Tap Out: A Look Back at Enter The Danny


"In one's life, there are levels in the pursuit of study.  In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it.... In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others.  In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows.
These are the levels in general.  But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all.  This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished."  From The Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai

Enter The Danny is the fourth project that I've done for the blog.  When I start a project for Look What Danny Made!, I like to have some kind of arc or journey in mind for it.  To accomplish that journey, I'll break viewing projects into themed groups and save some of the best movies for last, or I'll try to decide on a really good finale, like the party at the end of Project Gastronome.  I started this project with two thoughts in my head about the directions I wanted it to take.

First, as I mentioned in the post where I introduced Enter The Danny, I really, really liked the TV show Fight Quest, and I wanted to try an experience similar to what the fighters on that show had, albeit on a much more modest scale.  Second, I envisioned getting plenty of laughs from my readers when they watched the big guy getting repeatedly beaten up.  As it turns out, neither of those things really came to pass, and the project went in a direction entirely different than what I had anticipated.

On the first point, I had my mind changed before the project ever began.  My original vision was to try a different martial art each week of the month, kind of like the guys on the show.  My friend John talked some sense into me on that one: "Those guys have studied martial arts for decades.  If they're able to compete in a new discipline within a week, it's because they've already got very solid fundamentals."  True.  I shifted my focus instead to seeing how much knowledge an average guy could pick up within the span of a month.

Being unable to take video in class ruled out the second angle, but I think that it was actually a good thing.  When I started this, I thought that a lot of the appeal for people would be "watch Danny get painfully knocked down" kind of like a lot of the appeal of Project Gastronome was "watch Danny choke down awful food."  Once I got a few classes in, though, I realized that there was a lot less of that happening than I'd anticipated.  Not having the camera there also made me much less conscious of where I needed to be, and of trying to provide a highlight-worthy moment, which was good since my mind needed to be in the class and not on the camera.

What are the lessons I learned this month?  Here are a few, in no order.
  • One of the biggest reasons people give for studying martial arts is that it gives them confidence.  I always wondered just how much there was to that.  It's really true, though.  I still consider myself an absolute beginner, but in just one month I was able to face some fears and learn that I am stronger than I thought.
  • There are actually only a few moments in a fight that really hurt, but just the act of being in a fight is still a tremendous effort.  Also, the easiest way to start a fight?  Just start fighting.
  • Throughout this month, I continued to work with my trainer and started a meal plan he gave me, so BJJ wasn't the only thing I was doing.  Still, it is worth pointing out that I lost nine pounds this month.
  • Many of my preconceived notions about what it would be like to study a martial art were completely wrong.  You know in Karate Kid (the original, real one), when the evil instructor is all, "Pain does not exist in this dojo!  RAAWRGH!"  That's an extreme example, but I wondered if that's the mentality I would face.  Instead, I was surrounded by students, professionals, and other seekers, and they were all very thoughtful guys.
  • I forgot to tell this story in my final entry, but I love it so much that I'm throwing it in here.  My partner in the last class was a little more experienced than me, but not a lot.  At one point, Tony sent his assistant instructor Gabe over to work with us.  I was on my back on the floor while he was demonstrating on me.  One of the steps was to bring your knee up right alongside your opponent's head, so that you can control their movement and keep them from rolling towards you.  Gabe put his knee by my ear, and my neck audibly cracked.  I crack my own neck a couple times a day, and this was a good one, like at the chiropractor, not a bad one.  Gabe was instantly off of me, though, standing beside me and asking questions to make sure I was OK.  It's probably only funny to me, because I felt great, and he was really worried for a second.  At the same time, though, I was really impressed with his concern and friendliness.  He really didn't want to proceed until I proved I could sit up and respond to questions.
About a week into this project, I realized that I wasn't like the Fight Quest guys at all.  No, I am a 21st century George Plimpton.  Stop laughing.  Although Plimpton had a broad and varied career, some of his best known works are his books about entering the world of pro sports as a layman.  For Out of My League, he pitched in the majors.  Paper Lion was about playing football with Detroit.  The Bogey Man - PGA.  Shadow Box - boxing.  Open Net - NHL.  These are just a few of the worlds that he temporarily stepped into in order to write about them.  I've never been all that into sports, so I'm not saying that I want to follow down that path.  It's been done.  But this was a thought that kept coming back to me this month - this is a thing that I want to pursue.  I want to find new experiences that push me outside of my comfort zone, and I want to share them with the world.  I'm really serious about this, and although I'm not entirely sure how to pursue it yet, I've found something that makes me really happy.  I am a 21st century George Plimpton.

A few people have asked me if I plan to continue now that I've reached the end of the project.  That's a good question, and I'm going back and forth on the answer to it. 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 able to do the lessons this month because of Tony's generosity, 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 the kids 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!

I'd like to extend thanks to all of the folks who made Enter The Danny possible.  To each of my training partners, thank you for your patience with a newbie and for making this month a lot of fun.  To all of the babysitters who came over on nights that Courtney was working, I really appreciate your time, and I'll be happy to refer you to my friends!  To everybody who read and commented, thanks for letting me know that I wasn't just sending these entries out into the void.

Most of all, thank you to Tony "The Gun" Bonello for opening your class to me, and for making this month a successful reality.  Your passion for what you do really comes through in the way that you teach your class, and I enjoyed myself immensely.

Final verdict: Although I learned a lot, I'm a lover, not a fighter, baby.


Andrea G. said...

. . .but will you fight for what you love?

Also, thanks so much for putting Paul McCartney and MJ in my head!

Congrats on another successful project. If you don't have other ideas, maybe you and Ali could just do a blog where you trade thoughts and barbs. The threads I've read on here are hilarious!

Danny said...

"Fight for what you love" - nice one. Thanks! I'm mulling some ideas for future projects right now. I can't keep up with Ali, she's too good. I am, though, going to reassert my demand that she call me "sensei" since I completed the month.

Ali said...

well... i should REALLY read the comments BEFORE i type.

1. i can't bring myself to call you sensei. will dumbass work?
2. carry on, george. carry on.

Post a Comment

Every comment is like a fresh flower, so please write!