About three months ago, I started doing MMA.
Mixed Martial Arts is, according to Wikipedia, “a full-contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, from a variety of other sports and martial arts”. I don’t really go in for the grappling stuff (because I’m a girl and it seems sort of weird?) but I do like hitting things, and not getting hit in the face, so I’m getting good at both.
Tom has been training for a couple of years now, and I’ve watched his transformation from pretty good boxer to all-out killing-machine with a great deal of pride (and, er, maybe a little nervousness?!). People at our gym tend to stop what they’re doing and openly stare when he starts beating up the punch bag there, and he’s taught me the basics of boxing over the years we’ve been together.
It’s a difficult dynamic though, when one half of a couple is teaching the other, and I’m never good at being told what to do at the best of times, so we sort of stalled recently. Well, I kept getting frustrated, throwing my gloves on the floor and stomping off in a huff actually. Ahem. So Tom suggested I work with his personal trainer Neil instead, as I’d be less of a brat with someone else and also because his personal trainer is the best.
We mostly focus on tai chi chuan, a martial discipline that has different levels and applications, and all starts with the ‘forms’. These are patterns of movement often inspired by animal behaviour, that build muscle memory so they can be translated into sequences of strikes and blocks etc when needed. They have just the best names. Like ‘Golden dragon coiled round a pillar’, ‘Civet cat catching rats’, ‘Embrace tiger, return to mountain’ and, one of my favourites, ‘ Jade rabbit facing the moon’ (the latter basically involves standing still with your arms out but it’s good for you. Awesome). Also, one day, I’ll get to
play with learn how to use a sword, and then my life will be complete.
I was sceptical at first, but I’ve got so much stronger, fitter and more toned since I started. For the first couple of months my old back injuries would bother me for days afterwards, as if I had a large, vertical disc inside the centre of my back radiating pain, but it’s slowly improving. I suspect because having my posture and movement constantly corrected is resulting in positive – and hopefully long-term – effects. Doing an hour + of cardio at the gym most days followed by half an hour of weights is all very well, but it really isn’t enough to sculpt a body that’s actually useful, and for tai chi you don’t need a horse, or a climbing wall, or even a set of hand weights – you just need yourself (er, and a Neil. You need one of those some of the time also).
Here are some photos of Tom, my friend Katia and I training together, and for more pictures/ details about Neil’s approach check out his website here.
It looks like I’m shouting encouragement here, but I think I was actually saying “stop hitting so hard!”
‘Pushing hands’ exercises here. Sounds stupid doesn’t it – nope, really difficult. Lots of rotating around your core and not dropping your posture and bending knees and feet at the correct angles and maintaining perfect balance whilst trying to gracefully push a brick wall backwards.
Noooo kettlebells training for me. I have a bad back remember. No it’s not because I’m lazy, how dare you?!
Hardcore training. No fun being had here!
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