I’m Paying Fifteen Quid To Get My Arse Kicked Every Week

(I wish there was a more eloquent title in there, but it’s eleven in the evening and I’ve been up for more than 24 hours at this point)

I go to UCL’s Karate Club, a place in which some lovely belt-wearing folks teach some equally lovely non-belt-wearing folks to punch each other in the face in as good-natured as way as can be hoped for; and let me fanboy over the club for a few words here because I came into this a total beginner and, while I wouldn’t consider myself close to competent at this stuff, all four weeks of it have, so far, been awesome.

That being said, I have embarked upon a worrying streak whereby I’m basically getting beaten up every week; I know this is to be expected at a martial arts club, but for two weeks I’ve had my arm bruised green because my blocking technique is about as safe and effective as trying to get crumbs out of a toaster while it’s in use by putting it in a sink full of water to float the crumbs out, and today I was winded and floored by a single punch to the chest, which was hardly my favourite thing in the world.

And considering the increasing intensity of the sessions as the weeks go by – and the fact that the instructor happens to be encouraging every sparring partner I have to be more aggressive with their punches and kicks, making me worry this entire organisation exists to turn me into a human piñata but with internal organs bursting out instead of sweets – there is a small part of me that worries what the bloody Hell could happen next. Will I lose a tooth because of more poor blocking technique, or break my own hand trying to punch someone much stronger than me? Or will all Hell break lose, and the gym’s inanimate fitness equipment come to life and start joining in the James-beating fun; will the floor mats attempt to eat me, or will the unusually large quantity of big blue fitness balls turn malevolent and start stampeding and bouncing over me, in scenes that closely resemble the death of Mufasa in The Lion King, except instead of the tragically sudden death of a monarch, it would look more like a piglet being cut to ribbons by a group of needlessly aggressively-driven lawnmowers.

But the important thing is that I don’t really mind this stuff, and I might even enjoy it. Not in a masochistic sense, but in the sense that I’m actually getting involved in a thing, and am feeling the repercussions of giving stuff a go; the same way you end up a gibbering wreck after writing a 4,000-word essay in a single sitting, or become a blistered, people-hating bastard after hauling yourself through a DofE expedition, I came here to get beaten up by people, and by God is it happening!

I’ve never been one for being good at doing things, but I like to think that I’m quite good at getting into things, which is a clever way of saying that I suck at most things I do, but I try really really hard in the process. And I didn’t expect to become a martial arts expert in the maximum of three years I’ll spend at this club, I just wanted to get fitter by being whacked in the face a few times. And that last one is certainly happening.

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