Friday, December 4, 2009

Wow. I Am Seriously Tired.

I've got a couple hours breather now. The house is quiet. Soon enough, I'll have to corral the kids and drive into Launceston to collect Chrissie the Medical Student, but for the moment, a brief, welcome island of peace.

I spent the early part of the morning assembling stuff. A small but strongly built table. Two bricks. A concrete paver. Twenty pieces of 20mm pine board, of convenient size for martial arts demos. A couple of decent-looking rubber knives. A bunch of flyers with contact details for the club on them. Uniforms for me, and for the boys.

Once I got all that into the car, I stuffed the kids in afterwards. Then I drove halfway to Scottsdale, and picked up two more kids.

I parked the car near the church hall where we train, and we carried all our gear into Victoria St, about a block away, where the demo was supposed to happen. Then I grabbed a few more people, and we made the trip back and forth from the hall a few times to collect mats. Well within the appropriate time, we had a 4x4 metre square laid out. It wasn't too bad, even with the road surface underneath.

The Christmas Parade in Scottsdale is a big event, locally. It's very cheerful - a much-loved institution that involves pretty much everyone, in some way or another. As a result, there was quite a crowd to see us doing our thing. The kids were definitely nervous.

I launched into my spiel: "...ancient fighting art of the Samurai... unarmed combat... fierce fighters... greatest martial artists on the entire street..." and picked up a few laughs, and then we went for it.

The kids were great. I set it up so we went from the smallest to the largest, and everybody got the chance to show off a bit. We had plenty of pine boards for smashing, and they dodged knives and threw each other and wrestled and kicked and pushed and shoved... I was quite proud of them.

The first surprise I pulled was at one of my older students. Jeremy is sixteen. He knew he was going to smash a few boards, but he'd only practiced with three. It looked too easy, so I set him up with four.

And why not? I strongly believe that one of the most important things to learn in any martial art is the capacity to get out of your comfort zone, and push things farther than you expect. I knew perfectly well that Jeremy had the strength and technique to manage an extra board, and he did just fine: big, arcing hammer-fist, shattered pine-boards flying everywhere, round of applause.

Then I put Adam on the mat. Adam is at uni this year, so he doesn't train routinely, but I put him through brown belt last year, and I have firm expectations of anybody I push that far. I picked up a short stick, showed him I was about to belt him over the head with it, and listed three particularly spectacular throws. Then I stepped in and did my best to crack him on the scone.

He performed beautifully. I vaguely recall brief periods of whirling weightlessness with my feet somewhere high over my head, and then there was a lot of crashing into the mat, and then a rather painful armlock applied until the stick was removed from my grasp. Full marks, that man...

I finished the whole thing with a couple of breaks. There's this striking technique I lifted from a friend in k'ung fu many years ago -- it's a snapping palm heel strike, but it's delivered with the full force of the body behind it, and if you learn to do it right, you can rest your fingertips against somebody's collarbone and still smash ribs -- but your hand doesn't actually move more than five or ten centimetres. You really have to get your shit in gear to manage it, though. Delivering a powerful strike with a ten centimetre travel-distance is a bit of a nifty trick. I used it to smash my way through two of those pine boards.

Finally, I stuck a concrete paver (about 45mm -- call it just shy of 2") between two bricks on the table, and smashed it with a hammer-fist. Took me two tries, though -- I was off-centre the first time.

It's probably good that I didn't manage it first go. After the show, I discovered that a lot of people in the crowd figured I'd somehow weakened the pine boards for the kids, which is just silly. But they definitely believed in the damned paver.

They'd better, mind you! After I smashed the damned thing, a piece of it fell off the table, and landed on my toe, cutting it.

So -- we finished up. And then everything had to be packed up, and the mats all put away again. And then the boys had to go to the Cub Scout float to ride in the parade, and lunches had to be obtained... and finally, I collected the Mau-Mau from our neighbours and made it home.

I'm absolutely bloody shagged out.


  1. Aha, so sometimes the bricks do hit back !

  2. Actually, I don't really have a lot of worries about smashing slabs of concrete 'n' stuff. I read an article in Sci Am, years ago, by a bunch of multi-black-belt physicists. They crunched the numbers, and showed that IF you have the technique and the strength, the human hand is actually a lot tougher than your average slab of concrete or board or block of ice or whatever.

    So it's really not a big deal -- but you have to have the technique down just so, because if you come in at the wrong angle, or you chicken out and pull your punch or whatever, you can do yourself quite an injury.

    It's all in the name of fun, right?

  3. I am not surprised you're tired.

    Hope your couple of hours downtime helped, although given that you obviously spent part of it here documenting and entertaining, I hope that this would assist in the relaxation and is not yet another chore....

  4. I'm a writer. It's compulsive. Relaxation, work... it's hard to identify a difference, really.