Every week when I have combat class with Krav Maga Midlands I have to struggle with a lot of emotions. It’s not melodramatic to say that I feel like a child again. I’ve read some stuff about Emotional Memory and how experiences as a kid will imprint themselves on the most instinct-protective parts of the brain, as a means of keeping you safe.
This would be fine if it was stuff like touching flames with your fingers or crossing the road without looking. When it becomes “getting hit” or “getting kicked” or even “being glared at sternly before the other two happen” then it’s a bit of a pisser. No, in fact it’s a lot of a pisser. Especially if it hangs around like a fart in a wetsuit, well into adulthood.
After being used as a punchbag for a lot of Secondary school I have had a multitude of things to try and help get over the bad memories. I’ve meditated, I’ve done the Landmark Forum**, I’ve written down the names of those who bullied me and then burnt it, I’ve visualised them saying sorry, I’ve even confronted one or two people over their behaviour***.
Bottom line is…nothing has so far shifted my amygdala oblongata to get a grip and stop shaking with fear every time the gum shield goes in and the words “ready? FIGHT!” are uttered from 8.30 to 9.30pm every Thursday.
I realised after I passed Practitioner 3 last October that I’d have to get a grip on this and attend Combat class regularly if I wanted to go any higher. I was all up for it the first time after Christmas and actually quite enjoyed it. But at some point when I was asleep Anxiety and Paranoia met up with The Inner Child and had a quiet word.
The best way to compare this is like being about to step on stage in front of your parents for the Xmas Nativity play**** at Primary school. You know even at age 7 that nothing bad will happen but you are so nervous of walking out in mum’s dressing gown with a tea towel wrapped round your head to say your lines that you are practically reduced to jelly.
Excusable in a young child.
Kind of sad in a grown man.
When the kicks and punches fly something within me reverts back to being a kid getting chased by thugs at school. I KNOW the guys I’m sparring with are mates. I KNOW that we are padded up and wearing about as much body armour as a bomb disposal expert and I KNOW that the instructor is supervising. But there is something deep down that imposes masks upon my fellow practitioners and makes them look scary and spiteful, no matter how much I tell myself otherwise.
My father cured his fear of spiders by making himself touch the biggest motherfucking spider he could find (as I recall, he said it was half the size of his hand). That cured his arachnophobia completely, but is about as dramatic as you can possibly get re: shock therapy.
Determined to overcome my gripes and annoying panic attacks around a VERY fundamental obstacle to me progressing in Krav I found inspiration last week from an unexpected source.
A guy who’s only been in the club a couple of months (I’ve been in nearly 2 years) was itching to try the Combat classes (normally you wait 3 months after joining the club to try them out) and was over the moon when he finally got to go.
Last week I had to drop my mate off home before I could join in and after clearing it with the instructor I came back 10 minutes into the session to see everyone kitted up and sparring. I felt uneasy and it had in fact taken some effort of willpower to not go home and later lie and say I’d had car trouble. As I looked at everyone I felt like Katniss Everdeen on the pedestal at the beginning of the 74th and 75th Hunger Games*****.
I got my gear on and asked two guys if I could join them. As I walked up I glanced over to see the new bloke was partnered with the highest qualified fighter in the room (Practitioner Level 5) who also happens to be 6 feet 11 inches tall.
I paid no further thought to this until I got home and on Facebook the guy had posted a status saying how he’d “got the shit kicked out of me” and it was “awesome!” I made a flippant remark about fighting Treebeard and he replied that he was observing the other guy’s fighting techniques while getting pounded and that he was looking forward to partnering the same dude next week. He finished by saying that the best way to learn is by fighting bigger, more experienced fighters.
This guy’s utter glee at being able to join in and his totally fearless and pragmatic approach to improving his fighting, was the polar opposite of how I felt when attending. What to me was a chore, was to him a fun time and an opportunity to learn.
It’s possible to enjoy anything.
You just have to want to.
** Also the Advanced Landmark, Landmark Self Expression & Leadership, Sex & Intimacy, Beyond Fitness and Money seminars.
*** Usually disappointing as they invariably don’t remember anything they did.
**** Apparently this annual treat was as excruciating to watch as I later imagined, according to both my parents years later.
***** Countdown to zero where the bomb under the 24 pedestals are deactivated and everyone then has to fight to the death.