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The night is the best time to ride a bicycle, really. There's something about the night that renders everything in a different way, so that even the most familiar places seem new and amazing. Perhaps it's not like that at all, perhaps it's just because I'm afraid of the dark that it's something of a daring adventure for me. Whatever you think of the more intangible aspects of it, cycling at night definitely has its advantages: There are no flies, no heat, no cars, no sunburn. With a light sprinkling of rain you couldn't ask for more. Also, if you're going downhill (even by a little bit) at more than 20 kilometres per hour, you can stretch out your arms and feel like you're flying through empty space.

When I said, "I'm going for a ride, I'll be back later", Mum seemed to interpret this as something ominous, asking me if I was "really OK." That's the other good thing about night-time cycling, it's something that people won't expect, something out of the ordinary. I was absolutely OK. I went out of town, in the direction of Guyra, a smaller town nearby. I had no intention of actually making it all the way there. Not long after the speed limit changes to 100, a road diverges from the highway, and this road is the trunk of a strange tree of cul-de-sacs. This place appeared from nowhere last year, and most of the plots of land are still empty. It's funny, really, because it's not more than two kilometres from town, but the billboards at the entrance advertise it as a "gateway to the rural lifestyle", "a quiet life", and the like. It's the kind of place that is designed for Sydney people who come here in search of the "rural lifestyle", but dare go no further than living somewhere that is without a Starbucks (so far). I found it very funny to see the kinds of houses that they built there: rendered brick houses with "Roman" pillars at the door, green lawns but no trees whatsoever; exactly the kind of houses they would have lived in in Sydney.

So I kept following the side-roads that appeared along my little stretch of highway, and the last one led me down a long, empty road that I'd travelled before. This little road appears to go nowhere, but after a distance it folds back on itself and heads towards the university. At the corner, where the road whips around on the side of a small hill, there is a wonderful little house. It's nested in foliage, so there's not much to be seen from the road, but I imagine it belonging to a well-travelled, chubby man who retired aeons ago and now spends his days tending to his garden, his private sanctuary. I imagine him being a former expert on some terribly esoteric subject in the dusty corners of human knowledge. I imagine him one day looking upon his garden and seeing that it is exactly the way he has wanted it to be, and then quietly dying in his chair after drinking a glass of water.
But I digress.
All that aside, from this hill the town can be seen twinkling in the distance, and there is no light above but the moon. I stood straddling my bike for some time, soaking up the breeze and its grassy smell.

I've always had a sense of foreboding about the future, knowing or believing that some great unhappiness is forever creeping towards us. I think that I'm justified in believing that, with all that's wrong with the world. On that small hill, beside that little house and its imagined owner, the man I'd like to become, I decided that all of that fear inside me would be bearable as long as I could have moments like the one I was a part of right then. I decided that I should endeavour to remember those words, so that I could repeat them later, when someone was around to hear them. Aloud, I said, "Not everything will be OK, but that's OK, really."

Setting off back in the direction from which I came, I was pointed towards the murky orange glow of the town's lights, scattered in the clouds. I thought of The Old Man and the Sea, how he held onto the thought that as long as Havana's lights was there, just visible beyond the horizon, he could find his way back home. I think I like The Old Man and the Sea.

There's a huge roundabout that connects the highway to the edge of town, and inside it is a little group of shady trees, with a tall metal lamp in the centre. I think that is a really wonderful thing, to have a simple little grove in the middle of a highway. I went and sat there, under those trees, where during the day the squeal of compression brakes and whooshing of the speeding cars couldn't be ignored. I wished I had my camera and a sandwich.

Not to nit pick or criticise the node for dehydration but under the heading “Dehydration can also occur from inadequate intake of water” psydereal should probably have included the example bullet points “forced denial of water intake by a psychotic weirdo wearing a black skirt”

Welcome to the bewildering world of jitsu foundation.

If you ever needed an army of martial artists to fight against ninjas in the middle of the desert, jitsu foundation should be your first port of call. A jitsu grading, or exam, consists of about four hours of exercise culminating in death defying (all though some practitioners are occasionally not so successful at the “defying” part) pressure training where you fend of attacks from knives, sticks, swords, chains and broken bottles straight after each other.

So basically a jitsu grading is a marathon ending in a hundred meters sprint.

But here’s the catch – the reason if you will why I am sitting here drinking water a whole 14 hours before my next grading begins – THEY DON’T LET YOU DRINK ANY WATER.

Let me give you a quick run down of the last time I did a grading.

Woke up at ludicrous o’clock got up and headed straight for the train station. Decided not to make the same mistake I made last time where I ended up vomiting into my karate suit (yes in the latter stages the body will vomit inorder to hydrate the mouth. The body is stupid.) and drank two litres of water on the train.

Skip to the mat. Walked on stomach positively creaking with water, struggled through the warm up. I was unlucky enough to pick the hottest weekend in months to grade on but that’s ok at least they kept the heaters off. After a good half hour warm up the grading instructor arrived. We were unlucky enough to find out that this was his first grading and that because of this he was going to be “thorough”. We went thought every possible technique we could do including 40 throws back to back, a circle where people grab kick and punch you from all directions, rape defences (they’re sort of a lot harder on the rapists actually!)

After 3 hours it was time for the pressure training or “V” (from the way that two cues of people line up in a V where you as the defender are the spiky end. We’re not very imaginative with names in jitsu. In china they have wonderful names like “monkey steals peach” (see “rape defences” above) we have “wrist lock number one” and “hip-wheel”.)

