With the start of our latest session at Bearsden Academy, I have now been a member of Bearsden Martial Arts Club for 10 years.
10 years. Wow. Where did that time go?
Looking back at 2007, I had thought about starting a martial art for some time. Other than a very brief flirtation with Judo when I was in primary school, I had not done anything like this before. Martial arts had an appeal, to help with both fitness as well as the obvious self-defence element. I also hoped to find a more sociable physical activity outside of the more solitary trips to the gym and running.
Prior to finding BMAC, I tried a taster session of Tai Chi but, whilst very relaxing, it didn’t really hit the mark. I was looking for something a bit more energetic. I would never consider myself “hard” or “tough” but I wanted something a bit more physical.
Shortly afterwards I moved to Bearsden and, as luck would have it, I saw an advert in the local paper for BMAC, who trained in Bearsden Academy. Not even the current one but the old one on Morven Road that is now occupied by the houses of Academy Grove. Given that it was two streets away from my house, there was no excuse about it being too far away and, after procrastinating for a while as is often my way, I plucked up the courage to phone the number.
I spoke to Jackie who suggested I come along and try it so when the Tuesday rolled around, I walked to the school, feeling nervous but with no idea of what to expect. Would the class be full of people missing teeth and sporting facial tattoos, who would torture this timid newcomer and send him on his way?
Fortunately, not. I met Hugh, Eric and John all hugely talented martial artists and then, as now, the main instructors of the club. Through the next 90 minutes they introduced me to Shoto Budo with what I now recognise as a typical practice. I remember some pads with John and Eric introducing me to this weird thing called “first kata”. I really enjoyed the session and on leaving, told Hugh I’d be back next Tuesday.
As would become a common occurrence where something would get in the way I wasn’t able to train on the Tuesday. I wonder if Hugh thought I was just one of many people who come along, try a few nights and then disappear never to be seen again. Fortunately, BMAC also trains on a Wednesday so I was able to go the following night and got to see the breakfall kata for the first time. That looked hard. 10 years later and I can confirm that it is as hard as it looks.
Very quickly I was training two nights a week. I genuinely was hooked. After a month or so, another monumental moment – I got my first gi. I think Blitz makes these out of cardboard and especially huge so that everyone looks ridiculous when they first wear one. Everyone goes through this but of course, a couple of washes later and the gi shrinks to a more normal size. Putting on the gi made me feel part of the club (where else has white pyjamas as a uniform?) and made me think this might be for me.
Looking back with 2017 eyes, it clearly has been for me. There have been interruptions along the way due to injuries (not all from martial arts training!), work and life in general so maybe I’ve actually been training for six or seven years. Regardless of that time frame, it has been a hugely enjoyable experience. I have learned a lot of skills and how to do things I never thought I’d be able to do and had a blast doing it.
The last year or so since getting my black belt has been so personally rewarding, from the improvements in my own fitness and ability to running the Women’s Self-defence Class and coaching newcomers to the club. Looking back and remembering how nervous I was when I started, I try to put newcomers at ease and introduce them to the skills we practise, just as so many people did with me back in 2007.
It was purely chance that lead me to this club – seeing the ad, the location being so close to home, but having found it I can’t imagine training with anyone else. A huge thank you goes to Hugh and all the members of BMAC for their friendship, training and encouragement over the last decade.
Here’s to the next 10 years!
The BMAC blog began in 2013 to chart one member's journey to black belt.