Monday, 27 January 2014

Fat Woman and the dangerous sticks

Fat Woman is a dangerous individual. This has nothing to do with Fat Woman owning a shotgun. Nor does it have anything to do with Fat Woman's rapier sharp wit, gift for sarcasm and intolerance of injustice. Fat Woman is very good at putting people down with the pithiest and most cutting sentences, but she is not proud of this. Okay, Fat Woman is a little proud of this but of her ability not the fact that she has in the past used it. These days Fat Woman does not like to do battle with those who are unarmed.

Fat Woman is referring to her study of the Philippine martial art Escrima. Escrima is basically fighting with sticks and, unlike some more gentlemanly sports, it is about fighting to win. Winning means putting your opponent in a position where they can no longer hurt you. This of course means that if you are attacked you counter-attack in such a way as to disable your attacker. Fat Woman appreciates this logic as she has applied it in the past to non-physical encounters. Fat Woman is not a huge fan of passive-resistance in her own life, considering it only effective if you have an attacker with moral responsibility and onlookers who share that moral responsibility and have influence over your attacker. Passive resistance might have worked for Ghandi but when it comes to dealing with individuals rather than governments Fat Woman prefers standing up for herself.

Fat Woman has been studying Escrima for a year or so. Fat Woman spent a year working on Tai Chi Chuan with a nice teacher called Cal. Cal was extremely sweet to Fat Woman when she was just starting her fitness journey and taught her lots about balance and movement to help prevent her Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and back problems reoccurring. Fat Woman duly learnt the first part of a hugely long string of movements (the form), to be performed on both the left and the right hand sides i,e in a mirror image of each other, but when her attention started to wander Cal shook things up a bit by handing her a stick and letting her hit things. Fat Woman likes hitting things and felt that having a bit of bamboo (or sometimes hickory) was rather like waving a light sabre. When Fat Woman and Cal clashed sticks rhythmically and at high speed Fat Woman felt like she was in a medieval sword fight. Cal actually has a large collection of swords including an enormous broadsword that Fat Woman had to admit was too heavy to be any fun for her to use. Fat Woman has seen Cal perform with a flaming sword and it was very impressive.

Fat Woman is not allowed a sword let alone a flaming sword but is allowed a stick. Fat Woman graduated from the padded sticks to the normal bamboo sticks and then on to hickory sticks, which are harder and denser. Learning to hold a stick was far more complicated than Fat Woman had expected. Cal started by teaching Fat Woman that she needed to hold her stick close enough to the end so her opponent couldn't grab the end of her stick and twist it far enough around to make her yell. Fat Woman had never had such a practical lesson. Fat Woman also learnt that what you do with your thumb when holding a stick is important; Cal can hit a sticking up thumb from quite far away. Fat Woman also learnt that you make your stick scarier by holding it up; she has a tendency to rest her stick over her shoulder like a member of the seven dwarves would carry an axe, which is more comedic than threatening.

Fat Woman has progressed to the stage of hitting her opponent with a stick, thumping with her opposite hand and hitting with a stick again. Sometimes it's a thump, sometimes it's a palm at a vital point such as the chin, sometimes Fat Woman has two sticks. This all happens fairly fast now thanks to much practising of drills and even some pad work. Cal spent a long time trying to break down Fat Woman's resistance to hitting people, even going to far as to put on a big wire helmet and make Fat Woman hit him around the head for twenty minutes.

Fat Woman was having trouble getting the economy of movement that Cal was hoping for. Fat Woman is inclined to be flamboyant with her sticks as she has seen far more movie depictions of fighting with sticks than she has actual fights where sticks are used. Cal handed Fat Woman two short metal bars to use instead. Fat Woman was unimpressed by the weights because Personal Trainer often hands her weights that are much heavier.

Fat Woman spent the rest of the lesson swinging 2.5 kilo weights instead of her usual light whippy bamboo stick in order that she could feel the distribution and direction of force that the weights were taking. Fat Woman found that working with weights increased her heart rate and her work out was the most punishing she had had in months.

Fat Woman is still feeling the distribution and direction of force that the weights were taking several days later.

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