Thursday, May 22, 2008

Impaired Vision Quest

A few weeks back I was chatting with Flunky online and he asked me if I had gotten back into martial arts yet. I told him I hadn't, but had been considering checking out the judo program that's just around the corner from our place. By the end of our conversation, I had decided two things:

  1. I was going to start taking judo classes as soon as possible
  2. I was going to do my darndest to keep it a secret from The Lovable PigPen for as long as possible in hopes of maybe catching him off guard during one of our semi-regular wrestling matches.
I of course had to fill in a handful of people on the plan, lest my head explode from the burden of trying to keep it inside; seriously, if someone tells me something in confidence and asks me to keep it to myself, I will take it to my grave, but if it's a secret about myself, I can't help spilling the beans -- take my experience trying to keep a lid on my writing of In a Cabin as proof of that. Keeping the secret from PigPen became harder and harder as I started actually taking classes, if for no other reason than out of all of my friends, the one I most wanted to talk to about everything I was learning was the one person I was trying to keep it all from. By my third class I had lost count of how many times I had almost related some judo anecdote to him; you'd be amazed how many things in my day-to-day life seemed to inspire me to wax poetic on judo class.

But I somehow still managed to keep my mouth shut around him, although the pressure made me itchy to pick a fight with him so I could try to use one of the moves I'd learned to take him down. I planned and visualized exactly how I was going to set up and execute the move, and began to actually let myself believe that I could pull this off. There were a couple of stumbling blocks, though. The first was that due to allergy problems, tons of overtime at work, and the like, I found it impossible to goad PigPen into any sort of sparring at all for over a week; quite frustrating. But not nearly as frustrating as the second stumbling block; when I finally did manage to pick a fight with PigPen, he was just too damned good for my meager skills to accomplish much of anything. After 13 years of wrestling, even when he isn't going all out trying to kick my butt, his natural defensive stance and instincts served to keep me from getting him off balance enough to complete any of my moves.

This, of course, frustrated me greatly.

That frustration eventually gave way to amusement as PigPen noticed the frustration and started trying to talk me out of it, complementing me on how well I was doing; when a leg sweep from the guard position I attempted almost worked and PigPen began telling me very enthusiastically that that was exactly what I needed to do, good job, I was finally starting to get it, etc., well, it was all too much for me, and I finally confessed my failed plan.

Thankfully, he did not rub my face in my inability to carry out my plan to finally be able to use the phrase on him that he uses on my daily -- "I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness" -- but rather told me that he could tell a definite improvement in my ground skills, and was very encouraging about me continuing on with the classes.

Gee, maybe he's not the personification of ultimate evil after all . . .

Seriously, though, when I first told Li'l Random about my super-sneaky plan, his immediate question was "So are you doing this to learn judo, or so you can beat PigPen?" I have to admit, being able to feel like I can give PigPen more of a run for his money was a big motivator, and if I could have succeeded in my initial super-sneaky plan and taken PigPen down, let alone submitted him, I could have died a happy man right then and there. But honestly, trying to get into judo or jiu-jitsu or the like has been something I've thought about off and on for years and years -- I was *this* close to taking a place up on its offer of two free lessons back in Stillwater -- but just never was able to work up the nerve to do anything about it. But now, thanks to PigPen semi-regularly kicking my butt all over the living room, I finally possessed enough self-confidence to go and sign up for the class even without him or Squiggly there to act as a safety-net of familiar faces like in our karate class.

Now, you might be asking "how does getting your butt kicked regularly build confidence?" That does seem a bit counterintuitive and contradictory, doesn't it? But the biggest thing that kept me from pursuing a martial arts class over the years is the deep-seated fear of making a fool of myself, of not being able to keep up, not being able to learn, etc. And while my wrestling matches with PigPen do occasionally veer into the "making a fool of myself" realm, the fact of the matter is that thanks to his coaching I've noticed a distinct improvement in my skills; sure, I'm nowhere near being proficient, but knowing that just getting the haphazard instruction from PigPen during our random sessions has reaped benefits has made me hungry to see just how much more I can learn with a regular, structured class. And if I can one day use what I learn in the class to turn the tables on the person responsible for giving me the self-confidence to take the class, well, I think that's a symmetry that PigPen would appreciate.