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Midlife Crisis in Canvas: Week 2

Updated on May 25, 2016

Mauricio at his desk


The start of a tough week

Day 8

I awoke fairly happy although still very stiff. My lower lumbar required a lot more stretching that I presumed I would need. I gave myself a few uppercuts for doing exactly what Tony Vanderhurk warned me about. Stretching was now becoming as part of my morning routine as caffeine, strength and conditioning and the internal debate on whether I should shave or not.

Today I shaved. It had been a while but I had an audition to play an army officer and they would expect me to be clean shaven. My strength and conditioning was still in the stage of dealing with delayed onset muscle soreness – so my numbers weren’t a true indication of gains. As my stabilisers got fit again and my muscles got over the initial shock of training I knew I would eventual even out and then improve steadily. Normally takes a week and a half. I also had to train twice today. Once with Dave and once with Mauricio. I grabbed my gear and hoofed it into the city.

I have begun listening to Joe Rogan in the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast on my trips on the L90. Joe was part comedian, part Mixed Martial Arts expert and all philosopher. I literally had found nothing that I really disagreed with him on and at times his podcast served as a self affirming mantra that chuckled me to sleep. I won't take time out to sledge the public transport system because in all honesty I would be a bit lost without it. The L90 bus is the Northern Beaches equivalent of a train line that takes you to and from the city. A good run can be 25 minutes. A bad one can last well over an hour. I had a script to get down and had left with time to spare so I got stuck into it to make sure that preparation would not be a problem.

Disaster. I was waiting in the car park out the front of the casting agency when I took a phone call from Family and Community Services in regards to access to my son. As usual they were oppositional, in complete contradiction to the last conversation I had prieviously had with them and once again I found them twisting the narrative to suit there aim of limiting time with my son. I walked into my audition incensed and completely blanked all my preparation. The lines just weren’t there and for the first time in a long time I was nervous. The audition was ok but not great. I would not get the part. I walked out doubly frustrated. On my way to train with Dave I reflected on what went wrong and how I needed to change my approach. Clearly I was harbouring a toxic level of emotion and it was overflowing and swamping areas where I needed calm and clear thought. I needed to “flow” better … not just on the mats but in life.

I saw Dave and said G’day to Daniel Sainty, the Viking looking black belt who served as David’s mentor. I felt a instinctive bond with Dan as I was technically a legacy student of his but in a strange way this also creates a distance between us that comes off as a little awkward. Dan and his partner Daniele (the two Dan’s … added to his four black belts: Martial Arts humour … I’m here all week, try the veal!) had their infant son “Pinky” with them. I dwelled on my own stifled fatherhood and decided it was time to exorcize some demons.

Dave and I got straight into it. He focused immediately during our first roll on singling out a mistake I made when I rolled straight into a choke he set up effectively tapping myself out. Dave calmly ran me through the leverage points and how I should adapt and move my hips and use my head to control where I ended up. We drilled this numerous times. Dave finished off the session with a couple of more rolls where he aggressively put me in these trouble spots and I worked my way out of them. I had not completely let go of what happened earlier and at times over exerted. Afterwards I grabbed a bite to eat with Dave up the road. We talked about the progress I was making and what I had to focus on. I also showed him this journal … he laughed and commented that reflective learning was what will make the difference on this journey to my previous attempts. I asked Dave to qualify a comment that “Jiu Jitsu changed my life”. He spoke at length about the opportunities, the purpose and even the travel that he had engaged in. He also talked about the moment in which his coach, Dan, had believed in him. I noticed this was a recurring theme in the people I had been hanging out with recently.

I walked into Mona Vale gym that night stiff. The warm ups were quite thorough as Marucio drilled us. I was breathing heavily at the end. During the teaching part of the class he took us through how to defat an under hook from side control and three different techniques of breaking an opponents guard. There was also a choke at the end that I will have to revise as I did not have a training partner for it. Mauicio calmly surveyed the class and would correct technique where flaws were found. Mauricio was about as legit as they come. He was the grappling coach of the Canterbury Bulldogs Rugby League team and trained BJJ with UFC standouts Richie Walsh and the highly ranked middleweight Robert Whittaker. He overcame the fact that English was not his first language by being constantly patient and measured.

During the rolling phase I faced three guys who had dominated me fairly easily in my last session on the mats. I faired much better this time around despite the layoff and the intense training earlier in the day. Reminding myself of Dave’s maxims I found myself confidently rolling with senior belts. I happily walked home eagre to talk to Dave about the noted progress.

I noticed once again that I was no longer in a dark place. Another recurring theme.

