A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again…

MMA Seminar with Alexander “Mola” Thomschke


The dojo where I am currently practicing Aikido has invited (for the second time, I believe) “Mola” - who I understand is a Mixed Martial Arts teacher.

The whole event was scheduled as two sessions of three hours on Saturday and another three hours on Sunday morning. These would cover (of course not much in detail) physical conditioning/warm up, holds/locks and ground fighting, kicks, boxing and sparring in general.

Well, that is what actually happened, but regarding what was being explained… unfortunately I don’t speak German, and - as I always do at seminars or lessons where I don’t talk the main language I try to absorb as much I can from gestures and the odd word that sounds like one of those I understand…

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The ad says that the price for Saturday will be “Sweat” and “More sweat” for Sunday.
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I swear that I can actually kick higher than this…
And another surprising amount of stuff comes from “just doing it” because watching experts applying a technique is interesting, but actually trying to reproduce the same with an (active) opponent is really something else entirely (that’s why you cannot learn much from Youtube or videos in general, for example).
The language was not really a problem anyway: I have been through this already in other cases, especially with Japanese Aikido teachers.

Ok, but anyway - taking in account that I would not understand most of the explanations, and that the “warm up” would definitely be much more strenuous than what I am accustomed to (both things were obvious way before going there) why didn’t I just stay at home to iron some shirts and update this site? Especially considering I am not exactly a teenager anymore (and definitely shorter/smaller than the vast majority of the people at the dojo)?
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Longer reach is really a big advantage…
The reason is very simple: I have been doing Aikido for 25 years now, and I never had the chance to actually try my hand at more competitive forms of combative arts.
True, I never really missed that, either (otherwise I would have found some other chance to do that), but this means also that there is always some lingering curiosity about how you would react in such a situation (which is way out of the normal “comfort zone” for an Aikidoka)… would I be able to function at all, despite this still being regulated by rules and not a real “fight”? can I actually fight offensively? will I just freeze up? what will it happen when I got struck? can I actually throw a kick? or soak up one?

Well, I can say that I got an answer to all the previous questions, plus one (potentially the most worrying): “can I actually get through the warm-up alive? (and do it again on Sunday morning)?”

I have indeed managed to get through all of it - even if some specific things (like headstands) proved to be definitely out of my reach.

(On the other hand, even if I did only a few attempts before quitting, I did see some little progress, so I suppose that if I really wanted to get there it would just be a matter of time).

Other things, like doing a full perimeter of the dojo with another guy on my shoulders (twice, actually, one as a rider and another in a sort of “fireman’s carry”) were surprisingly easier to complete.

That does not mean, of course, that I wasn’t totally zombified in the end - even biking back to my apartment was difficult.

On Monday evening I was still aching all over my body, but this did not prevent me to go back to the dojo for the normal Aikido training.
(As my teacher used to say “if you feel good enough to go to the office, you should be able to come to the dojo, too”).

Saturday (apart from the excruciating “warming up”) we practiced mostly ground work: mounts, holds, and how to (try to) get free when you are at the disadvantage.

I never really liked ne-waza (寝技, prone techniques) not even as a spectator when the Judo class was in session at my Dojo in Italy… and having tried it I can confirm it’s really not my cup of tea. On the other hand, having lost practically with everyone didn’t certainly help, even if I was always facing people 20 years younger than me (and most of the time either taller or bigger… or both).

Sunday morning was more fun for me: kicking, boxing and a bit of sparring. Finally each had to go through two distinct three-minutes “rounds” with a different opponent. Obviously these would end in ne-waza again, especially because we didn’t wear any head protection, and going for a KO through boxing or kicking would have been too dangerous.

All in all it was a fun diversion and I am glad to have been part of it. Not sure if I will do the same next year, though…

I want to add a few things in closing down. I was really happy with the teaching of “Mola”: he was always very kind, patient and encouraging with everyone, and it really made this a very interesting and nice lesson for everyone, including me in my David Mamet impersonation.

A big, personal “thank you” to Mola, then…

Finally, I agree with this article in general, and most of its comments: you have to find, among the various combative arts that are currently available, the “compromise” that better suits you, your body and your spirit. Every one has a different rationale, a different mix of ingredients, a different stress on some elements at the expense of something else… but all of these can teach you something about the martial ways, and ultimately about yourself.
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Sunday morning session: The few survivors