Connor and I had the immense pleasure and privilege of attending a three day intensive instructors course in Modern Cimande over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Led by Guro Ed Wong this was the first extended martial arts course I have attended since before Connor was born.
One of my very first weekends away with my wife when we were first dating was, much to her disgust and shock when she saw what we willingly put ourselves through, an intensive weekend martial arts camp at a beautiful beach resort. That just meant hours of forms in the sand, push-ups in the water and balance training in the waves – not quite the romantic weekend away she had been expecting. Not to mention the twenty or so martial arts guys with us all weekend.
My wife dodged this one (strangely) and it was just Connor and I spending the ultimate boy’s weekend together.
We are both very stiff, sore, scratched and bruised today, but would happily do it all again and in fact are hoping to train more in Canada with Ed next year.
You can’t really understand this training session until you have tried it; the complete panic you feel as you are getting beaten up by a gang of thirteen grown men simultaneously attacking you for three minutes and all very experienced martial artists doing the same instructor’s course. Knowing that the beating will not stop until the time is up and all you can do is try to protect yourself and attack as much as you can to buy yourself some space – but with thirteen people attacking you, that is almost impossible.
I had been looking forward to this weekend since it was announced about six months before and we had signed up pretty much straight away.
I don’t know why, but I enjoy not just picking up new skills, but also the aches and pains involved in learning new martial arts skills and the group bonding that occurs in an intense environment like an instructor’s course.
Mostly, what made this a really special experience for me is that Connor and I were doing this together. He shares my love of martial arts and over the course of the three days I was able to see more clearly what a fantastic young man he is.
If I had known before just how tough the course would be, both mentally and physically, I may not have allowed Connor to attend – as it turned out, I would have been doing him an immense disservice if I had denied him this. Turns out he is much tougher, mentally and physically, than I would have previously given him credit for.
I feel like this weekend I was forced to acknowledge that my son is not a little boy any more, but is clearly a young man.
In the past I have spoken with my brother and other fathers about the old traditions in tribal cultures of rights of passage for young men and trying to recreate this for our sons – turns out that this weekend was that moment for Connor.
As part of the final testing all of the course participants together attack one participant for a full three minutes.
This is not some nice choreographed display where one by one people attack – it is a gang attack (although with experienced guys like were on this course, it is also a surprisingly courteous experience that is not meant to cause permanent injury – bruises, scratches, aches and pains – absolutely). The intention is to force the focus of the attacks into a state of fear and for the focus to master that fear and rely on their training to get them through. It has to be experienced to be understood.
The first time that I got thrown during my turn and lay there on the floor covering up from the kicks and wondering how I was going to get to my feet again, was a scary moment. For Connor, it was even more, being pounded by a group of very big and experienced men. And yet he pushed through, mastered his fear and kept fighting to the very end – in fact he got angry that he was scared and fought back even harder at the end.
I am super proud of Connor for how he handled everything over the weekend. He was a great training partner. He was a source of motivation for me and often of inspiration. He just sucked it up whenever he was hurt, which was often, (at one point having to wipe up streams of blood from a bad gash in his leg from someone’s toenail – which he did without complaint) and moved on with the task in front of us.
Did I mention that he is now one of the youngest qualified Modern Cimande instructors in the world?
I probably tend to criticize more than I praise – but this was a weekend where I found absolutely nothing to criticize about the heart that Connor showed. I am looking forward to attending many more training events with Connor in the future.