Sunday Bloody Sundays - Rob Williams

Sunday Bloody SundaysSaturday night and the message reads: "bring old running shoes and hachimaki on Sunday – Graham." 

As I read the note, my stomach ties itself in knots as I remember the last time such a command was issued. Another Do or Die Sunday. I wonder what physical impossibilities Sensei has in mind for us tomorrow.

Sunday morning I am awake and it would be great to stay in bed. I should get up but my body keeps saying, “no don’t go”. I know I must. It’s a love hate thing like an uncontrollable addiction and I must get my karate fix for the day. The words of my wife come to mind, 

“Bloody Sundays – who do you think is going to look after you when you are old and crippled at 50?” She is jealous of my karate, she sees it as the ‘other woman’ and lover in my life against whom she can’t compete. I hear my daughters ask their mum, “Is Dad off to training again? Why can’t he stay home?” 

A quick breakfast and I am on my way. I tell the family that I will be home early about 4pm straight after training, but they don’t take me seriously – they know better.

I head off on what is a nice relaxing country drive through the D’Aguilar Ranges towards Sensei’s place. I wonder what form of physical torment he has in store for us today? My stomach feels like a net full of butterflies as I turn into Sensei’s land.

No time wasted on idle chitchat we are here for a purpose. We’re off on a fast jog come run, backwards, sideways, zigzag up, hill down hill, off the road into the bush over logs and creeks. My old ankle injury from past training sessions is starting to rear its head but maybe it’s only my brain trying to find a way out for the rest of my body. I forget it. Slipping, sliding, rolling down the hill we head fro what Sensei calls nature’s obstacle course.

“Watch, run up, jump back and forth over this suspended log (about knee high) 10 times, hit the ground, roll under, quickly jump up on your feet, run up this fallen tree trunk balancing then jump to that boulder, jump off, roll onto the ground to break your fall, quickly up mae geri, mawashi geri, sokuto geri, ushiro geri, ura-ken, gyaku zuki. Hajime, Go.”

I’m starting to get into this but after the eighth time around I lose count. I don’t want to waste energy. It’s getting painful and I’m feeling stuffed. Sensei is pushing us faster, stronger, badger, badger, push push, “Gambatte” stronger, do your best. “Yame” and we’re off again running toward a clump of trees into the shade. Very thoughtful I think, out of the sun, maybe a quick rest? NO WAY, he has other ideas. Kotekitae, arm pounding and shin pounding against these 3 to 4 inch saplings. “Now fight the tress, be aware and make them come to life, they’re all around you.” Elbows, knees, punches and kicks, skin and bark flying – lucky some of these trees are paper barks.

Sensei now directs us to fight each other – what a relief, although my new opponent can now strike back. It doesn’t hurt so much to punch and kick, at least the human body has some give in it, almost like jelly compared to the trees. “Change partners.” Now I am with Sensei. I’m pushing myself  - kick harder, faster, think and let it flow. It’s no use. I’m on the ground more than not but I dare not give in and stay down. I know Sensei has no time for quitters. He is just playing with me like a cat with a mouse. Sensei is playing and I am fighting for my life. I know he’ll stop when he’s finished with me when he knows I’ve got no more to give and not before. "Yame" change, "yame" change, "yame" change. Maybe the best part of an hour has past of alternating between tree and flesh. I prefer flesh. 

REST 5 minutes. Off we go again “to that creek bed and find a rock. No too small, one this size.” I can hardly grasp it. “Now throw it to one another and catch it."  After several variations of rockwork, hip evasion against incoming missiles of volcanic rock we hit the road again. But at least this time we’re heading in the right direction, HOME. The welts, bumps, limps and bruises are starting to sting as I come off my physical and mental high and my body systems enter a damage control mode. As we run back the last 2 kilometres home to Honbu my mind says yes you can do it. Sensei yells, “push yourself”, but the body is failing. I look around. It is not only me. That last bloody big hill, I can see it looming up in front of us, my heart is racing, and my mouth feels like I’ve swallowed a box of tissues and my limbs are aching. I can’t give up now, no way. I draw my energy from Sensei. The words of a friend come racing back from the past. He trained with Ravey in the early days, left and became a black belt in another style. Maybe he did the smart thing. “You guys are crazy", he said. "There’s no way I’m going to abuse my body this way.”

GREAT. I can see Honbu and the dam. Even better still we’re heading for its cool waters for a swim, I think. No wrong again. Sensei invites us to spend another 30 minutes of BASICS shoulder deep in this murky pond, countless punches and endless kicks pulled out of the ankle deep sludge on the bottom and we’re finished.

FINISHED. 3 hours after we started – laid back relaxing with a cold cider, surveying a beautiful view of the Kilcoy ranges from Sensei’s front veranda. I feel great. I love my compulsory T.O.G.K.A Instructor’s training every fortnight. This is where you pay for the privilege of being one of Sensei Ravey’s Dansha. “NO PAIN NO GAIN  & DEFINITELY NO FREE RIDES.”

I love the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with the end of each Sunday session. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Some might call it a form of masochism but we call it Traditional Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate-do. “The Way.”

Maybe next Sunday we’ll get to do kata up at the waterfall. It’s beautiful up in the mountains. They’re not all Do or Die Sundays. After all it’s Goju, hard soft.

Sensei Rob Williams