Getting my Ass Kicked in Sparring Class
When I began to fix my life back in 2016, I decided to divide it into two phases. I won't get into the details here, but the first phase was relearning how to notice reality, be more compassionate to myself, and start to take the initiative
The second phase was learning Kung Fu.
I know, it sounds silly, but I wanted to learn discipline. I wanted to integrate my mind and body into one singular purpose. I wanted to create my own peace by learning how to defend myself. But if you ask me why Kung Fu specifically, I don't know, it's something that I decided when I was sitting in the dark, wrapped around the blanket of my own mind, listening to the hum of the air conditioning like a cold drone rumbling from a deep hallway.
I've gone through enough to know that there are truths that only come from quiet recesses inside of us, parts of the brain that can't really be spoken to directly, are difficult to explain, and need to be personified to understand at all. And I finally decided I was ready at the beginning of this year.
So, I've been taking Choy Li Fut (A style of Kung Fu) for about 7 months and sparring for 2 of those. The other day I was in sparring class and I had to spar this huge man that I was terrified of. He had kicked me hard enough before that I was knocked to the ground. I don't actually know his rank, but he's wide and thick as a human-sized barrel and easily 6'2.
As a 5'2 woman I'm used to being outclassed by my sparring or grappling partners, but this guy is big even by male standards.
So here I am, going a 2 minute round with this guy, and the first thing that happens is I get popped in the face. We're wearing soft helmets and chest pieces, but it still shocks me. The instructor tells him after he does it a couple more times to stop, because it's not allowed, but at this point I'm ringing. My vision narrows. I began to get shaky. I was already afraid of facing this guy and getting hit like that right away seems to put me in panic mode.
I contemplate throwing off my gloves and stepping off the mat, but I realized that might make me look like kind of childish. Like I couldn't control my emotions. So I force myself to stay.
It's not the fact that I'm losing that bothers me, it's that I feel genuinely afraid, as if I've triggered some deep gut instinct inside of me. Because of that I start to freeze up. I walk right into attacks. I'm clumsy, and can't seem to get my bearings.
Then he kicks me in the stomach. Hard.
My vision goes darker I feel tears welling to my eyes and I swallow them down. Rage pours through me and I lunge at him, punching him several times in the chest before jumping back. I realize that I'm letting my anger get the best of me. I actually want to hurt him. I know that's not good, so I take a step back and try to reorient myself, try to force myself to breathe and not let rage take over.
The instructor is watching and says that I keep falling into his attacks. Which is true. I feel simultaneously frozen and unable to see the easy set-ups that I'm being led straight into, so I get hit over and over again. But soon enough the 2 minutes is over.
I try to stop myself from crying, but I can't. I head into the bathroom, close the door, and big streaming tears just fall down my face unbidden. And then I feel confused that I'm crying, so that makes me cry even more. Something deep and unbidden seems to have unlocked inside of me. It's not the fact that I did so poorly that's making me cry - it's the fact that I felt trapped. That I froze and was too weak to defend myself. That all of my training amounted to a deer in the headlights freeze when faced with someone big and intimidating.
I manage to stop crying. I breathe. I go out and finish up two more 2-minute matches, then head home. Robert can sense something is wrong right away and I say, "I got a little beat up," like a child, and then bawl some more. But outside we talk about it and Robert says we can work together on sparring and he'll help me to stop being afraid of being hit.
I can easily see someone having that experience and deciding to quit. It was unpleasant, and revealed some things about me that I didn't like.
It was a bad experience - at the same time - isn't that what I came for?
Isn't that what the whispering, secret part of myself back in that dark, cool room wanted me to figure out? To identify weakness in myself and fix it? Whoever said unburdening the worst parts of me, piling them out in the open, and looking at them was going to be an easy process?
Some people go through their whole lives deluding themselves that they could beat the shit out of Conor McGregor. And it's that self-delusion that they wrap around themselves like a shroud to protect their ego, right up until the day they meet reality. Reality doesn't pull punches. Reality doesn't lie. The consequences of reality are immediate and brutal and they last forever.
I don't want to feel out of control, but if anyone with brute strength can come along and take that from me without even really trying, then how in control am I really? Better to figure that out now, 2 months into sparring, then 10 years later when I'm facing real physical danger.
I've done enough self-examination in the last couple of years to understand that realizing you're not as brave, noble, tough, or smart as you thought you were is difficult. Really difficult. We all want to think of ourselves as good, and coming to the understanding that 'hey, maybe you were acting kind of like an asshole', or 'you didn't do your best back there' is something that I think most of us want to shrink from. We're at the center of our own perspective and have a deep need to feel righteous and good.
But to actually be righteous and good? That sometimes requiring you getting your ass kicked, your worldview turned upside down, and becoming a sobbing mess.
So in a way, I'm glad that it happened and I'm glad that I cried. I can recognize now that it was a good thing, because every failure is a chance to become better. A chance to analyze, evaluate, and fix the parts of me that aren't beneficial to the whole.
Opening a wound means blood will gush out, and closing it often means cauterizing with fire.
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