of felt like we'd already been pretty physical!  He demonstrated two lockdown moves to pin your opponent with, and then set us loose to practice them.  Usually that means that each partner runs the move on each other a few times before Tony shows the next thing, and we end class with sparring.  Last night, he told us just to wrestle until one of us either held the other in one of the finishing positions for three seconds, or until somebody submitted, and then he set us loose.  Ten minutes of demonstration, fifty minutes of grappling.

I started class with Clayton, who I hadn't seen before, so I thought he was a beginner like me.  Wrong.  Clayton has been doing this for a while, and just started coming again after recovering from a broken finger.  Sometimes when Tony sees that partners are too unevenly matched, he'll assign you to work with somebody else, and that's how I ended up working with Jay again.  Jay and I fight at about the same level.

For last night's practice, Tony wanted us to start with one partner standing, and the other on the ground with his legs up and on guard.  If you are the standing partner, this is actually a fairly difficult position to work your way inside of.  Jay and I rolled for a few rounds, and then on one, I quickly dived in, brought his legs up to my shoulders, locked them in, and went into what I now think of as my go-to move (that I mentioned on night 8), where I flip my opponent over and fall into a headlock position.  Unfortunately, this also twisted Jay's neck more than was good, and he had to sit out for the rest of class.  I checked on him at the end, and he's OK, but I felt pretty bad about it.

This left me partnerless, with about 30 minutes of class left.  I just stood there looking dumb for a minute (something I'm pretty good at), before somebody else asked if I wanted to practice.  It was Andrew again (*sigh...*), and his partner Joe needed a minute to rest.  This set the pace for the rest of my night - I moved from partner to partner each time somebody else needed a rest, and ended up fighting four other guys besides Jay.  It was exhausting, but along the way, a really cool thing happened.  Tony was occupied with wrestling one of the other instructors, so these guys started instructing and drilling me themselves.

After Andrew and I fought, he complimented me, and said I'd improved even since last week.  He said that I was especially good at finding gaps and getting hooks under them.  He told me, though, that instead of trying to force my way up with my elbows when I'm down, that I need to put that weight on my opponent and tire them.  I tried it on him in our next round, and it worked!

Then I fought his partner Joe, a burly guy with short dreadlocks.  He is really good at nailing down your legs so that you can't escape, and then executing whatever moves he wants to.  After we fought, he told me some things that I could try so that I could free my legs.  I tried it, and it worked!

Next, Nick and Anthony, two brothers who train together a lot, took turns working with me.  These guys were much smaller than me, and are lightning fast.  Joe's game is strength, these guys focus on movement.  I fought Nick first, and then Anthony.

Here's where it got really cool.  I was wrestling Anthony, and all of the other guys I'd practiced with gathered around to watch.  They were cheering for me, and shouting encouragement!  They were calling out reminders of things they had taught me so that I'd remember to try them during the fight.  Ultimately, I lost, but Andrew helped me up off the mat, and they all patted me on the back and told me it was a good match.  It was maybe the best part of this month so far.

The bruise on my chest has faded, but here's how my biceps looked when I got home last night.  I still have no idea how the bruises formed in such a strange pattern.  I know this picture is weird - it's two pictures side-by-side.


Andrea G. said...

Awesome that you are finding your own brotherhood! Sometimes you seem almost too humble ("good at looking stupid").

Questions: are you thinking at all about trying to get your boys interested in martial arts at all after this experience? And the big one which I am sure you will answer at the end is: will you continue to take classes after the blog project is over?
It seems to me that you are gaining interesting things from this venture: not just skills and training, but comraderie, self esteem points, and pride. Seems like good things to continue.

Danny said...

I've heard in the past that one of the reasons people take martial arts classes is to increase their confidence, but actually experiencing it, and in just one month, has really been an unanticipated benefit of this project.

Those are good questions, and I'm going back and forth on the answers to them. The biggest limiting factor, as with most things, is time and money. I enjoy it, but I don't know if I enjoy it enough to dive deeper into it. I've been doing the lessons for free this month, and even though the cost of continuing them wouldn't be terribly expensive, we do have some added expenses coming up this fall that we're trying to plan for. On top of that, there's the expense of having a babysitter come to the house each time a lesson falls on one of the evenings that Courtney is working. Over the course of this month, that's added up to about as much as a month of lessons normally would. My parents are very cool and welcoming to their grandkids, but I don't want to saddle them with that three nights a week, either.

As far as getting the boys (or Ava!) into it, I think it could be a positive thing. On one of the evenings that I took Blake up there with me, he actually sparred a little with a boy who is in the kids class while I interviewed Tony. He loved it! Again, though, our evening schedule would make it kind of tough to work out the timing for it, and I think there's some other things he's more interested in. For instance, he's been asking about violin lessons for a while. I think Jack may be the fighter in our family!

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