One of the most important things a writer aspires to do when writing a book or, indeed any kind of writing, is to create authenticity. Be that, authenticity in your characters, the world you create, the situations you present or authenticity in your own writing voice. I am currently writing a part in my book which I want to be as realistic as possible and I am using the technique I posted in Hocus Pocus called ‘How do you feel about that’?
I order to make their development as martial artists realistic and to know what they are going through, so I have decided to train for a taekwondo competition. I know that is not anything like that they would go through in their training, but at least I can anticipate how it would be like to develop a skill, to see my body changing and to actually know how it is to fight someone. I have never been in a fight in my life, I have never been hurt or hit anyone, so I would not know how to describe anything of the sort. I will be doing a blog to detail my own journey in martial arts. I know that this is something that a lot of fantasy writers may want to know because it is a story line that many books are based on. I want to share any research that I do or anything that I try out, so that we can better our own stories with authenticity.
When you first begin, it is all about the basics and getting that perfect. This means repetition. What basics in taekwondo is turning kick, cut kick and back kick, mostly. These are the foundations of the whole art form and must be performed slowly while moving or static. There is always an element that is difficult to master in the beginning, and for me it was the turning of my hips. For taekwondo you have to turn your hips with the kick because that is where the power comes from, and this is one hundred percent true as you can hear the difference in the slap of the kicking pad. Once you get better at going slow, you must speed up. This is where you go weird again. For someone who isn’t fit or has never done anything like that before, you are focusing on not falling over, keeping you balance and the burning of your lungs from the movements, because they are hard work. In the beginning, your feet are destined to be flying everywhere and yours arms are flopping by your side and I find that all newbies are hunching their backs, because of exertion, tiredness and the sheer force of trying to make your legs keep going. But, you soon find out by the coach who keeps yelling out ‘RELAX’ that it really is best to relax your body. The more relaxed and lose your body is the more twist you get in your hips and power.
It takes a while to get it right, the technique while going fast. You really need to concentrate and for me particularly, I am always focusing on my hips to force them to twist. Once you get it though and know the way you need to focus your mind to do it, you will do it every time. Further, you will notice that as you practice more and more, your kicks get stronger without you even trying. I get such a thrill from kicking the pad so hard that the holder has to step back a couple of steps!
I still need to get used to wearing all the gear. In Sport Taekwondo you have your chest guard, arm guard, shin guard, head guard and mouth guard. For men, you also have the additional groin guard. They are heavy, they slip out of place and make you sweat like no tomorrow. At the moment, I am always training with them on so that I can get used to it and make the training harder to increase my fitness. Which reminds me, I need to increase my fitness, it is still incredibly low, but it is steadily increasing day by day!
The next few days after each session my body aches. Specifically, my lower half. My feet, my calves, inner thighs and behind. Then your obliques hurt like no tomorrow. I walk like I have wooden legs! Stairs are unbearable, but it is going down them more than up them, that creates the pain. Also, when you have to sit down, you don’t really want to get up, mainly because you can’t. I don’t know about other people, but I see the changes in my body quickly. I can see the difference in my abs and legs. What I am really proud of personally, was that it only took three weeks of training twice a week to increase my stamina and fitness so that I would not need to take my asthma puffer. When I first started I would need it almost three times. Everything would go white and move around in circles, I honestly wanted to collapse sometimes. But, I was too embarrassed to do it in front of everyone, so I willed myself to stay up until the coach called out for a water break. Then I would lean on the wall and involuntarily slide down to the ground.
There are two main things apart from my overall fitness and learning advanced moves, as well as patterns. The first, is that I need to learn how to be kicked. I don’t know if that sounds silly to any of you, but I need to learn it. It is ingrained in all of us from watching action movies, to believe that you could hold your own in a fight and that you are a ninja without having any training because you have watched so many Jackie Chan movies. Yes, I thought so to until we were fake sparring and one of the guys kicked me in the hip by accident and my first reaction was ‘I’m going to cry now’. It was a complete involuntary reaction, though no tears came out of my eyes, they seriously wanted to. It didn’t even hurt that much, though it did leave a foot sized bruise on my hip, it was the shock of it happening that made me want to tear up. Thus, I must learn how to be kicked without wanting to cry and the best way my instructor has taught me how to do that is to be kicked. He gets us all geared up and puts us with alternating partners to practice sparring moves, as well as to kick each other in the chest guard.
The chest guard offers some protection, but boy, does it still hurt like a b***h. You have to put yourself in the correct mental space and say to yourself, this is happening and it is going to hurt. The trick is to breathe out with force during impact and keep your abs pulled in tight. You have to breathe, despite your automatic response to hold your breath. If you hold your breath, it will hurt. If you do not hold in your abdominals, you will be winded and on the floor and you will be in a lot of pain.
My second problem, is that I still do not know what I am doing while I am sparring. My mind goes blank when I am in the sparring situation. My ‘go to’ move is the turning kick and that gets predicable very fast. It is funny when you are versing someone at your own meagre level and you both have no idea what you are doing. There are a lot of clashing shins, groins and insteps to elbows. Pain. There is a lot of pain. But, at the same time you feel comforted that someone else is in the same boat as you.
It is a completely different feeling when versing a black belt though. You can see it in the way they move, they know what they are doing and they are so fast. You feel this wisdom and seniority in the air as you compete against them. Luckily for me, the feeling of seniority is not a bad vibe, it is more of a teacher encouraging a student. They want you to be pushed harder and that is what you want. Versing a black belt as a novice is a very humbling and a great learning experience. I really like it, but my mind still goes blank. They move and it is like the wind, it hits you and its gone, and you are standing there like ‘it’s over already? Ouch!’
Let me know if you have this helpful! For me, it has helped me better understand what my characters are going through and develop their voices, as well as my own. Is there anything I have missed which you really wanted to know? I will be posting up my progress and when I eventually go to the tournament.