On Shitty Classes and Physical Autonomy

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I recently decided to cancel my dojo membership because I was paying 100 bucks a month, but rarely making it to class (they only have a couple of classes each day, and while I love the quality of instruction there, my schedule has been making it impossible to go lately). I’m fine paying $100+ each month on my fitnessing, but I hate paying for shit if I’m not using it.

So, I decided to put that membership on hold and take a different approach to my training for a while.

I bought a Groupon for a cardio kickboxing place down the street. They have a whole bunch of classes throughout the day, so it’s easier to drop it at any time. My main goal with these classes is to work on my conditioning, and frankly, just to have someone tell me to do stuff (confession: I’m terrible at self-motivation when it comes to my training).

And it’s a good thing I’m not going to these classes for help with technique because the instruction is godawful! The “instructor” has a script of the same three phrases that she shouts on repeat while looking at her phone, after rattling off a combination:

  • Lookin’ good ladies!
  • Lock it in!
  • We’re wrapping it up! Just keep going! (This phrase is in the rotation from five minutes into class, so I’m not sure what we’re wrapping up.)

I basically ignore her instruction and focus on my technique with the combos she shouts out. It means I do way less than everyone else in class, and I take many more breaks, but I’m getting what I want from the class - I’m definitely working on my conditioning, and I’m laser focused on nailing down my technique. The rest is garbage.

But, here’s the thing. I’ve got a solid three years of martial arts training under my belt, and while my knowledge at this point is a drop in the bucket of what I still hope to learn over the next 20+ years, it’s a whole lot more than most people walking in to a class like this. I’m able to attend this class, focus on my own practice, and pay attention to what my body needs, while ignoring the garbage. I’m not scared of getting hurt. In fact, that dangerous desire to prove myself that tends to come out in the dojo doesn’t exist in this environment (as an example, one woman came up to me at the end of class and told me I have “killer kicks” and I had to smile to myself because I knew they’d never have flown with my sensei, but no one in this class knows the difference).

So, no, I’m not scared of getting hurt taking these classes. But I am scared for the 90% of people in these classes who have no previous instruction. And I realized that, sometimes, physical autonomy means having a strong enough foundation that you can take shitty classes from shitty instructors if there’s something specific you want from them, without fear of injury or setbacks. That’s pretty damn cool.