It’s not every day that I get to slap someone fifty times in the face. Or that I get slapped fifty times in the face myself. Welcome to my first “body conditioning” session in kung fu class.
Body conditioning is that part of the martial arts that, when described, evokes an almost universal reaction from non-martial artists: “And you pay to do that?!?” It’s the part where we toughen our bodies and get our minds used to the idea of getting hit.
The first time you get punched in the face or kicked in the gut or otherwise clocked good and hard, it’s a bit surprising. I remember the first time I took an elbow to my temple. The pain wasn’t bad, but I was disoriented. I kept shaking my head, trying to clear it. Everyone sounded distant, and I could see my opponent doing pushups but I couldn’t figure out why. (A typical punishment for lack of control at my old kempo school.) If I’d been in a cartoon, there would have been little stars or birds circling my head.
That’s the part you want to avoid in a fight. That “Huh?” moment that incapacitates you, even for a second, and gives your opponent all the time she needs in order to finish you off. If you can get your body used to being hit, and if you can get your brain to skip the “Holy crap, we’re under attack!” panic button, you’ll be a lot better off.
Tonight, we started by bashing our forearms against each other in a nice little three-strike pattern that proved incredibly painful. Then we kicked each other in the thighs, punched each other in the stomach, slapped each other in the face, and kicked each other in the legs again. After each exercise, we rubbed out the area that had been hit so that the blood wouldn’t get stuck and form bruises. (I suspect my cheeks will be especially rosy for the next few days anyway.) The future holds throat strikes, stomach kicks, chest pounding, and all sorts of exciting body conditioning fun.
So, what do you think? Did you say, “She pays to do that?!?” If you didn’t, maybe you should think about trying a martial art. :)