Last night I arrived at Taekwon-Do to find a bunch of younger members wrapped up in protective padding and attempting to beat the living heck out of each other.
In one corner was a crying 10 year old surrounded by a group of people assuring him that it was just a hard hit. On the other side of the hall two white belts were being restrained with a hand on each head by a black belt who was trying to install the idea of gentle punches. By the looks of the resulting match the idea didn’t get very far at all.
‘Hmm’ I thought as I tried to become one with the coat table, ‘I’ve always wanted to spar, but this doesn’t look like an awful lot of fun.’
The juniors finished and us seniors formed up, warmed up, and then went in search of adequate padding. (At the time I was thinking adequate padding would be nothing short of a giant blow up sumo suit.)
For sparring we received a pair of padded foot protectors, some gloves – like open handed boxing gloves – and optional headgear. Those in the know had also brought along shin guards, mouth guards, and the guys had groin guards.
I hovered in the background until I was ordered up onto the mat for my arse kicking. I dragged my feet the whole way – I wanted everyone to know that it wasn’t my idea to be pummled to death by a tall guy with a very cool belt.
The foot protectors made my feet feel clumsy, and my toes hurt where they rubbed (later I found I had worn the skin off the top of my big toe – ouch!) The gloves weren’t as heavy as what I was used to – and much more rigid than my own boxing gloves. And the head protector was flat out awful.
Jamming my face into a spot where someone else’s sweaty face had been moments before was unpleasant. The elastic strap across my chin more than often sat on my throat, and in some cases was far too tight for comfortable breathing – in the end I discarded the head protector, and just went with a ladies agreement not to hit or be hit in the face (although I get the feeling guys don’t exactly play by those rules.)
On the mats I felt slow, and stiff. My kicks were often not high enough, and I stuck with the one or two I knew I could do without arsing over. Often others had the same problem though, and after collecting a sharp kick to my hip bone I know why we stay above the belt – even for girls – OUCH.
My blocks often felt entirely ineffective. A lot of the time I forgot to jump right in after my partner had struck out. I got a lot of help from a few of the guys who made me practice jumping right on in there after a kick rather than hanging back out of range.
I also had to learn not to stand front on, like I did in kickboxing. Thankfully after a few solid kicks to the stomach you learn not to leave yourself wide open like that, unless you like the feeling of trying to suck air through a straw, that is.
Worst of all it felt like I only knew three moves from the first page of the manual, while everyone else had the whole book.
Each time I was called up to the mats I went reluctantly, probably chewing at my lip the way I do when I’m worried.
And I was – worried that is. I don’t like being bad at things – and I really don’t like being kicked in the stomach or punched in the face…
… So do me a favor and don’t tell anyone that I totally loved it, ok? Good.
The text I sent immediatly afterwards: I just did proper sparring and it hurt and it was awesome 🙂
The response: You’re a violence-aholic