Friday, 29 March 2013

Reality Bytes

As I get ever older, certain things that had a limpet-esque grip on my personality are finally slewing off into the ether.

This is most apparent with the facades that I erected a long time ago to protect myself against hurt, harm or mere embarrassment.

From the 1000 Yard Stare to the Aloof Maverick stuff, I created a plethora of survival mechanisms in order to get through life.

I’ve been told many times throughout the decades that I am “over sensitive”. This is mainly true, but then again the interpretation could simply be that I care deeply about shit that happens to me. Right or wrong, it’s how I am. Problems arose when I overanalysed everything and anything.

Examples mainly stem from TV and cinema. In the 1950s they called television “the idiots’ lantern”. This may have been appropriate back then but it unfortunately mutated as the years sped by. Now TV is a part of us, as much as watches to tell the time or microwaves. Not necessities but things we rely on without second thought. Back in the day people would marry for security and a safe future. Not only for luuurrve. With the advent of cinema and TV, we are all inundated with images of love conquering all, when in reality it never fucking does.

TV and film also meant that people’s expectations of reality were way too high. Ever remember the trauma as a teenage boy of hearing a pretty teenage girl/ woman fart (and God forbid it was a smelly one)? Ew! Women in films didn’t do THAT!!!

Similarly from Douglas Fairbanks Sr, to Johnny Depp the symmetrically-faced millionaire actors that strutted across the screen gave women unrealistic expectations of what a guy could be like in real life. Yes, security is a must…but can’t you occasionally come crashing through the window and whisk me away to a desert island?

It’s my personal belief that movies and TV stopped gay rights coming to the fore a long time ago (while ironically also helping it as time went on). Handsome heroes who consensually bum each other are now found in the wonderfully violent, sweary, and sexually explicit TV show SPARTACUS. Back in the day though, heroes would break off from saving the world in order to give the pretty female sidekick a quick bonk. Result= We should all be pre-occupied with sex and heterosexual to boot. The movie A FEW GOOD MEN was considered radical 20 years ago as it had Tom Cruise and Demi Moore in it…and they DIDN’T shag or even flirt with each other (and it wasn’t implied that they liked snails instead of oysters).

Being COMPLETEY unable to fight as a kid (and I mean on a subconscious level, ingrained in me at age 4) I found escape in the worlds of heroes and badasses. As I got older the beliefs remained but warped and shifted to become part of me. The amount of times I got drunk and watched “the puppy scene” from Christian Bale’s movie Equilibrium. Or the Paris apartment, “biro vs. knife” fight in The Bourne Identity. Or the opening car chase from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.

Ahhhh, horrid days. But back to the point.

Now I’ve been doing Krav Maga with the club Krav Maga Midlands for 13 months. I thoroughly enjoy it, love the classes and have a top notch instructor in Bartosz, and a great bunch of guys to train with.

Problem was…it took me a VERY long time to actually enjoy it.

When I started it was ok. I kind of liked it but was frightened at a very basic level of getting hurt. I wouldn’t back off but I never envisaged a time when I’d be any good at it. I dreamed of attaining level Expert 5 (the highest grade before the Master ranks which are held by only a handful of people IN THE WORLD right now) but put my attendance down as a way of showing to the world that I wasn’t going to be ground down and could still stand up for myself.

Then slowly, things began to fit together. There was no epiphanous moment or “polish on, polish off” ass whupping of a bigger opponent. It just gradually locked into place like a Rubik’s cube clicking into alignment.

We do a drill in Combat classes called Zombies. This is where one guy has to stand in the middle of the room and the others come at him all at once. They don’t go full on, as you couldn’t survive that for longer than a few seconds, but they are relentless like actual zombies. They slowly punch, kick, hit you with strike pads, try and throttle you and you have to keep them away from you. Sometimes you can be facing up to 10 or more guys.

Last night we did this and I was first up, loved it and despite being knackered at the end was smiling and sorry when the class ended. A few months ago, the very FIRST time I did this, I was physically shaking with fear just afterwards and when I got home cried for a few seconds once I made it through the front door. I wasn’t even going to stay for the Combat class but go home after the Beginners class finished. I had decided to stay just to prove to myself that despite my fear, I would spit in the face of my own phobias.

Now, I find little changes in other areas of my life as a direct result of this training. Some are amusing (when walking up town today to go shopping, I did the “open/ close” sidestep to avoid bumping into a group of people…but didn’t know until after, that I’d done it). Others are more liberating such as not automatically assuming that everyone I meet is a threat of some kind. It’s also negated my need to prove myself at every given turn in some way. There was a time when I would have taken a beating rather than cross the street to avoid someone who wanted to hurt me. Now I would probably cross the street, but know that I had a better chance of defending myself if things went tits up.

Imi Lichtenfeld invented Krav Maga. One of his expressions was that learning Krav was essential “so that one may walk in peace”. True, but ultimately once you know that reality can be faced, you don’t have to run to the shores of fantasy every time you feel threatened.

I’d change that quote to “so that one may LIVE in peace." 

However I still get a kick out of watching stuff like this:

I guess some things will always remain.


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