Saturday, January 08, 2005

First day as a real student

I arrive at the Saturday "all belts" class just as the Ninja kids class is ending. I feel momentarily lost without my kids. Having kids gives you something to do while waiting so you're not standing around looking lost. . . but why am I standing around? I bow and enter the dojang and do what I usually do when I got to ballet class: stretch a bit, look around.

When I see Ms. Pryor, one of the black-belt instructors, I go up and introduce myself. "I'm Jane Nesmith. I've been bringing my kids here for a while, and now I've decided to be a student, too." She's thrilled, and takes me off to get a uniform.

Once suited up, I enter again, and begin class, at the back of the room with another white belt and an older man with no belt. Warm up is easy, kicks, stretches. However, I think I'd like some plies and tendus before we go to the grande battements. "Jane and Brian, don't push yourselves too much," calls Master Hughes.

Master Hughes takes us aside while the rest of the class goes through basic movements: kicks, blocks, punches. We get a step-by-step explanation of the "attention" (chum bee) stance and some basic information about kicks. As I flail my legs out , they eventually seem to swing into arcs that look about right, though more graceful (ballet) than powerful. We're on one foot a lot as we kick in slow motion; I'm glad I'm having a good balance day.

We lie on the floor to practice the position for side kicks with another black belt, whose name I forget. "You strike out with this part of your foot," he says, pointing to the three inches in front of his heel, along the outside. "It's like a knife edge. You can get through a stack of boards if you hit it right." Oh yeah. That board breaking thing. I try not to think about it.

Later, as we practice our roundhouse kicks against one of those little clapper things (great sound it makes when kicked! Thwap!), someone compliments me as I finish. "Great kick!" "Awesome for your first class." I'm pleased but it's a bit embarassing. I tell a couple people it's not really my first class.

There are all kinds of people in the class. There are children--Robbie's friend Cambridge is a black belt. Little girls, with pigtails. Teens--one black belt boy showed me a "good lower level kick" while sparring. Impressive for someone young to be teaching.

Some people seem to be into the martial part and the army-like part, yelling out their "yes, sirs." Master Hughes commands respect, but his smile and sense of humor make him approachable. He knows everyone's name. He tousels kids' hair. He shakes hands with us.

It's a long class--about an hour and a half, like ballet. I'm tired afterward, in a good way.

No comments: