“It’ll be alright.” The first time you hear these words, you let out a sigh of relief. Because you were a little worried. You were worried because it’s been a few months since you last did a grade, and perhaps you can block an attack and off-line for a butt strike, but then – did you say off-line, or crash in? Just remind me….
And worse: do you want to do this beneath the watchful eye of Master Wayne?
“Wayne’s cool,” Charlie explains. “He really knows his stuff, I mean, he’s just a normal guy, but he’s like a legend, you know. I could tell you stories…”
Please don’t. I mean, it’s not that I’m not enthusiastic, it’s just that there’s this awed look in Charlie’s eye, and this slightly nervous lilt in Nigel’s voice and if this guy isn’t wearing a cape when he turns up, it could well be a let-down. And sure, I’m really looking forward to learning new stuff from an excellent teacher, but after a few weeks of expectation I’m now kinda imagining Batman taking my grading and actually, I’m not sure I want to be assessed by Batman really because I’ve only been training for a year and Batman spent time dabbling with hallucinogenic drugs and psychotic ninjas so actually if I was to take that day off to wash the dog, perhaps…
“It’s okay, it’s okay!” shrills Nigel. “It’ll be alright.”
It’ll be alright.
Funny, how these words can go from being comforting reassurances of capability, to a mantra of doom. Because sure, once is a promise, twice is a pledge but there’s this feeling around the third time you’re told ‘it’ll be alright’ that makes you suspect someone may be hiding something…
Was I nervous when we graded on Saturday?
Maybe just a bit.
Master Wayne did not have a cape. He did have a massive bag of weapons, however. First lesson of the day: it is easier being a fluffy-looking female armed to the teeth in London, than it is being a shaven-headed male. Simple truth.
Second lesson of the day: have intent. Have a plan. Because it’s not just about whether you know the moves, but whether you’re willing to execute them under pressure and with confidence. In a way, it’s unfortunate that I really like everyone in the club, throwing up a huge conflict of interest in that sure, I want to practice breaking your leg with a well-placed kick from the inside… and then again, I really don’t. However, I take comfort in this in that everyone else seems to feel the same way, and thus we all remain a) friends and b) safe.
Third lesson of the day: time flies when you’re having fun. That said, if the first two hours of practicing techniques and learning why you’d block here instead of there or what the point was of leading with this leg not that, flew by, then rest assured the five minute break we had in the middle was gone in thirty flipping seconds. It’d be nice to list the things we learnt, but to be honest, the syllabus is written in a cunning code and while I could tell you at great length what I appreciated about learning how to lock someone’s throat against a weapon, or how I hadn’t realised the utility of hips in taking someone to the floor from the inside, I’m not sure my words can do justice to that curious moment when you go from being upright with stick in hand, to examining someone else’s shoes from an intimate position. Let me therefore list the two big things that came away from it: energy, intent. Have loads of both. Which certainly makes a lot of sense to me, as trying to get a lock on Nacho is entirely different from trying to get a lock on Amy and frankly the only thing that you can personally guarantee will be the enthusiasm you have for the project.
My final thought from the day. Leaving aside the shaking relief at everyone having passed (hurrah!) and, let’s face it, the need for arnica, it’s this: was anyone else looking at the motto on the bottom our shiny new certificates? After three hours of blocking, striking, moving, closing to short range and retreating to long, did anyone else glance down to see their names on the proud piece of paper declaring their success, to notice the five, slightly incongruous words at the bottom of the prize? Sure, every club needs a motto, and I always assumed that ours would be something like ‘Big Sticks, Warm Hearts’ or perhaps ‘More Dodgy than a Jammy Dodger’ or words of that ilk, and yet…
Escrima Concepts: Its Good To Be Us.
Which I guess, thinking it through, it is…