I am a lover of martial arts. My main training buddy is my very good friend Nesha. He brings out the most testosterone-driven, masculine version of me because he is also an old-fashioned man’s man. Not that that side of me needs too much nudging to come out. Now masculinity has been much maligned lately, being labeled toxic. But like all simpleton ideologies it naively paints the world in black and white and places masculinity deep in the black. Well, anyone with above-infantile understanding of the reality realizes that there are 2 sides to any coin. Traditional masculinity has many benefits – in its archetypal form it fosters mental and physical toughness, fierce loyalty to friends and family, protectiveness of people in one’s social orbit, perseverance, objective problem solving, courage, pride, honour, and chivalry. It definitely has a place in today’s world and training martial arts definitely fosters it.
So, when we train, we do it in a hard, aggressive, self punishing manner. “Torture the body to strengthen the spirit” kind of thing. And once a week is a strength day. Well, 2 days ago was one of those days when 2 middle aged men prostrated themselves before the gods of masculinity by doing 100 pullups, 100 dips and 200 skater lunges in a single training session. Impressive, right? Yeah, we thought so too. With body flooded with endorphins, adrenaline and testosterone and lats as wide as peacock’s tail one cannot help but feel like Hercules or Dwayne Johnson.
And then the Great Humbling comes around the next day with the vengeance. Middle age body rebels. “Oh yeah? You’re going to torture me motherfu@#er? You’re going to put me through pain? I will show you pain!” – is what I imagine my body said once the deafening cacophony of hormones subsided. And then it launched a major inflammatory response overnight. First signs of it were panicked search for Ibuprofen in the middle of the night to dampen the cramps in the legs, arms, shoulders and pretty much everywhere else. Body twitching all night long, hot flashes, inability to sleep followed. Waking up after a turbulent night, it hurt to get up, walk, breathe, sit, even blink. Bowel movement and subsequent sanitation was a challenge akin to legendary hero’s 12 tasks. 2 days later I am still whining like a little girl with every move while everyone is laughing at me. There is no way this is how it was for Hercules, was it?
It is at times like these that we are reminded why there are 2 biological sexes and why since time immemorial men married women and cherished having daughters. It is evolutionary self preservation at its best. We need the tenderness, moderation, and caution so inherent in traditional femininity to counterbalance our maniacal urges. And someone to bring us stuff when we rip up all our muscle fibers or suffer from head splitting hangovers. And while our biological role of fighting off the roving bands of marauders from our homestead is less important these days, we are still needed to open those pesky jars or change lightbulbs in those particularly high places. It is hard to open those jars when you do not have the grip honed through countless pullups.
This is a never-ending cycle inherent in our biology. Even though after every self punishing exercise we pledge not to repeat the mistake that brought about so much pain and temporary disability we come right back to it and do it again. Why? How else can we become strongest, meanest, middle-aged software developers of the planet Earth!
Now excuse me while I painfully wobble over to the medicine cabinet for some much-needed chemical pain relief.