Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Sensitivity. It's part of kali training. The beginner may not reach out and touch their opponent at all. The intermediate dares to connect with them but reaches with a flat palm when only the tangent point connects. The advance person reaches for their opponent and has their fingers curve and caress their body blending every part of their hand to their contours allowing them to sense their energy with every minute turn.

With this kind of information, it allows the kali artist to adjust and turn and influence the energy. There is 2-way communication in the hand, a silent conversation that occurs in a touch.

But becoming more sensitive is not easy. It requires one to let the other person in, to join with the other, become the other. It means taking down one's own walls (the rigidity) and keep open borders. To have faith in the strength of one's own self to let the "enemy" into such close quarters.

As one becomes more sensitive, they connect with other people more. Yet, there is an irony because the more you connect with people, the more alone you feel, because you are left to witness what you cannot change, you are left to be witness to other people's pain and grief, including the pain and grief that you inflict upon them. The greater the sensitivity the greater the power because you don't have to just blast you can hit them through their own channels and passage ways seep into them and enter them just as easily as you let them in. But this is two way. You are there when you feel the shockwave of your own power manifested. Your own body burns from the energy. It is not easy.

I had been away from class for a while (about a week and a half) which for someone who does kali at least 3 times a week is an eternity. I'm used to being the punching dummy. My body knows the routine of going limp as the strikes comes, absorbing and channeling the blows in and out of my body. I get very few bruises now because of this. A bruise is caused by taking the impact on the surface. I can prevent bruises by taking the energy in deeper or channelling it out somewhere else, so it passes through rather than remains.

It was a challenging class. I took a shot to the sternum, right at the emotion pressure point. I hate shots like that it makes my insides jiggle, makes me naseus. I'd much rather take shots in my arms or legs than the gut. Plus it doesn't hurt like surface impacts hurt, it hurts deep like somewhere way back near your spine. At the end of the class, I was sent to defend myself open handed against one of the guys who was throwing punches. I did what I do. Relaxed. Take it in. Believe that no matter what he throws I can handle it, deflect it. Then my teacher stopped us and told him to hit harder. Not just hit harder but to try to hit me. I heard him say, "If she gets hit, she gets hit."

For a split second I sensed fear but quickly put it aside. It was no time to be afraid. This is nothing I told myself, the world moves slowly. I am not tired, I will have time to rest when this is over.

This all seems rather brutal, but it is necessary. Realistically, I believe women in Kali will find themselves in a situation where they may have to use it more often than men. And in order to do so, I need to know that this works. Most guys will avoid these situations because of their size. They can simply out muscle them. I do not have that priviledge. I have to know. My safety depends on it. I have to know that my technique and accuracy will win over brute force. And to do this I must focus.

Focus on relaxing, on controlling my breath, on being soft, on not trying to muscle him. That's where women get into a lot of trouble in trying to muscle a guy. I have to focus on him and nothing else. There is nothing else to see except for him. He becomes my total focus. And when women focus, they show no emotion, their eyes glaze over, and look through you. To do this, we must enter ourselves, move into the darkness of our own caverns to show them and give them nothing. Even when you do get hit, you feel nothing, because you've buried yourself so deep. They tell me I looked good, defended well. My teacher told me I must move my body more to take in the punch (ie be more sensitive, go deeper).

I just vaguely heard them. If nothing hurts when a woman fights, everything hurts after the fight is over. And it's not really a physical pain. Physical pain is easy. The body learns to ignore it. It's difficult to describe. It's an emotional pain. I was frazzled. I could no longer focus. I would close my eyes and tears would enter them. It's a soulful pain. It's coming to terms with the damage set upon you and the damage that you yourself have inflicted. oh and even in an exercise, it hurts. But even then, you may not be able to allow yourself the mourning because you may have other things you still have to deal with. You must wait until you find a safe venue where you can finally cry, allow yourself to feel the pain then set it free. You go home and set the sadness free. Injury happens when you keep the pain, put it aside where it takes up space. That's a problem. Bruises go away. These things stick around, breed fear. And you let it go, because it's not yours, and you are not a big enough vessel to hold the energy of the world.

Men handle the fighting differently. They feel everything and ride that emotion. But that's a post for another time.

I find poetry and kali have this similarity, this sensitivity. A poet finds their creation from deep within. In the darkness light is born. Going to this place is painful because you let the world into a place you thought was private and the private becomes the public. A place you had thought was seclusion is no longer. And what you come to realize is that the world may come in, but this is still your world. You learn to find an oasis amongst the voices, a silence within the chaos where you can be alone again to find peace. As a poet, I take the world in, transform it, then release it as the poem. The poem is not mine, it belongs to the world. I am simply the go between.

In Eileen Tabios' play, "When I was Jasper John's Filipino Lover," which I directed for the Small Press Traffic fundraiser, (which will be soon to be printed in Zyzzyva) she has a line, "I have to learn the kali. Kali is like poetry."

Eileen, you may be totally inept at twirling a stick, but you are a fine fine kali student.

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