As part of that instruction, he brought out a 10-foot-long wooden dowel, about two inches across. He told us to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. And he stood in the center, with the dowel about eye level and began to slowly spin inside the circle. One by one, we were supposed to crouch just enough that the dowel missed our heads.
"Do not be fearful," he said at the beginning. "Do not think."
I am all about being fearful and thinking. I tell myself that's the smart way to be. But what he wanted to teach us was that in a physical confrontation, we'll only be slowed down by fear and by thinking.
I wanted to run out of the room. There were 17 guys in this circle and only 4 women. I knew I was going to get whacked on the side of the head. I was afraid. I was going to fail, and it front of an audience. Plus I would probably be hurt. He began to spin faster and faster, occasionally changing directions. A few times I felt the dowel whiff my hair (which is curly and sticks up), but I did not get hit.
Then he began to whirl it at ankle level, whipping it faster and faster. There was no time for thinking, no time for fear, just waiting and watching and judging when the rod would be there and we would be hopping.
And when someone - not me! - stumbled on the rod, I learned what the teacher meant by saying we all succeeded or failed together. Because it was down to the floor and give ten push-ups. Hands and toes pushups. With one leg raised up in the air behind you. And then back on our feet and the wooden rod whirling at our ankles again.
It was a great learning experience - that I could react, that I could get out of my head and solely into my body - but I'm glad I'm not doing it three times a week.