Taming the monster
The fact that Africa saw “a monster in me,” confirms my best and worst suspicions of the place I find myself in emotionally after a day at work.
I exercise to get rid of the day, to emancipate every frustration, to subconsciously process issues of the day and this is my time, my own headspace.
For me sweating is essential for catharsis and a degree of pain is crucial during and after a workout.
I am super thrilled therefore to become a “project” for Africa Vumazonke.
After our very first training/boxing session he wrote: “You’re a very good project for me… Not only will I be training you physically but I’ll also be training your inner energy and strength (the monster within), and one thing I loved is that you listen and receive instructions very well!”.
Years ago in Asia I used to run marathons and box, but I became a sloth when I came to South Africa more than 10 years ago now – and it started showing.
Last year I realised the only sensible way of staying sane in my world was to start running and more recently I have been going to gym.
For those who run, cycle, do martial arts or any kind of physical activity that really challenges and stretches you, you will understand that the mental part of getting fit is just as important as the physical aspect.
My latest inspiration to become the fittest and strongest I can comes from a recent story. I cannot remember where I read it or perhaps I saw it on television, but there was a story about a 78-year-old British woman who was diagnosed with osteoporosis so she put on running shoes and set off, something like Forest Gump. At first, she said, she walked three steps then ran three until she had built up her fitness.
Now well into her 80s, this petite little champion has a wall filled with silver and gold medals not only for running marathons but also for top places.
When I watched Africa teaching a martial arts class at Empire 1 gym, I knew it was time to haul out my worn, bright-yellow boxing gloves I had not touched since leaving Asia – and beg Africa to take me on.
In the first session, Africa put me through various exercises/drills, calmly demonstrating and working with me showing me what he wants, but at the same time, making very sure that if he wants me to do 20 sets of an exercise he means business.
We get to the boxing part and I am allowed to don my gloves, but seconds into our first moves he stops me dead and identifies the “monster in me,” in exactly those words.
(Please note, the monster is stress, nothing mean or demonic.)
What we are doing, although boxing, is not aggression, he says, but called a martial art because it should be exactly that.
Poise, control, breathing properly and being perfectly measured in every move is what this kind of exercise is about, says Africa. I was stopped dead in my tracks several times to imagine actually going through the moves and seeing beauty in composure rather than just hitting out.
Right at the end of the session I was offered a chance to free the demon by boxing harder but still maintaining an art form.
Following this session, I learnt that there is indeed a “monster” in me that I can work on taming with discipline, refusing to be hurried but rather measured in all that I do.
There is far more to being fit and strong than just a physical improvement. There is a philosophy to be applied to life itself, which becomes a valuable life journey.
Africa started karate in 1992 at Funakoshi Karate International and achieved his junior black belt. After this school in Uitenhage closed down, he went on to join Kyokushin karate before learning the art of Ashihara karate. In 2001 Africa went to study at Rhodes University where he was introduced to kung fu, which he trained in for three years before taking on kickboxing. He has a black belt in kickboxing and sensei status with his own kojo that he is running.
The deal here with Africa is that I want to be super fit, box beautifully and see how far he can take me. The deal is to obey and learn, my sensei. Breathe and exhale stress. To find out about classes or coaching, contact Africa on 082 554 1221 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.