Written by Lizzie Macaulay
Looking at me, you wouldn’t think I’d make much of a martial artist.
And you’d be right.
But this month, I think my fortunes might be changing in that regard thanks to this incredible column that keeps pushing me to try new things even when they’re incredibly intimidating.
Arriving at Integrated Martial Arts Wellbeing Centre, I was extremely curious to discover what lay ahead for our session.
As I looked around the expansive gym, owner Michael Green’s journey to now – and that of his clients – is documented in photos and memorabilia plastered on every wall.
Pictures of past inspirational clients and ‘trainees’, philosophical banners, and records of Michael’s own achievements paint an impressive picture of the life he’s lived and the community he’s built around him.
For someone who has been ‘fighting’ the majority of his life, I promise you, you will never meet a more centred, calming influence than this.
As you speak to Michael his imposing figure stands in fascinating contrast to the gentle, considered thoughts he’s sharing.
My experience of martial arts only extends to the Bruce Lee movies my brothers watched when we were kids.
So to meet someone who had internalised – and lives – the spiritual teachings of ancient wisdom was eye opening to say the least. I wanted to know more immediately.
It was time to get down to brass tacks.
My immediate response, of course, was sheer panic; “WAIT!” my brain screamed, “can’t we just go back to talking?!”
As a reflex, I started to babble about how ‘I’m not going to be any good at this’. Thankfully my brain eventually caught up with my mouth and shut the babble down. I listened instead.
We started as I imagine every lesson with Michael would start – with deep, respectful bows and centring breaths that start to ground and focus you for the session ahead.
So far, so good – I definitely know how to breathe… I think…
We sat for a further breathing exercise, but this time, the aim of the game was to cross your legs in such a way that you receive a satisfying stretch, and your spine (and spirit) are in complete alignment.
As I sat there wobbling away, I’m painfully aware of the signals I’m throwing out – uncentred, ungrounded and definitely not as flexible as I might’ve hoped for.
Michael is gracious enough to simply offer corrections and encouragement.
I really hoped he wasn’t noticing that my mind is racing, heavy with shame that every life choice I’ve made to now has not led me to ‘being better’ in this moment.
I was already out of my depth, but so open to learning.
Breathing exercises complete, we stand.
Michael spends the next little while sharing some moves that may come in handy one day if someone ever tried to send a kick my way.
It’s really a beautiful, flowing kind of dance – specific steps at specific moments that use ‘the aggressor’s’ momentum against them.
It didn’t matter that Michael was considerably bigger than me, the forces of gravity and nature are what they are.
(In saying that, I know fine well outside of the context of this lesson he would have a clear and effective response to the movement on offer)
We repeated the steps and built on them, occasionally switching roles to get the perspective of the other.
The most complex battle happening internally is between my ego, my mama bear instincts to protect those around me… and reality.
I cringed deeply every time Michael instructed me to send any type of kick in his direction – both from the perspective of my generally being a fairly passive chick, and as someone who has literally no experience of kicking anything or anyone.
The reality was that I was never going to inflict any kind of pain on this robust individual. However each time I was the one doing the kicking, I would hesitate, concerned that I would somehow accidentally cause harm.
Naturally we both made it through unscathed and ready for the grand crescendo of our lesson.
Now if kicking isn’t a skillset I had remotely entertained before, the idea of grappling is so incredibly far off, I can’t even tell you.
Michael started to get animated as he shares something he clearly has an affinity for.
We rehearsed the movements we’d been working on once again with one key difference – this time I found myself completely incapacitated on the ground under Michael’s imposing frame – unable to move, unlikely to struggle.
I’m not even totally sure what happened, but I was about to learn how to do it for myself.
It’s an unusual thing to feel so helpless in the moment, and know that you can inflict that feeling on someone else if need be.
It was my turn to deliver that same experience to Michael.
To my complete amazement, I managed to pull Michael to the ground and recreate what I’d been instructed to do.
I’m under no illusions about what this would be like in an actual tense situation, but in this moment, with my willing participant, I was bewildered by what I’ve managed to achieve.
(The accompanying photos may attest to this!)
For all intents and purposes, Michael was stuck.
While this kind of knowledge comes with huge responsibility, Michael teaches a peace-first approach.
He’s so clearly sharing his knowledge and skill to positively influence the people in his orbit.
Strength, courage and respect are more than just catchy words for his logo – they are abiding principles that we could all benefit from adhering to.
As our time came to an end, I was aware that I’d barely scraped the surface of what’s possible – physically, spiritually and intuitively. I got that familiar feeling of never wanting to leave and the hunger to try again, building on my first lesson.
Michael’s teachings of integrated martial arts are so much more than ‘learning how to fight’. I’d even argue that’s quite far down on the list of things you learn.
Confidence, inner peace, focus, determination and serving a purpose greater than your own all spring to mind – qualities you can’t ever buy, but earn over time with consistent practice.
No matter your age or current ability, there’s something you can learn here.
I have no doubt that time spent at Integrated Martial Arts Wellbeing Centre would never be wasted.
Michael and the team will absolutely change your mind, body and life for the better.