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 get...no 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.