Saturday, June 25

Confessions of a former anti-athlete

Maybe it’s the build, maybe it’s the height, but somehow people find it hard to believe that prior to arnis, I haven’t practiced any sport or at least, haven’t taken any sport really seriously.

Despite my long-time love for the relative comfort of running shoes, my penchant for wearing jogging pants, or donning any apparel that are more or less indicative of an active lifestyle for that matter, I haven’t really been into sports.

Until a year ago when certain life events and a movie prompted me to pick up a baston and give it a whirl—pun intended.

A Bit o’History
I come from a family of Tennis Players, thanks to my father who started the proverbial ball rolling. My Dad was so addicted to the game that the only way my Mom could spend more time with him was to join him on the shell-and-sand covered courts. So she tried, she learned, she conquered. You know what they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

It wasn’t long before my younger brother jumped on the happy tennis bandwagon. When he wasn’t shooting hoops with his friends, he would be volleying and smashing balls across nets with either of my parents.

I too frequented the tennis courts of the cloistered community of UP Los Baños not as a player, but more of a spectator. Everyone, including my folks, was just waiting for me to pick up a racket and start playing but somehow the charm of the sport that made John McEnroe’s language too colorful was lost on me.

Fast forward to college… and P.E. 2. At 5 feet and 8 inches of height, coaches (who more often than not, has seen me practically grow up ‘round the tennis club) of certain sports were asking me if I’d like to join their teams. I’d gently let them down saying, “Pero wala po akong alam sa paglaro ng (insert sport here). Sorry talaga po.” They’d insist I could play it by ear and just learn a thing or two along the way but I’d politely exit the conversation, making the excuse of having to rush to my next class.

The closest I’ve ever been to joining any varsity was when I started training with the swimming team. To make a long story short, they trained at night. With a lone spotlight shining on the pool that stood underneath the dark sky, not to mention poor eyesight and lack of prescription goggles (contact lenses weren’t as affordable or available at the time), let’s just say I either ended up tangled in the ropes that divided the lanes or bumping into unsuspecting members of the varsity. So ends my so-called college swimming career.

In the end I did sign up for a couple of Physical Education 2 classes as required by the university namely: Track, Swimming, and surprise, surprise, Modern Arnis.

Funnily enough, I don’t remember my grade or any of my lessons for that matter from my P.E. 2 Arnis class.

Turning Point (Literally)
As mentioned, it was a life event and a movie that whet my appetite to finally learning arnis. Though my joining “Sunday school” was deliberate, the events surrounding it weren’t.

One night I was attacked by two boys. Yes. Boys. Both ranging from 13 to 15 years of age. It was around 9:30 in the evening and I was seated on one of the benches that framed the UP Sunken Garden when two boys seated themselves on a bench near my own. After a while, they both stood up and walked the path that ran alongside my bench. Nothing to be suspicious about except one of them walked ahead while the other trailed behind. Just when the second boy walked past me he suddenly did an about face and lunged at me, holding an ice pick in his hand. I yelled and scrambled away from him (skirts and sandals not helping any), fortunately unharmed. And they walked away laughing as if they’d just pulled off a great practical joke.

Only I wasn’t laughing with them.

The incident was enough to unsettle me for weeks. And then I just happen to encounter Uma Thurman in her adventures on her way to Kill Bill. Wow. A woman with a weapon. Such skill. Such empowerment. Gone are the days of the hapless, helpless female. The strong heroine is here to stay.

And that’s exactly what I want to be. After all, libre nga naman mangarap di ba?

Life-changing and a change in lifestyle
It’s easy to dream. Making the dream happen is another story. And as all things in life are, training in arnis is far from being a bed of roses.

Some people questioned my reasons for learning Arnis… even to this day. And to be quite honest even I question them too on occasion—usually when I’m bent over trying hard to breathe properly, or whenever any body part gets hit, or whenever I can’t figure out the move being taught at the moment. I’ve gone through self-doubt, utter frustration, and even sheer anger at myself or at other parties during training and because of training.

It was difficult and it continues to be difficult. I’d go to work or go home to my parents’ house with bruises on my arms, callouses on both hands and fingers, swollen knuckles (Imagine the look on my mother’s face each time I displayed my so-called battle scars). Not to mention a deflated ego and at times a fading spirit.

Did I want to quit? Of course. Many times. But then I’m still here.

Because more than being an idea spurned by a movie, more than it being a need to survive in the big, bad city, Arnis to me now is not just a mere quest to be the next Black Mamba, nor is it just a sport to get into for the fitness aspect (though the benefits of training are extremely beneficial non-withstanding).

At the end of the day whatever my reasons were and however valid they may have been, I think the important thing here is that I’m here to learn.

If only my Arnis teacher would see me now (snicker).

* * *
Postscript: This is an article I wrote for SEGUIDA—our groups official newsletter.


Blogger Dario said...

Ang galing, galing! Wish ko lang ma-publish 'sya sa ibang mas-kabasa-basang print material...

8:21 PM  
Blogger KV said...

I like this post :)

9:48 AM  
Blogger lei said...


ayos. :)

5:27 PM  
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