Too close for comfort

I appreciate all forms of martial arts and I’ve been training Muay Thai for a couple of years now. My appreciation spilled over into eagerness whilst working out at my local gym one day I was asked to join a mixed martial arts class for a free session. I thought this was my chance to add to my self defence repertoire so jumped at the chance. I was very unsure about the teacher, but there turned out to be around 10-12 other class members, all with various levels of martial arts experience and of different sizes. It was a relaxed environment with the teacher showing us a variety of moves which we then had to practice on each other. Getting physically close with strangers is something you have to do in MMA and it takes some getting used to, especially for a cold, judgemental snob like myself.

We got paired up according to ability and practiced the moves the teacher demonstrated to us. The first guy I was paired up with I had seen at the gym a few times before and we practiced alternate kicking techniques. The second guy I was paired up with was about my size and he seemed to be friends with the biggest guy in the group. I exchanged techniques with the second guy and then we switched from stand up to grappling, and I was paired up with the biggest guy in the group, who nobody seemed to want to train with for what I thought was an obvious reason, he’s the biggest guy in the group. I judged him straight away. He was taller than me, had matching gym clothes, trainers, cap to the back, oiled up hair, and looked like he worked a lot on his upper body and only his upper body. It’s that ‘don’t miss leg day’ concept which a lot of gym goers don’t get. He looked like someone had photo-shopped an Ethiopian child’s legs onto a body builders upper body, but we introduced ourselves and started the technique.

We were practicing a rear naked choke and escape, and for the uninitiated it involves one person attempting to strangle the other from behind whilst the other escapes. Chicken legs went first and attempted to strangle me and the escape move was to move to the side, which I did, no problem. In fact it was a bit too easy for me to escape because Mr KFC was holding me incorrectly. The choke wasn’t tight and it felt like he was giving me a hug. It’s like when you shake someone’s hand and instead of a firm response it feels like your crushing a paper cup that eventually turns into dust. You know a handshake is wrong when you get to feel all 4 finger bones rolling against each other and then it ends in a palm tickle. Not only was the choke loose, he had his head resting on my shoulders, so he was holding me from behind like I was his 5ft 2 partner waiting at the airport for the gate to show up on the departure board. His touch was soft, and lingering. It felt intimate. I tried to focus on the technique, but what I realised was each time I tried to move to the side to escape his grip tightened, keeping me in place. He was much stronger than me and I began to feel helpless. So I tapped out.

He let go, and before we tried the technique again I told him to keep his head back and tighten the choke initially to which he nodded. Didn’t say a  word. I could see the door. I wanted to leave at this point because I felt like because he seemed like a nice guy, and the class was free anyway, I didn’t want to come across as ungrateful. It’s that think we do as humans, constantly trying to appease the world without thinking about ourselves first. It’s natural. So I stayed. He re-engaged the technique, and I could feel him keeping his head back as he put his hands loosely around my neck. As he was struggling to find the correct hand position, I reached up to help put his hands in the right position and I felt him shuffle forward. As the head went back, the crotch moves forward, automatically, like he was doing the Macarena. I didn’t notice until it was too late. His hands were now in the right choking position. He applied more pressure (as I asked him too), his head was now pressed up against the side of mine, his mouth sweat rubbing against my ear and then he moves his crotch right up to my arse like we were doing a standing spoon. It felt like I put the fork in the toaster to get the last bit of cheese and chive bagel out,  but I left it plugged in. I jumped away quick and he looked shocked. He looked like I’d just turned him down on a date after we’d been flirting for hours…which was not my intention. I didn’t want to lead anybody on in this situation. Then that nice person syndrome kicks in and I say……okay my turn.

Whilst this is going on, and we were about to change positions, I take a look around to try and get some perspective because I did feel like something was wrong and I felt violated but I didn’t know if this just was what jiu jitsu was and I was over thinking the situation. Again, I was trying to not hurt anybody’s feelings, be accusatory, look weak or stupid so I buried my feelings and tried to get comparables from the other participants. When I looked around people we’re doing similar things, but then I started to think maybe this was some kind of freaky get together. Maybe this is the homoerotic jiu jitsu section and they were trying to initiate me, test me out to see how far I would go. That’s why the class was free. That’s why we jumped straight into a very crotch and butt close position. That’s why I was practicing these seemingly innocent moves with Mr drumstick. Then the teacher spoke. Finally. ‘Ok that’s enough, now watch me, we’re going try something else’. I felt a wave of relief wash over my body

The teacher pointed at my skinny legged partner and proceeded to show us the mount. Again, a very legitimate technique in jiu jitsu, this time it involves one person lying on their back whilst the other gets on top of them, legs either side of their waist. The teacher mounted the chicken man and began to explain how to maintain position and look for a submission. Instantly I became anxious. He expects me to do this? With this guy again?  My palms started to get sweaty. I got an uneasy feeling in belly and he kept trying to get eye contact with me. Chicken man was trying to lock eyes with me as if he was letting me know. Preparing me for the next encounter. We’re only 15 mins in!  This is an hour and a half session. I cannot believe I put myself in this position, and now I’m planning an escape from Dannemorra. My heads spinning a little bit, I can hear the buzzing chatter outside  the cage as my focus shifts to getting out. The teacher is still talking and I can hear questions being asked in the background by one of the other students. This is when I make my move and I slowly move towards the door which had a typical sliding bolt at eye level and leave.

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