I have passed an exam. Well, technically I’ve passed three, but two of them happened on the same day, at the same time without my really noticing, and only the third was announced beforehand with dire warnings of ‘check your syllabus or suffer’.
I am now, therefore, after many bruises and a few knocks, at level 3 of escrima.
‘You mean there’s no belts?’ squeaked one of my friends indignantly. ‘How do you know how good you are?’
There are, alas, no belts. I don’t know why I say alas – I flipping hate belts. One more thing to carry around after a busy day. My escrima uniform is a t-shirt and a range of slightly paint-stained tracksuit bottoms. The t-shirt is black and carries not particularly glaring logos. When I suggested that perhaps walking around in black with a sign on your back declaring ‘urban escrima’ might give people the wrong idea, and that pink was far more approachable, no one seemed to really appreciate the idea; which is a shame as I personally feel the odd sequin and a splash of purple could be really confusing for any would-be attacker discovering your fist up their nose. Anyhow…
It seems very fitting for the style of martial art I’m learning that there aren’t any belts, and exams happen in the hurly-burly of an average class with a cry of ‘yeah, you’re alright, but THIS would be better….’ At higher levels you start being called exciting titles like ‘Technician’ which, as a theatre technician, just confuses me. However, at lower levels, you simply work your way up through the levels, and if someone asks, I can now say… I’m level three. I can hit you with both this hand and that hand. I have a vague concept of the idea that there might be such things as control techniques but if in doubt, my first move is still going to be to break something and then think about the mechanics of the body. I can move this way, and then move that way and still, with any luck, keep hitting while doing so. I’m beginning to learn how to do scary things with biros. I am cautiously optimistic that, should I ever find myself in a fight, I can at least analyse the means of my own defeat in a really well-informed manner, and were I permitted to wear pink, and thus lull my opponent into a false sense of fluffy security, I could possibly even live to fight another day… oh yeah….
And, to my surprise, I love it. There’s something incredibly therapeutic about spending a couple of evenings a week sparring, learning how to fight, learning how to read the things other people do as they fight, and having a remarkably fun time with a group of diverse people I absolutely love and trust. I suspect my Gran would be outraged – what kind of young lady chooses a weapons-based martial art over more soothing physical pursuits, like ballet? (I went to one ballet class when I was 7, and even then knew I would never, EVER be a delicate fairy. Thankfully the school burnt down the next week, and I never went again. Fact.)
I am, however, probably the only person in my class who mentally heard the sound of the old Gameboy machines in my mind when I was told that I had ‘levelled up’. (Or at least, I’m the only person willing to admit to it.) I suspect I’m also the only person who would a) be tempted and b) find it funny to write, in tiny, tiny letters, ‘+3′ on my sticks, and see if anyone notices. Or even gets it. In many ways, learning escrima is a highly nerdy thing to do – it just so happens that the escrima nerdiness is a rather different kind of nerdiness from the Mario Bros./D&D school of nerd, and I suspect that the two don’t meet that often. Which is a shame, as they have more in common than they know…