I got to sleep in until 6:00 this morning and when I woke up the mountains were shrouded in a beautiful veil of mist. I had a little difficulty shaking off the sleepiness that grips me in the morning, but the walk to the gym was nice. It had rained in the dark of morning and the cool air felt nice.
Dropping off my equipment at the gym is always a quick task – I dump my backpack on the ground under the bench by the women’s ring and grab a sip of water before heading out. This morning was the 8K run around the university. It’s a mixed bag in terms of how heavy traffic will be (15 minutes can turn an empty street into a busy highway), how many street stalls will be starting their grills with plumes of smoke billowing over the sidewalk as I run by, and how many students I will be dodging as I fly down the roads between their classes and dorms.
I reckon it’s been orientation for the past week and this week is classes starting in earnest. Monday was dead, just me and the dogs as I ran through the university, but today there were lines of students all decked out in the different colored uniforms of their various departments, waiting on the sidewalk for shuttles to take them across the campus. The solitude of Monday made me feel comfort in my own process of running, but the crowd today made me feel solitary and apart. Strange.
Back at the gym there were only two students: me and a kid from England. The five trainers sat around the ring talking, maybe about the fight the night before but probably about everything else. I began my normal drills and two more students showed up, going directly over to skipping rope as I finished my jumping knees on the bag and wrapped my hands. I shadowed for a few rounds before Nook called me into the ring.
I’ve been working on speed this past week, training hundreds of repeat kicks on the bag at every session. Nook is not a “speed” trainer. He likes to pull his pads away to make you miss, feint holds, move out of the way of strikes he’s called for and, because of my size he finds it hilarious to crush me into the ropes when we clinch, just holding me there with the weight of his body while I try to turn him. He lifts me into the air by the strength of his neck and back when I tie him up and I try to keep kneeing, mid -air, which he finds endlessly funny.
There are many lessons to be taken in the way that Nook holds pads. It’s best to keep a light heart, laugh a lot and play along with him or in direct counter to his calls. If he holds for a punch, kick his legs. If he holds for a kick he’s probably going to move to avoid it or stuff it, so fake the kick and knee. It can be great fun to work with Nook and it teaches you a lot about the frustration of an opponent who is trying to trick you or avoid your strikes – not too many fighters stand there for a clean kick or hold for a punch. But the frustration can get the better of you. It’s pretty hard to look good in padwork with Nook and technique hardly ever comes out clean. There are times when I don’t want to mess around and I just want to work on solid, consistent skills. But hey, that’s what you want in a fight, too – but you have to figure out how to do that because your opponent doesn’t want you to look good.