Matting and martial arts

There’s an interesting intersection between two points in my life, which occurred to me today, as I was working my first shift at the art supply store.

Wasn’t bad. I was doing an inventory of matboard, so for the first time, my ability to distinguish between five hundred different shades of white came in handy. (“You call that eggshell? That’s antique cream! Bah! And this isn’t Fossil, it’s Tusk!”) And, as always happens when you handle matboard, I sliced my hands in a few dozen spots, because the papercuts you get from matboard are somethin’ else again. Happened when I cut mats in college, happens again now, will probably continue to happen as long as I work in the frame department.

This intersected, in my memory, with my days of taking martial arts, of aikido and iaido, owing to one phrase that echoes down the corridors of my brain.

Don’t bleed on the mat.

Heh heh heh. Tatami is hard to clean. Ragboard is impossible. So the cardinal rule of both matting and martial arts is the same. If you get hurt–and you will get hurt, all the arts are dangerous business–you jam your injured appendage into either your mouth or your elbow or your armpit so that you don’t drip.

Ironically, I hurt myself a lot less playing with swords in iaido. You work with a mogito, which looks like a sword and hefts like a sword but has a blade made primarily of zinc and a blunt edge. (Still pointy, though.) You could still hurt yourself with it pretty good, but you have to work at it–the web of skin between thumb and left hand takes the brunt of injury, since you’re always catching it in the sheath on the final click, or if you’re really unlucky, sliding the edge of the sword through it. If you do this, it is fine to curse and scream and leap about, we will think no less of you, but get off the mat.

It was an odd intersection of two utterly seperate parts of my life. I was amused.

Leave a Reply