Day 9

My training in the morning is a bit chaotic at the moment. I am working around tendonitis and sheer exhaustion of what was probably overtraining. My numbers were all down today but that would account for the three and a half hours of training yesterday. I subscribed by the Pavlik method of strength training which is to try and stop one or two reps before failure as then there is no nervous tension overload. This means the gains will be felt quicker and I need less rest time.

I ran into Tony Vandenhurk this morning over my morning coffee and thanked him for the four books he had lent me. I was particularly impressed by the the two grappling tombs “Fighting Judo” by Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki and “The Encyclopaedia of Grappling Holds” by the legendary Gene Lebelle. When I had thumbed through them the night before I had noticed that someone had signed the inners of these two whilst gifting them to Tony, so I was aware that they were of some sentimental value to him. I thanked him for the books and let him know I saw the writing at the front. I probably should have read it. He had lent them to me at all. He had given them to me.

“I wrote that for you” said Tony with a wry smile. I stammered a genuinely humble thankyou, feeling like a white belt in social graces more than I ever have before. We talked a bit about the first week. I told him about the progress of this journal.

I had “Fighting Judo “ in my satchel for some light reading on the bus. After Tony and I parted ways I reached for it and opened the front cover to read inside.

“To assist in the journey. All the best Andrew George”

It was signed: Tony Vandenhurk. Sensei 4th Dan, Kaisei Ryu Ju Jitsu.

That’s pretty badass.

I went into town and sat through a counselling session with my long time counsellor. As a veteran I am entitled to free counselling and that and free beers on ANZAC Day seem to be the greatest regards to my military service. We talked about my son and what was happening tomorrow. I was to be grilled for five hours about my suitability to take fulltime care of my6 son. Since my ex wife had had a melt down of biblical proportions I was looking to become the full time carer. Its amazing how much the state was in opposition to this.

Let me as a caveat express that I entered the family/children’s court with no pre existing prejudice. I believed the system was fair and equitable and in the long run as a good and law abiding man I would be granted reasonable access to my son, something that my ex wife and her very wealthy family had been frustrating ever since my son opened his eyes

I was wrong. The system is very flawed. It is a game with loaded dice. As a bloke you are walking into the highest stake poker game you will ever play; and the house always wins. Government and legal officials in these particular systems are so imprinted in their assumptions that even when my ex wife was scheduled and her lies unpacked by the authorities I was still held up as the bad guy and struggled to increase any access. Recommendations for judges were ignored and my war to Bring Back Ben was now being fought on multiple fronts. It was exhausting and depressing and thanks to overloaded courts, very slow. Many fathers just give up in a war of attrition as the disappointments and constant grief becomes to much. Many, sadly, take their own lives.

My counsellor impressed on me to stay calm. I informed her that no father who actually cared about their child would be calm under the circumstances. She told me that any glimpse of my anger would be misinterpreted. I really needed to “flow” through this. I left that meeting and went and saw Tim Glastonberry. Tim and I talked about the development of his film. He was assembling an amazing production team. In a moment of self depreciation, I questioned Tim on why he had chosen me as an actor given he could easily tempt a known face to do this. Tim quickly rubbished my comment saying that I had what he needed for his film. I made a mental note never to do that again. Apart from coming off as one of those atypical insecure actors that are a black hole of reassurance; It’s not okay to question the faith people have in you. That energy would be more put to use in repaying it.

I went to the open mat at Mona Vale. No one was there for me to roll with so I drilled some moves and worked on flexibility and core strength. Justin returned my call and we went out and I promptly scheduled a cheat day due to some spectacularly good pizza. I relayed my week’s progress and my fears for the following day. He talked to me about how he had been offered a CEO position of a $150 million consulting firm. He had calmly not rushed headlong in and was offering to restructure the firm to ensure it wasn't a poisoned chalice. He was also protective of the lifestyle that allowed him to spend time with his kids. He walked me through his Tae Kwon Do stretching regime. Justin used to own this device that would not have been out of place in the Tower of London. It was all wood and steel with wheels and planks that you cranked and stretched groin and hamstrings. He described in depth the nature of stretching and its importance in martial arts. Of all the training I did I hated stretching. The rest I was cool with – but stretching … it was just lots of pain for the littlest of gains. Talking about it helped and I am sadly resolved to include it in my routine. I spoke about my apprehension about the next days interviews. Justin dropped me home. He told me to get some sleep and gave me a hug.

As I climbed into bed I opened up Gene Lebelle’s Grappling World. “Judo” Gene Lebelle had trained Bruce Lee and Ronda Rousey – the two biggest names in martial arts history. As I opened it I read the hand written note … mostly emphatically written in capitals.

This book has been passed on to Andrew George 13/5/2016






Tony Vandenhurk. Sensei 4th Dan, Kaisai Ryu Ju Jitsu.

As I said … Badass


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