2-27 Maorip, take 2

Disclaimer:  The detail of this may not be of interest to you if you don’t train.  The gist is, we’re trying to breath new life into the “Tae Kwon Do Karate Klub” in the bush on Pentecost.  Wish us luck because we need it.

This weekend we went back up to Maorip to actually start training. 

It took me like five minutes to line up this shot.
We started on Friday afternoon.  Not having directly talked to the guys antap, we weren’t sure if someone was coming to get us or not.  We decided to wait until it was cool enough and just start walking.  We were pretty sure we could get back, the road isn’t that complicated.  Fortunately, this worked out and we didn’t get lost.

We got up to the nakamal around 4:30 and found one of the three main students.  He went and found the other one who was around, who brought sugar cane for a small refreshment.  The third was at a dead but would be there Saturday.  We rested and storied small.  Then we decided that it was not kava time yet so we might as well do a bit of informal training.  These guys do have previous training but I’m not sure how much of it has been with their various instructors, let alone how experienced those instructors have been.  There are some stylistic differences as well as some bad habits.  They definitely have even more experience using their bodies than most ni-Vans.  We practiced some basic kicking, punching, and blocking.  I will be spending a lot of time telling these guys to relax.  One of them bruised his forearm with an overly hard-style block and did not participate in grinding kava that night.

After a quick rinse, the guys convened in the nakamal for kava and storying.  Gaea spelled from kava in favor of going to story with the women.  We are trying to make a point of showing that it is possible to be a woman but still train.  The other guys were still up drinking when I went to sleep.  Moderation is another example we are trying to set.

Training started the next morning in typical Vanuatu fashion.  Slightly late and with people trickling in for the next few hours afterwards.  We actually started much more on time than most things here.  At the beginning, we had the three primary students and one who had never trained before.  By lunchtime we had four more actively participating, which was as many adults as we were going to get for the rest of the day.

White belt form, first pass

The morning started with white belt material.  The three with previous experience picked up the movements quickly, though their form was the same blend of previous experience and bad habits of the day before.  Once we had a few more students, I moved the trio onto partner techniques while Gaea worked with the beginners on basic kicking and punching.  Then I started the beginners on blocking drills while Gaea practiced fancier kicks with the trio, including an introduction to wall kicking.  We finished off the morning with a review of the material and then broke for lunch.

The whole time we were up there, we were being fed by the family of the lead student.  The food mostly consisted of taro and laplap.  They did make a point to cook lots of elapmet, a delicious fern we both really like.  I went back to the nakamal to spell with the guys while Gaea was stuck with the children who consider sleeping to be a spectator sport.

After lunch, we started with another review of the material.  Then we invited the pikinini to join in and introduced everyone to acrobop.  We were once again reminded of the daily physicality of life here.  All of the adult men could do an assisted handstand, a somersault, and a cartwheel or shoulder-roll on at least one side.  They weren’t necessarily pretty ones, but they could do it.  The kids also picked up on the things quickly.   The mamas had a great time watching and translating, even if we did have to apologize for the wash they were going to have to do.  The children were sent to change and wash up while we moved on to grappling. 

Grappling was new to everyone.  The basic hip movement drills were as exciting as ever when a bunch of people learn them for the first time.  We managed to avoid anyone being kicked in the head.  Explaining those drills involved mostly demonstration because the Bislama went something like this. You start four-leg.  Right leg stands up, left leg goes here like this, then you turn yourself.  You do it again on the other side.  Two legs jump through.  Your butt goes up in the air, then your right leg goes under and you turn yourself.  (Then you do the hokey-pokey? Is that what it’s all about?)  As usual, there was a lot of “Put this leg here, like this (tug the leg)” and “No, roll this way and face that wall.”  Then we introduced them to sitting on each other.  Most of them are pretty serious about training but there were a few giggle fits. 
The more promising of the students

After they were good and dirty, Gaea took over for a bit of strength training.  Ni-vans do not like to show discomfort so it is sometimes hard to tell how hard we are working them.  The difficulty with which they got through (or didn’t quite) all the exercises indicated that they were feeling a little sore by the end.  As active and generally strong as they are, strength training isn’t done much at all.  Once everyone was good and tired I wrapped up with a toktok asking them to think about why they are training.  Violence is something of a problem here, especially domestic violence, and we are both attempting to address the problem as a couple who uses other methods and yet trains openly.  For me, talking about the importance of not using these skills to hurt people has become one of the most important aspects of training.  Finally, we ended with a brief meditation.
Jason remains dignified

As we were all sweaty and dirty, after training finished we went down to the river to swim.  After trekking down a hill through the mud, we came to the river.  The nice pool right there was not sufficient, however.  We walked up the river to a small waterfall with a very deep pool in front of it and climbable rocks on either side for jumping off of.  Flying side-kicks had various degrees of success.  Everyone had fun and got cleaned up.  As usual, we finished the visit with drinking kava in the nakamal that night.  Gaea did join us to story with the guys but we both went to bed earlier than most everyone else.  More demonstrations of moderation.

It was a successful trip.  One of the mamas told Gaea that they were interested in training but afraid to do it in front of the men.  Next time we are hoping to have a training time for the women while the men are busy with their own training.  The klub already has some demonstrations that have been requested around Pentecost that we can work on putting together.  For a first trip, it was largely successful.  We will be going up for these seminars monthly and hopefully having the guys come down every so often for more training.  There are still concerns about domestic violence but overall, it was a positive trip.

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