I have many admirable qualities, but I can’t count athleticism among them. My ventures into organized sports consisted of a brief stint on my fourth-grade basketball team and an utterly failed season of tennis. I have incredibly weak arms and hands. In high school, I severely injured the tendons of my left hand while playing a difficult piece on the flute with my school band. The repetitive motion injury required six weeks of physical therapy and was the most ridiculous medical experience of my life.
I’ve started trying to correct my chronic weakness. Physical activity is not my favorite thing, but my doctor gave me an ultimatum at my last appointment: If I want to maintain my health and improve my diabetes management, I have to exercise more. To which I eloquently responded, “Valid.”
While walking home from orchestra, I lamented to my fellow musicians about my horrendous state of physical fitness. Ever the helpful friend, Danyal Rahman ’20 piped up, telling me that if I train with him, he’d transform me from a weakling into an MMA god. He offered to train me, and I responded with a highly noncommittal “Yeah, sure Dan.”
Imagine my shock when I received a message from Dan with the time and place of the proposed training session. In characteristic fashion, I pretended to be more enthusiastic than I felt. Would this actually be my cause of death? I couldn’t imagine that I would be any good at kickboxing. Reluctantly, I agreed. Later that evening, I found myself second-guessing things. Was working out with an actual athlete a great plan given my complete inability to do anything physical? Probably not. In the end, my stubbornness and overdeveloped sense of pride wouldn’t let me go back on my word, and I found myself reluctantly setting an alarm to go to the gym at 10 a.m. this past Sunday morning.
Before I even entered the gym, I was winded from the walk over from Joss. This ill omen didn’t stop me. Before too long, Dan was showing me how to properly wrap my hands with neon-colored fabric. This was one part of the workout that I definitely nailed. The next task was far less successful: a warm-up. I’m fairly ashamed to admit that I barely made it through 30 sit-ups alive. When he made me do burpees, I briefly thought that I would depart from this mortal coil.
Soon enough, Dan recognized that I wouldn’t get any better at moving in a sensical manner, and he decided we could continue to actual punches. He demonstrated a left jab, and the poise and power of his movements inspired me; I had a fleeting moment wherein I almost felt as though I could be that cool if only I worked hard and kept at it.
I came to my senses and decided to give it a shot. I hurt my hand pretty badly, but I wasn’t about to let Dan know that. Our training session continued in this vein for the next two hours; Dan taught me the left jab, right cross, left hook, roundhouse kicks and how to properly knee an opponent. The first time I tried that last move, my front foot slipped, and I found myself looking up from the sweaty carpet with a bruised tailbone. Finally, Dan had me combine everything, throwing combinations of punches and kicks as quickly as I could. For a brief, glimmering instant, I felt as though I might be learning something. At the end, I felt completely and totally dead inside, but my fatigue was mixed with a sense of pride at having done this at all.
As we walked to the Deece for lunch, Dan let me know that, although I wouldn’t be the next Ruby Rose anytime soon, I had done better than he expected. That encouragement almost justified the next week of limping across campus, every muscle in my body screaming, “For the love of all that is sacred on this Earth, what did you do to us?!”