Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Step 5

Yesterday something finally came into view that has been hovering on the horizon like a shy teenage boy on his crush's doorstep, with a bunch of flowers on Valentine's Day.

Of all the things that I thought would help me see where I was being held back in my life, I never once imagined it would be a reunited 1980s boyband.

I was bored and flicking through channels on Youtube and for some reason one of the links in the right hand menu was "Jon Knight sings step 5". This referred to the reunited New Kids on the Block at a live gig about 5 years ago and the bit of the song "Step By Step" where each member of the band sings a "step". Danny is 1, Donnie 2, Jordan 3, Joey 4 and Jon 5.

I was mildly curious as to why this was so noteworthy as to warrant a video of its own. After all, Jon's line is simply "don't you know that the time has arrived?" I asked myself if NKOTB fans were so sad as to post a video that highlighted one bit of one song sung by one member of a quintet. Then I watched it and it became more puzzling. Once Jon sings the line the other guys jump on him like he's a striker in a World Cup soccer final who's just scored a goal. They hug him and are clearly over the moon and Jon is grinning and very happy. Checking out the comments section it turned out that this was the first time ever that Jon had sung that line at a live concert. Every other gig (and remember, that song came out in 1990 when the band were at their peak) the line was sung by Joey.

So, what is this to do with Krav? Well, I looked a little deeper into this and it turned out that Jon Knight was the reason that the New Kids split up in 1994. He left the group so they decided to call it a day. I remember them splitting up because back in the day they were the biggest band around. Bigger than One Direction or N 'Sync and rivalled only by The Backstreet Boys in later years (who they went on tour with recently).

But I digress....

In the late 80s and early 90s Jon Knight had the world at his feet. A multi millionaire by the age of about 21 he was loved by millions of screaming, adolescent girls and had his picture everywhere. From 1990 to 1991 the New Kids on the Block made ONE BILLION dollars on worldwide merchandise and netted about 25 million US dollars EACH in that same tax year. What more could a young man possibly want?

Once he quit the group he went into real estate and was out of the public eye almost completely, living on a farm and being reclusive.

It turned out that he was plagued by panic attacks and anxiety and hated being in public. The pressure and stress he felt was something he covered up as best he could. He was the "shy" one of the group and was quiet in interviews. He went on Oprah in 2001 to talk about how he felt and looked like a guy waiting for a reprieve on death row. Shaking, sweaty and almost in tears he told Oprah that he felt relaxed to which she replied "This is you relaxed?" He was clearly in immense discomfort but dealing with it as best he could. He said that once he left the band in 1994 he spent about the next 3 years sleeping and trying not to think too much. Emotionally he was a wreck. Not due to the pressures of stardom, but because something within him was hard wired to hate the sight of crowds. He said that he felt he was going to die and that the adrenalin you would usually associate with a sudden scare, was with him all the time, every day.

The face he put on for the public back when the New Kids were actually kids, was a facade. I've no doubt he had pressure put on him by the people funding the cash cow that was NKOTB, who probably couldn't give a shit about his issues. However he masked it as best he could and it ate away at him until something snapped and a guy of 23 years of age, with millions in the bank, simply rolled over and went to bed for 3 years.

That video of him singing step 5 at the age of 42 was for him a personal milestone and the other guys in the group knew that.

I have been a walking anxiety attack for much of my adult life. My tenure in the UK police was cut short by bullying but the people who did that to me had identified what they perceived as weaknesses and flaws in someone entitled to arrest other people. I lacked mental stamina and was prone to empathy. Problem was that they used underhanded and unpleasant methods to get rid of me and I have both Enhanced Emotional Memory AND a very vindictive streak if I'm mistreated.

When things go wrong my fear builds and builds until I'm creating monsters in my head. I find sleeping to be a warm and safe retreat from the horrors of life.

My father lives in the gorgeous holiday village of Plakias in Crete, Greece. He retired out there in about 1997 and the place is beyond wonderful. Blue seas, fresh fish restaurants, scuba diving, cliff jumping, cold beers, the list goes on. The first summer I spent there in 2008, I had just left the police and spent most of my time drinking myself into oblivion. I would sleep for ridiculous amounts of time, the record being 36 hours in bed with a hangover that became self pity that became a desire to simply give up. Being that pathetic felt normal and safe and the most sensible thing to do with how bad I felt.

I've never been able to simply kick back and enjoy things for the anxiety that eats away at me.

I do Krav Maga and I'm now a P4. Tonight my E1 instructor complimented me personally on my performance in class with a smile and the words "you did a good job today." I'm still floating on that but with Krav I don't enjoy myself as much as I pretend to.

I don't like sparring, a subject I've covered on here before. I get nervous just going to class and although this has dissipated over time, that prolonged Jon Knight-esque panic attack is still there. My biggest worry is that my instructor will call me out to demonstrate a move or succession of moves or a technique. I fear not understanding his instructions; that I'll get knocked on my arse; that I'll look like a dick; but most of all that everyone else will be looking at me. Like Jon said in his Oprah interview. I'd just rather go home. The stress is phenomenal. 

It's not rational or proportionate but it's there. Anxiety about being in public and being the focus of attention. I saw Jon Knight on Oprah from that 14 year old recording and it struck a chord. A guy who had wealth beyond imagining and was famous beyond belief was unhappy with his lot because of a psychological condition that he couldn't override without help.

Quite often people will say things like "Snap out of it" or "Don't be so ungrateful" or "How can you NOT enjoy this?" Thing is, if you don't then you don't and that's just how you are. Singing to millions of teenage girls and having your face on hundreds of different items of merchandise will not please you no matter how much you tell yourself that it should.

My P4 grading was far from a pleasant experience. My imagination was running riot and my stress levels were through the roof. I didn't enjoy the grading  and the closest I came to actually having a good time was when I was so tired that my anxiety faded into the nether of my exhaustion and I just had to focus on the job at hand. As it was I got a conditional pass and did better than the 20 or so guys who failed the test.

Similarly, I feel I should pretend to enjoy fighting. That I should be comfortable in the 4 bar patch and show an aura of calm and power proportionate to my level (right now I'm the highest level student regularly attending the venues I go to). I don't feel comfortable in a lot of things and I've pretended for a very long time that I am.

The equivalent for me of singing step 5 would be to choose to fight a guy bigger than me who I know is a more skilled fighter and do it because I WANTED TO and not just to prove I'm not a pansy who fluked all his gradings.

Anxiety can be a killer of progress. Honesty can thwart it.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post. There's a lot in here that I can identify with, so thanks for putting into words.
    I did my P1 at the Copperbollox (what a grotty place) in October - one of the most dismal experiences I have put myself through, and I swore blind I wouldn't even entertain the thought of another grading. Four weeks out from the next Copperbox arsefest and I'm debating with myself whether to go for P2, but I'm not sure if losing the debate means I'll do it or I won't. I know I can do most of the material, but do I really want to do it in that environment?
    Unfortunately the club I attend is exerting a lot of pressure on people to grade (I'm sure they would deny this), and there is an implication that you will be a 2nd class citizen if you don't (again, I'm sure they would deny this but it's my interpretation of the various emails they have sent out in recent weeks).
    In the meantime, my internal debate on whether to hit the 'book event' button continues.
    Wishing you the best of luck with your P5,
    Jock Strapp


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