I was known as the klutz. Awkwardly falling. Always messy. Tripping on my toes. Ending up in a snare. Graceful would be the last attribute you would describe me. I hated social dances and events because I end up stepping on my partner’s foot or feeling more awkward because of the suaveness of the crowd. I felt like an odd-woman-out among the dainty and the refined. As much as I love the romantic Victorian era, I feel that I would end up like Jo of Little Women. Burning her frock, her curls and glove, skulking behind the curtains to cover her stained skirts. I always felt that my tall height worsens matters because I stand out like a sore thumb. I either move too quickly or too slowly, ending up slipping and toppling with unsteady gait. I bemoan wearing heels, as they are both painful and awkward, praying for dear life that I don’t end up with a wrenched ankle or broken neck (thankfully, none of them ever happened on incidents when I had to really wear stilletos, although personally, bless whoever invented wedges).
I felt that Sugarfree’s song “Hari ng Sablay” (King of Faults) was crafted to perfection for people like me. I seem to lose my steam and wind in the usual activities normal people do with ease and perfection. But it was a different case when I do martial arts.
I used to be very active with two of them: arnis, or the local stick-sword fighting and judo. When I was in high school, one of our physical education modules covered arnis. Our instructor taught us the art of stick fighting and I watched the graceful rotation of wrists and hand movements of each thrusts and strikes with fascination. Eagerly, I was able to perform the ten-point strikes, sinawali and kali with ease after months of practice. Sparring gave me bruises in the arms and legs when I get hit accidentally by the rattan sticks but the exhilaration of doing each strike, footwork, thrust and disarming was of like a graceful, intricate dance. My teacher taught me an important lesson: You do not move the whole arm in arnis, you only flick your wrists for impact. You are a fighter, not a windmill of arms. Arnis is an art of fighting and a discipline of control.
In college, I was introduced to aikido and judo. Aikido’s movements were closer to arnis but I liked judo better. Weight and force do not matter on either art. Unlike karate and taekwondo, aikido uses the force inflicted to deflect and defend. Judo, on other hand, uses the weight of your opponent to either throw them off-balance or pin them down without too much effort. Both appealed to me because for a klutz lik me, I was able to use both the things I disliked about myself into advantage– my speed and weight. My acquired knowledge in arnis also helped me– footwork, wrist movement and yes, even my own clumsiness helped me gain more confidence in discovering that a klutz like me can enjoy sports that are considered graceful form of art.
I no longer practice all of them in regularity but their lessons remained in me. I still am clumsy in so many ways. I still bump into things. I still have my cases of spills, breaks and falls. Still, I became more at ease with my body and its innate abilities and restrictions. I became more appreciative of what this klutz can do. Clumsy I may be in so many ways, this body is strong and unique. Each of us was gifted by special skills we must discover.