The idea of going to squad scared me, black belts would talk about sore arms and legs at Monday’s nights training. By my calculations, people significantly fitter and in every way tougher than me were still sore over 48 hours after the event.
I knew I didn’t have it in me to get there on my own accord, but with an offer of a lift there and back from a senior student, I thought I would give it a go.
The first and most overwhelming thing I noticed when I arrived was that everyone seemed to be a black belt. My belt was still in my bag and as people arrived and took their belts out, it was black belt, after black belt, after black belt. With each belt that came out, I felt a little further out of my depth.
My panic however was short lived, as we were soon into it. There was a flurry of action, and I could tell looking around that I needed some sort of score card, a pen, (a phone?) and a skipping rope, and I needed them pretty much straight away. Luckily for me, my black belt was onto it and we were ready to go. I was surprised to learn that in squad, there is no bowing in, no warm up and a different sort of structure to the formalities.
Everything in squad was hard. I remember at the beginning being concerned as to how unfit I was in comparison to everyone else, I think that’s why the black belts worried me so much. It didn’t take long to realise though that at squad everyone is competing against themselves, and the competition is fierce for everyone.
The last part of the class, by far the hardest part of the class physically for me, I was paired with a younger black belt. He went first in this set and watching him struggle to push through the required exercises terrified me; I no longer wanted to be there and felt a strong urge to explain to the instructor that there had been a mistake and I wasn’t supposed to be there. When it came my turn though, everyone around me was there, encouraging me to start and to give it a go. I think I managed about 30 seconds before I couldn’t do any more. At this point, my exhausted partner hopped down on the ground and went through the entire set with me again, step by step, at my pace, encouraging me to keep going until the very end. I couldn’t have been more grateful at that point to have black belts all around me.
In hindsight, as a first timer, the mental challenge of your first squad session far outweighs the physical, that is until the next day, when the mental challenge is gone and it’s all physical.