As of tonight, I have a new challenge in my life.
Sifu Dale announced tonight that next year he plans to send a team to next year’s Quoshu, a national-level martial-arts competition held every year in northern Maryland in late summer.
I told Sifu I want to go and compete in weapons, at least. He was like, “Well, of course,” as though he’d been expecting it. Which is maybe a little surprising and flattering considering I’ll be pushing 60 then.
It’ll mean serious training for the next year, and maybe a pretty humiliating experience if it turns out I’m too old and slow. But I want to try, because it’s national-level competition against fighters from dozens of different styles, and…frankly, I’m tired of not having any clear idea how good I am. Winning would be nice, but what I really want is to measure myself against a bigger talent pool.children tracker
The thing is, on the limited evidence I have, the possibilities range from “Eric is a clumsy goof who powers through weak opposition just by being a little stronger and more aggressive” to “Eric is a genuinely powerful and clever fighter who even national-level competitors had better take seriously.” It’s really hard for me to tell.
I’ve tended to look pretty good at schools where the style matched my physical capabilities. I was a duffer at aikido and undistinguished at MMA, but me in a style that’s about hitting things or swinging weapons and I shine. You really, really don’t want to be in the way when I strike at full power; I never do it against my training partners because I don’t want to break them. On one occasion at my MMA school when I was practicing short punches against a padded structural beam I vibrated the building. Not kidding!
I also take hits very well when they happen. My sifu often tells new students “Hit him as hard as you can. You can’t hurt him,” which claim is funny because it’s largely true. By the time they can put enough mv**2 on target to make me flinch they’re well beyond being newbies. Generally if he doesn’t say this the student has trained in another striking style before.
On the other hand, I’m only tested against a relatively small population, and it’s not clear that my upper-body strength is the kind of advantage against genuinely skilled opponents that it is when you’re, say, trying to vibrate a building. I’m slow on my feet and my balance is iffy because cerebral palsy. And there are lots of people who can do technique better than me.
If I’m really good, then it’s because (a) I’m strong and tough, (b) I’m aggressive, and (c) I have a kind of low cunning about fighting and do things my opponents don’t expect and aren’t prepared for. I know where my tiger is. An awful lot of people who are better martial technicians than me don’t, and that is a fact.
But I don’t know what percentile this puts me in if you could match me against a hundred people who have also been training for years and are among the best at their schools. In a year and change maybe I will. It’s worth the effort to find out.