Now when I took the stage at the apex of the V my mouth was already so dry I couldn’t lick a stamp. This is known as stage 3 dehydration (stage one being “my pee isn’t completely transparent” and one is “ooh I could murder a cuppa”). It stops you talking, swallowing and being comfortable. You know when you are trying to swallow a pill and it gets stuck in your throat, it’s like that except all over. I had long since stopped sweating and was probably already swaying somewhat I most certainly couldn’t think in words longer than three syllables.

I don’t remember much about the V but it couldn’t have been too bad because I only had a few bumps on my head. I defiantly nailed this brown belt in the solar plexus so that was fun.

They then got me to do a few more throws – it looked good, because they were testing me on stuff that wasn’t in my syllabus.

Then they put me into another V. Until I collapsed on the floor and had to be dragged off. Thankfully I hadn’t vomited this time because I didn’t have enough in there to vomit out. This is level four dehydration. Level five involves either brain aneurysms or heart attacks, but always involves a free stay in hospital.

You will be glad to know that on this occasion the paramedics weren’t called.

However you might be as miffed as I was to learn that I failed the grading*.

So here I am now a mere 13 hours away from the grading and I am going to tell you the methods that I’m going to be using tomorrow to fair better in the dehydration stakes.

1 I am drinking now. When I get up in the morning I will be fully hydrated. Not only am I drinking I am drinking water mixed with Dioralyte (yes it seems they have gone the way of Annusol in naming their product after the embarrassing illness it treats) a medication designed to ameliorate the symptoms of diarrhoea. It’s basically salt and sugar. It’s an important point to note that to properly hydrate, the body needs something in the water or frankly you are probably not helping yourself at all by drinking (see my last grading).

2 Lucozade sport. Immediately before the grading. Tastes like shite but apparently these guys sink a fortune into getting this crap right. Same idea as the Dioralyte above but even more concentrated.

3 Ancient Chinese medicine. Shengmiyin comes in little test tubes all arranged in a display case. They even put a little ribbon along the back to make it easier to take out and a tiny straw to make it easier to drink. Bless. It is however quite a powerful drug to help prevent all sorts of aliments including dehydration. At least that’s what the son of the guy who owned the shop said to me after he had to look up the Chinese word for dehydration on the internet and then have a jabbered conversation with the collected experts scattered around the shop.
I have lots of faith in this one. Honest.

4 Super emergency Lucozade brew. This is for the dreamers. If and I stress if, if in that month of Sundays, the chance to leave the mat to get water arises this is the first thing I go for. This is a pouch of gloop that gives you instant energy for around 30 minutes. God knows what it tastes like but I’m going to neck that with a whole gob full of water and hope that it works.

5 Soak my martial art’s suit in water. Now this is actually very clever. I was advised this by a top Japanese aikido practitioner. Basically the thought process works like this: the second biggest use of water during exercise is through sweat. If you sweat and then wipe it off straight away with a bone dry gi then you sweat more and more. However if the gi is already wet it will still act as a heat sink without drawing the water out of your body leaving plenty of water left for the biggest use of water – providing energy.

6 Pasta. One of the big messes I made last grading was the ludicrous o’clock wake up and leave the house without a proper breakfast. However breakfasts aren’t really the breakfast of champions any more are they? Now what you need is slow release energy with lots of stored up water. Soggy pasta is the obvious answer. With only 12 hours to go I might start boiling the spaghetti.

Here are two things I won’t be using tomorrow:

Dextrose ravioli. Wrap dextrose in slow dissolving pasta to provide that late energy boost you need! I am definitely going to look into this but I think it needs more research.

Asprin. Thins the blood. I have no idea what the implications of this are but I’m not experimenting tomorrow.

Oh shit.

I mean today.

So that is it. I need to sleep or I will have lack of sleep as an excuse in three months time and will write all about that instead like a moaning bastard (if you need an army of trained marital artists to fight in the perpetual twilight of the arctic circle…)

*before you say “oh you must be shit then” I recently got a gold at the national event which tests “Vs”. I was just that dehydrated.

update 1230 next day: ...and it happened again. The dehydration wasn't as bad but I still failed I have a near-broken nose, a big lump on my forehead and something wrong with my shoulder. I still have no green belt. yes that's right all this is for my third belt out of seven to reach blackbelt. I do suck. mock me.

update 11:35 14th June 2009 yes: TWO THOUSAND AND NINE! PASSED GREENBELT WITH FLYING COLOURS! spent six days hydrating myself (pissing ever 20 mins etc) had a strict carb-only diet (including the wonder super-low-glucose-index-food peas pudding) drank three small 550ml bottles of Lucozade before starting and a 1l bottle of Dioralyte water and soaked GI. Five hours later I couldn't see outside a very close gray sphere in front of me. My arms and legs took seconds longer to respond to stimulus than necessary, I couldn't talk, sweating was right out of the picture. But then something strange happened, for some reason I was just doing the moves without thinking about them. The moves flowed well and were based on touch and balance. I had about three - really good techniques right at the end on total auto pilot. I'm not saying that there is anything in this dehydration mumbo jumbo (other than utter cruelty and the sense of tradition through initiation) but if there was, being able to operate at the point of utter oblivion would be it.

never again until next time!

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