Wednesday, October 12, 2005

They call me the Couch Ninja

Last night I got my arse kicked.

Based on a severe lack of any exercise in my life, combined with the fact that the only friends I have in this city are sports nuts, I succumbed and joined MissC and the Frenchman in the noble Japanese art of Aikido.

I was already off to a bad start in my old blue tracksuit pants and baggy grey t-shirt. Feeling shy in my inappropiate clothing, I slid out of my thongs backwards onto the tatami and bowed in the same general direction as everyone else. I´m not entirely sure what it was I was bowing at – the instructor, the small indiscernible picture on the wall, the second door which led to a small broom cupboard or perhaps the stage where school children perform their end of year concerts in this community hall. Sticking out like an over-coloured bad thumb I snuck to the end of the row, knelt with the rest, bowed when they did and mumbled under my breath anything that sounded vaguely like the European accented Japanese phrases they were saying.

The last time I experienced anything like this was my Grandmother dragging me along to Church with her when I was 14. Fingers like steel were clamped around my wrist as she jerked me up and down with her at seemingly random places during the service. Kneeling, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, sitting, kneeling, standing, sitti…no, standing again. An endless progression of religious choreography spiced with musical interludes and speaking in tongues. Bollywood, eat your heart out.

But I digress.

The warm up already proved my wardrobe mistake. Thick white pajamas may not be the talk of this years Milan and Paris catwalks, but their practicality on an Aikido tatami cannot be denied. Trying to do shoulder rolls without looking like a turtle stuck on its back was difficult enough. Combined with the failing elastic on my tracksuit pants it was a recipe for disaster. Never before has so much plumbers crack been seen in polite martial arts society.

Then, the training which involved an amazing amount of time spent with your face pressed to the ground staring at the hairy feet of the pair practicing next to you. Or if you were them, at my baggy trousers, who´s unstoppable journey southwards had by this time convinced my underwear to come along for the ride.

Wrists were grabbed, elbows and shoulders twisted, bodies tossed across the floor. As part of some as-yet-not-understood nuance to the technique, resounding slaps were made with arms and hands in particular moments. Was it a sign of respect for the person´s skill in throwing you? A mark of your failure in being thrown? Used only for particular moves or at any time? Or was it just the childish delight one gets from making loud noises, especially in a situation where you are NOT allowed to talk? I´m not sure.

By the end of the 90 minutes my wrists were red from the continuous Chinese burns. My knees chaffed raw by crawling across the mat, the already damaged cartilage behind my kneecaps were pounding with pain from landing heavily time and time again. My shoulders ached, my legs were shaking. I was out of breath, sweating and baring large amounts of cheek to the world. Today I feel every muscle and some things I sure aren´t muscle but can´t put a name too as I´ve never used them before. Getting up and down from my chair is difficult and I´m waddling in a strangely pregnant woman like manner.

I can´t wait for next week.

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