When I was invited to write about Training Day, I wondered if it was because, from what I saw, I was the only one who lost blood. More on that later.
The seven-strong Melbourne contingent landed on the Coast in 2 waves. My partner and I were in the later Friday night convoy. I remember being en route to the Coast in our Europcar rental and discussing with our friend (and fellow student) what we were anticipating for the next day. Descriptors like nervous, excited, trepidatious never strayed far from our expectations, which were largely speculative, as we were all first-timers at an Arakan Training Day.
On the Saturday morning, our primary instructor, 2nd Degree Senior Instructor Josh Cheeseman, arranged a group training session with Senior Instructor Ben Ho for some of us, while my partner had the privilege of a private lesson with Instructor Ali Greig. We were to find out that Robina Primary School was the heartland of Arakan training in Australia. It was empowering paying homage to the Arakan Mecca, knowing how many threshold-breaking training moments would have taken place in the maze-like and multi-levelled surrounds over the decades. Us Melbournians relished the teachings of our respective instructors. Despite having never met, the universal Arakan culture served as an unspoken common language during our training with Ben and Ali, who were courteous, patient, but enthusiastic and inspirational.
Sustenance was sought at the Robina Shopping Centre, then it was time to head up the mountain. Excitement, disquiet and apprehension built as the kilometres did. The picturesque Gold Coast hinterlands were a mere artefact in my memory, which comprise mostly of breathing exercises, mental reminders about my stance, dropping my weight and loosening my shoulders...
As always, it was humbling and inspiring just to be in the vicinity of Master Rob, who warmly welcomed us to Training Day. Beyond that, there was no idle chit chat and Training Day got promptly underway.
The Day could be summarised into 5 distinct 'chapters,' comprising of takedown defence/groundwork, close corner yielding/combat and weapons defence skills. The instructors randomly fed students to allow practice of each skill set, often with realistic verbal taunts, but always with care, encouragement and instruction where needed. At one point, one of the students had to spontaneously problem solve after being restrained by a garden hose coiled around his body.
I particularly want to take this opportunity to, again, pay tribute to the instructors. Feeding and provision of instructions aside, the drills practised demanded that instructors place their bodies on the line, namely (but not limited to) their eyes, nose, neck, elbow and knee joints. The dedication and professionalism of the instructors were an inspiration to us all.
Energy throughout the entire day was electrifying. Master Rob's effortless movements and uncanny fluidity, the instructors' inspired feeding and jeers, along with the students' collective energy and focus amalgamated into mass camaraderie and shared fight energy. The high esprit de corp endured well past sunset. As the day descended into darkness, the last 15 minutes featured random and creative feeding from the instructors across the entire camp grounds, while the students practised exercising sensory awareness, self-defence and breakout skills.
During one furious flurry, I failed to sight a kick to the sternum. On reflection, I'd also misjudged my distance. While winded, I was awarded a punch to the nose. Fear and dread unsuspectedly set in when I realised my nose had become an open faucet. Thankfully some simple pressure afterwards stopped the bleeding. Of all lessons I learned at Training Day, the last 15 minutes galvanised my future resolve to condition my physical fragility by furthering my training and discipline.
In one line, Training Day saw plenty of sweat, a little blood, but definitely no tears."