It’s December and normally we’d be preparing for a Christmas night out, voting for the Russell Trophy and reflecting on the previous 12 months of training. Thanks to COVID-19, training and socialising this year has been mostly virtual. It is nine months since we were last able to punch, kick and grapple together.
In the words of Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. I asked the BMAC team what they had missed the most.
Most of all, we miss being together and, in Diana’s words, just doing what we do. The people, the laughs, the common bond we have as a club. BMAC is a diverse group with a wide range of ages, careers and interests but we come together to practise martial arts. It is a special group that has seen the bonds of friendship strengthen and flourish.
It might be a cliché but so many of the responses included the word family which speaks to the atmosphere of the club. Iain K puts it best, noting that training and our members absorb all the bad and leave you with the good.
Like any family, over the years we have developed our own language, in-jokes (obviously we find them hilarious) and alternative kata names (sorry Hugh). There is always laughter during our practises, even when we’re fighting (and what family doesn’t fight?). We might punch each other but we’re actually a friendly bunch that likes our hugs. Many of us miss that warmth of hitting our friends and then hugging them afterwards.
We miss all the elements of BMAC practise; I miss learning John’s latest sneaky moves and it’s good to hear that his head is full of new ones. I’m excited to try them although between that and Rachel and Iain F missing Hugh suggesting that someone needs a rest, we should all remember the words of Admiral Ackbar…
Morag misses the focus and discipline of training and the subsequent progress. Like Morag, Iain F misses the focus, encouragement and desire for everyone to improve. Pulling into the carpark brings the anticipation of what Hugh has planned for us whilst the ensuing class allows us to forget the worries of the day for 90 minutes. Driving past Bearsden Academy brought home to Iain just how much he misses the club.
The stress relief is widely missed. When Emma has had a bad day, she will come to training and say to Hugh “Please can I just hit things?” and he will usually say yes, before offering up a pad or a person. Sometimes both. Similarly, Iain K appreciates the opportunity to blow off steam after a bad day. David C is another who misses the unique therapy of hitting pads whilst Eric misses both the meditative and physical sides of training. 2020 has challenged our collective physical and mental health and the absence of training means we miss the benefits the club brings to both.
Progression through the grades provides satisfaction but this is not just limited to our own development. You see genuine joy in the club when anyone obtains a higher grade or gets the hang of a new technique. Iain K misses the support and encouragement that is always freely volunteered whilst Hugh describes it as a great atmosphere of friendship and mutual encouragement. Angela notes how everyone is treated equally and how the team is always willing to pass on their knowledge. Morag perhaps captures it best as being unconditional support.
There is no “belt snobbery” and everybody’s opinion is valid. And obviously everybody is fair game to be wound up, which has been known to happen. Occasionally.
Without our training, Emma misses that feeling of being strong and fit. Or as Iain K puts it, he misses fitting into his 36-inch waist trousers. When I’m not working on a sofa groove watching Netflix, I have been running a lot of miles. However running fitness and martial arts fitness are entirely different and I fully expect to be huffing and puffing when we return.
Martin H joined us in January so only experienced a handful of club sessions before we shut down. He’s enjoyed it so far, observing that the club is very welcoming to a newbie, particularly with the one-to-one training from different black belts. We look forward to seeing Martin in his first grading sometime soon.
So it turns out Joni Mitchell was right but fortunately what we have isn’t gone, it’s only on hiatus. The recent good news about vaccines is very encouraging. Could we get back to normal in 2021? What will it be like to train again?
After a year without taking bumps, we might be bruised like a punnet of peaches after the first session or two. The breakfall kata is going to hurt. Emma isn’t looking forward to the day after training when she can’t move.
Fraser and Jamie suggested that lockdown has left them more suited to sumo than karate. We just hope they’re joking and won’t turn up to training in traditional sumo garb.
With our timing being rusty, Rachel anticipates getting punched in the face more than the already disproportionally high number of times this happened before. So, we might need to take things slowly at first. Even then, Michael fully expects to walk into a fist within the first few seconds. The motto for these first few sessions is “more control, please”.
We should see some interesting kata interpretations. I suspect that, without anyone correcting me, I have blended several katas together, but I look forward to leading the group for Kwanku-tekki-hammer-den-dai.
But these are minor inconveniences, fleeting challenges that will be overcome as our fitness and conditioning return.
We are very much looking forward to reuniting the BMAC family and to training together, sharing the laugher and having fun. If our ever so slightly dysfunctional martial arts family appeals to you, come along and join us. You will be welcome.
After a year away from full training, we can’t wait to get back. Just a little more patience is required until normality returns and then we’ll be back in action. Bring it on!
A big thank you to all the BMAC family for contributing to this post.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.