Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lover Not A Fighter

Woke up this morning feeling like I'd been run over by a train, all bruised and banged up and creaky.  I do understand that the whole point of martial arts is being able to competently fight when you need to, but MAN I hate sparring.  Left to my own devices (assuming the bad guys and gals of the world leave me alone), all I'd want out of taekwondo is more upper body strength, some definition in my core, maybe improved endurance too.  The ability to efficiently beat the hell out of somebody has never been on my lifetime wish list.  Unfortunately, every time I earn a new belt I need a new green stripe for it signifying that I can spar at that belt level, and every future belt test will include a sparring element as well, so it's an issue that will never really go away unless I quit.

The problem boils down to control: both mine and that of my opponent.  I'm three and a half years into this now.  I'm tall and strong and I know a lot of techniques.  The goal in sparring (in class at least) is to land a strike or kick with less than your full power, indicating to the opponent where it would have hit them but not actually, you know, HURTING them with it.  Novel concept.  Given that most of my usual opponents are other women and therefore significantly smaller than me, population height averages being what they are and me being 5'10", I am genuinely concerned that one errant kick or punch from me will actually injure someone, even with everyone involved wearing protective gear, so I tend to err on the side of 'pulling' my strikes (aka checking their strength) more than most people.  This makes it *really* piss me off when people come at me full force in return.  Especially people higher-ranked than me, who should theoretically a) have more control, and b) know better.  Which explains why I blew my stack at the black belt who started off my Chain of Pain yesterday morning.

As a test of endurance, not much beats an extended period in which you are sparring nonstop against a series of opponents, each of whom comes in fresh at defined intervals as you become increasingly tired.  To earn my stripe yesterday, I had to complete an eight-minute Chain of Pain (two minutes each against four sequential opponents), at the end of a full class of sparring exercises.  I was pretty much wiped out already when it began, which is about par for the course...they are looking for you to be able to dig deep and gut it out.  And I can, believe me...didn't appreciate the black belt who started off the Chain coming at me with her full strength, though.  Just kind of looked at her when the first punch landed.  Yeah, she's a black belt, but she's maybe five inches shorter, five years older and somewhat out of shape.  Not normally somebody I'd try to beat up.  She landed another one solidly and I quietly told her that if she didn't start pulling her strikes I'd stop pulling mine.  She didn't and I did, as promised: game on, bitch.  She landed a few more in her remaining time (she outranks me by four belts, after all), but she paid dearly for them.  I saw to that.  Ignore fair warning and you get what you regrets.  Except that I lost my temper, that is.  Not proud of that.  Goal for next time this happens, because she won't be the first or last person to push this particular button: deliver the same lesson while remaining calm.

Got the damned stripe.  EARNED that damned stripe.  But I still hate sparring.


  1. When that man tried to attack me two years ago, i was very surprised to see that my body remembered all the self-defense techniques I learned in a semester-long class about 25 years ago.

    You've learned and internalized how to defend yourself if necessary - after 3.5 years, I'd venture to say you have learned it for life. If you hate sparring so much, it might be time to transition to a different sport now ...

    I got a call from a Krav Maga place and oof, the thought of the sparring that takes place just about every day - damn. I mean, I love sparring, but the pain that results especially in my still-recovering joints (will they every fully recover?) - not worth it. Because it's not the good pain that shows growth, it's unnecessary pain that can cause serious injuries that stick with us.

  2. I hear you. I'm sure you're right...muscle memory would probably carry me through any kind of real attack from now on. We all have our favorite techniques that we jokingly call the "Walmart-parking-lot-defenses" (although really having to defend yourself anywhere is not funny in the least) and I think most of us would automatically swing into those without a second thought if we had to. Problem I have with quitting is that I really like the girls I train with--this one has never been an issue before, so surprise was definitely part of the issue for me--and there would be a social element lost if I quit as well. Sigh. I can stick it out as long as sparring is relatively infrequent. I'm getting better at it, at least...guess I can do it even if I don't like it. Krav is a whole other level of crazy...some of the girls do that as well and they are nuts. That's no-holds-barred, all the time, and a more offensive (as in attacking-based) style anyway. I have no desire to be the one who starts anything--my goal is just to be the one to finish whatever anyone is dumb enough to start with me. :) With your pain issues, maybe you could start with something not quite so balls-to-the-wall as Krav??

    1. Yeah, I tried Krav Maga in Portland right after leaving The Island and still deep in chikungunya - BAD CALL.

      Honestly, I should be doing some tai chi and that sort of thing. Lots of stretching and mindful movement. It's just a little too formulaic to keep my attention. Maybe once I have my yard with a nice little lawn area I'll be inspired to some sun salute kind of yoga?

      I thought of that when I was typing, how much you enjoy the women you know through the martial arts. A good community is a great thing! I wonder if you could stay at the levels longer, for less sparring ? No need to become a black belt now.

  3. When I first started, I was always eager for the next stripe and the next belt and I never understood why the high belts (girls who were at about my current rank then) were 'hiding from the tape,' as they put it. They didn't want to move quickly. I get that thought process now. It's a journey and there's no rush when the goal is to get things right before you move on, not just get them close enough. Problem for me is that I am grouped in the mind of the program director with a really awesome teenager who has typical teenage issues (and then some) because she responds well to me and I feel almost maternal toward her. He keeps moving us forward as a team, and she's really good!!

  4. Oh, and it's amazing how much of a workout some forms of yoga can be. Great for stretching and for using muscles you didn't know you had. ;)


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