Monday, 8 June 2009

Catching My Breadth

After sitting on my last post for a while, I started thinking that perhaps I've got some more crap to let go, in my life. That rotten ex took more than just a ring from me...but is facing him going to solve the problem? Highly doubtful he'll give it back. So why put myself through the ringer all over again? I have more important things to worry about. Like testing. And surviving Si-Fu's classes.

I missed the last round of exams. Since I'm only able to make it to classes once every other week, and the Saturday classes are oriented toward chi-sao, I've been missing out on the Basic Training and am really feeling the lack. I didn't feel ready at all--I would have made a complete ass of myself in front of the whole Academy. Hell, the five year-olds in the kids' classes know the Wing Chun pledge better than I do. No, really. Those little guys rock. But not me. Not right now, anyway.

My experience in Si-Fu's class two weekends ago really rammed it home.

You see, the only class that Si-Fu teaches on weekends is the black sash chi-sao class. He often includes sets of basic movements, as well, but mostly it's partner drills (such as bon-sao/lap-sao combinations like these, demonstrated here by the pros). But this class is also geared toward students who can already demonstrate the difference between a defensive and an offensive pak-sao (sorry, couldn't find a good video for these). Honestly, do you know how long it took me to get the difference straight? I'm still not even sure I have it down solidly. I know that was the one thing I blew mightily on my first test.

I haven't been able to make it to the Friday night Basic Training classes in several months because I've been watching a soon-to-be-divorced friend's kids after school. Which of course makes it tough to get to L.A. in time for class at 6 p.m. It feels like this gap in my training is threatening to swallow me.

Immediately after my black sash class on Saturdays is the gold sash course (the gold sash being the highest level you can attain in this particular program). After the break between classes, Si-Fu has kindly allowed me to sit at the edge of the mat and jot down notes from the earlier class, any useful information shared by my Si-Hings (senior students), and the lovely golden nuggets of wisdom Si-Fu happens to let drop. I'd been drawing diagrams, scribbling quotes, and making mental connections between the art and life-in-general. I'm not just cooling down, I'm processing what I've just learned.

In other words: I'm catching my breadth so I don't end up out of my depth.

Two weeks ago, the black sash class ran over time and, effectively, blended into the gold sash class. During the water break, I spoke to Si-Fu for a few minutes and he asked me if I'd be staying for the rest. I was surprised, because I'm not officially a gold sash student. It's one thing to observe the class. It's another entirely to be out on the floor. I told him I'd like to continue to stay and take notes, if he'd let me. "The best seat in the house is on the mat," he replied. Say no, at that point? I think not.

So, I bowed back onto the mat. And immediately turned into a drooling infant. At least as far as the other students were concerned, I'm sure. I was struggling just to put the combinations together in the right order, while the rest of them were moving into the realm of thinking creatively, fluidly pushing past the set movements and testing each other for openings. All of them were kind and, for the most part, patient. But there were a few annoyed sighs and some barely-disguised frustration at being stuck with a total neophyte. Honestly, I can't say I blamed them. They paid full pop to learn, not to teach. But I suppose there was a lesson there for both of us.

This weekend, Si-Fu wasn't there, so the next most senior instructor ran the class. My husband and kids were in town with me, so I wasn't able to stay the extra hour. Part of me was glad--I didn't want to be on the mat, this time. The class is amazing, but a little scary for someone who grew up in a family where looking like a fool was right up there with the worst of social sins. I'm not sure I'm ready to join the ranks of the more serious students. Not because I don't want to. But because my training hasn't gotten me far enough, yet.

Summer officially begins on Thursday for the kids. And you can bet I'm going to make the most of it. Momma's got a ticket to ride, babies. I'll be flying into L.A. for the Basic Training class once again, come hell or high water. It's time to get caught up, kiddies.

Oh, and one other thing...
One of the gold sash students from the L.A. Academy recently moved up to the Bay Area. I had hoped to meet with him to train and now he's going to be teaching a beginner's Wing Chun class at the Milbrae Community Center. The class runs six successive Monday nights in July and August. If anyone's interested, please leave a note in the comments section below, and I'll post the details here. It's only $40 and totally worth a try. I think my husband is even going to give it a go. (Crossing my fingers--I need a work-out partner!) I'll be there for sure.

Hope to see you on the mat!