February 20, 2017
As mentioned in my previous blog, tonight was the scheduled night for weapons class. I contemplated participation in the weapons class all day, wavering back and forth between participating and just asking to observe the class. Since I am a beginner and informed that the class was normally for advanced students, my mind raced with images of black belts spinning weapons around. I will admit that the thought of being hit by those weapons within my imagined scenario did scare me. This class just could be over my head.
Using sticks as a weapon interests me for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that it would be so natural to be able to use my walking stick as a defensive weapon, especially since predators seem to prey upon those who appear to be weak. The other reason is that I likened the use of a stick to my young days of baton twirling. A treasured picture in my living room is me, as a toddler, sitting with a baton in my lap, and I actually teethed on a baton since I grew up in a dance studio and my mother taught baton twirling. This note has inspired me to find some old pictures which I am posting below:
As I held the stick in my hands, it felt wonderful. My baton twirling background could be huge reason that holding the stick in martial arts felt so good. It brought back the feel of a baton in my hands as well as some suppressed memories.
I talked with Master Jose A. Delgado, the instructor and Master Jose I. Delgado’s son, before class. He noticed that I put on some foot pads that covered my toes and just wanted to make sure that I didn’t have any injuries. I asked him if it would be okay to wear the foot covering which covered my toes, and he said it would be fine. I have hit the top of my toes twice in class since beginning this journey, and after having bruised – if not fractured – toes after the incidents, I had ordered these protectors to avoid this happening in the future. One time I had the hit my toes against the base of the kicking bag during my first few lesson after having not kicked high enough. The other time I had hit a student’s leg when jumping across her while rolling on the floor in class. I hope I have learned my lesson from these incidents, and hopefully these sponge foot protectors will help prevent future injury. I do look somewhat odd wearing them in class with other students wearing shin guards which protect the top of their feet and shins instead of the top of their feet and toes. At this time, I am not as worried about hitting my shins as my toes. Watching the current class working with wood guns and knives, I wondered if I had come at the wrong time, but when I checked with Master A. Delgado, he reassured me that I would be attending at seven o’clock.
Relieved, I saw that the room was not full of black belts. There was only a couple of other students – one a blue belt and one a green belt. Not only did the students not look intimidating, but also I had worked with both students previously in my Tuesday and Thursday classes. Both have generously helped me in earlier classes as was the case tonight as well.
We began with the Chong Ji form but holding our weapons. The green belt student had chosen a bo staff to work with, and the blue belt student had chosen tonfas. I had chosen a stick, or escrima. Trying to do Chong Ji while holding a weapon was awkward and no easy task as I had never tried this, and I was given no instructions as to how I was to hold the weapon with each step. Master A. Delgado just wanted to see me instinctively try holding it without instruction before teaching me to hold it in a certain way. Just holding the escrima in any way and doing the Chong Ji form was a mental step forward for me. It was right about on par with trying to Chong Ji with my eyes closed.
From there we were assigned partners to work on blocks and strikes. Master A. Delgado first talked about the grip of the escrima being three fingers from the end. Three fingers are significant as the number three has spiritual ties with many cultures. Then I learned how to hold the escrima against my forearm, from my hand to elbow. I needed to let it press tight against my forearm to avoid injury. The escrima was held this way for the basic blocks except for the lower block when I needed to grip it again at the end leaving a space of three fingers.
After taking turns working on hits and blocks, we began working on following through with a one-step move after the hit or block. I learned that one of the easier one step moves for me to use would be to kick to the knee of the aggressor. From there we worked on a two-step follow up move where I felt the most comfortable offering a kick to the knee and thin a spin and attack from the back or attack to the ribs depending upon which move I was dealing with at the time. Interestingly, my critique from Master A. Delgado was to relax and quit overthinking which echoed what his father has been telling me in my usual Taekwondo class on Tuesday and Thursday.
As the class began coming to an end, Master A. Delgado told me that this is the normal time for students to individually perform their skills as a flowing movement for, if I remember correctly, forty-five seconds. I didn’t feel that I was quite ready for such as bold move, so I said that I would prefer to spectate this time and was granted an exception for this first class. Awed, I watched as the other students smoothly performed unscripted moves with confidence.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed weapons class with Master A. Delgado, and I look forward to next Monday’s class. I no longer have the fear of the unknown. It is so much the same way that we tend to build fears within life in general. Once the unknown has been revealed, we are better able to face the fear and conquer it. I believe this is the main reason to learn martial arts. Martial arts teaches how to face unknown scenarios in advance and develop muscle memory and relaxed counter moves to keep us from freezing when faced with those who stupidly choose to do us harm or even when faced with other crisis situations. We learn to take a deep breath, access our resources, plan, and make good decisions in response.