The sanshou class Monday night did at least thirty rotations of kick lines before they started fighting. Just watching them made my knees hurt, and it also made me envious. Not since I was at my best in tae kwon do have I had a kick that looked as powerful as those invading the edge of what I call my corner of the room, and I will never have one again.
But my little pity party lasted only about twenty seconds, though. By the time the second row of kicks forced me to halt my long staff form in mid spin, frustration had evicted envy from my head. See, when kick rows are going, there’s only about a four foot by eight foot rectangle of space free for one who’s not in the kick line to practice anything else. On Monday nights, from about seven to eight o’clock, I will fight rather fiercely, when necessary, for rights of possession to that rectangle.
There are any number of short sections in freehand forms that can be practiced in a small square of space. But imagine trying to spin, strike, swing and slam against the floor a solid shaft of wood that’s taller than your head – all within a space that’s about four by eight feet. It can’t be done. Not without coloring outside the lines. This is why practicing the long staff form in such a small space requires stopping, moving back and turning around at least half a dozen times before the one-minute form is finished. And that’s when there are no kick lines creeping into the rectangle.
Every time a sanshou student gets close to the edge of my practice space, I have to stop again, even if I otherwise would have had space to finish the section. I say all this to say that trying to practice with a weapon in a small rectangle of space, when the kicks of 180-pound men are barreling toward you like a freight train can be just short of crazy making.
So why not just wait until the kick lines are over, one might ask? Because the time it takes for half a dozen people of various ages and skill levels to do thirty rotations of kick lines is considerable. It amounts to half the time I have to train on a Monday, after assisting with the beginner class. If I sit for half an hour or more waiting for space, I might as well go home. And there can be no just going home on a Monday. On Mondays, I’ve already waited more than fifty-two hours since Saturday’s class to get back on the floor!
So when sanshou class starts with kick lines, there’s a cloud in my kung fu world. It’s not that dark, doesn’t hang that low and only stays for about, oh, thirty-three-point-six minutes. But, man, it can be crazy making….