Saturday, April 16, 2005

In the sparring ring

At the end of All-Belts class today, after Ms. Pryor has led us through a workout consisting of basic movements, forms practice, and sparring practice, she tells us all to sit down at the back of the dojang. I am grateful for this; sparring with Chelsea (a teen blackbelt) has worn me out, though I have learned a few new ideas from her.

"OK. I want Amy up here. Amy? Keep your sparring gear on," says Ms. Pryor. Amy goes up.

"And who else? I don't remember your name, I'm sorry."

Ms. Pryor is walking up to me.

"Jane," I say, with trepidation.

"Come on up, Jane. Keep your gear on."

I go up next to Amy.

"We're going to have a sparring match here," says Ms. Pryor. "Whoever wins the first two points. You are all the extra judges."

I strap on my mitts, trying to focus and breathe. The crowd of students fades away--now all I can see is Ms. Pryor and Amy.

"Fighting stance: Chun bee!" shouts Ms. Pryor. We snap into fighting stance, letting out our fierce Ki-haps. "Stronger Ki-haps!" Ms. Pryor urges us. "Like you mean business!"

While we stand there, she tells us how the match will work. I think she's just giving us a sense of how it will go if we ever enter a tournament. I can't imagine I will ever do that, but this morning, working out with Chelsea, I'd been starting to see how sparring works. It's not really fighting. It's a little game, where you jump around and try to touch your partner's torso or the back of her head with your foot or hand. OK. I can do that.

"Si-Jah!" shouts Ms. Pryor.

I go into sparring mode. My latest thing is to try to get in the very first kick. Kind of takes the edge off. I do this, then go into some combinations that I think will work: roundhouse, reverse kick, front snap kick. I focus very tightly--only on Amy's torso. You're supposed to look at your opponent's eyes, but this is what I can manage. I get in and tap her.

"Point!" Yells Ms. Pryor. We stop and she shows us how the judge will score the point--asking for confirmation from the other judges (the rest of the crowd) then awarding the point to ME!

We spar again, as before. Amy touches me, which I call out, but Ms. Pryor says to keep moving.
"It only counts if the judge sees it."

I score again on her. I can't believe this is working! I'm not fighting, I'm doing this tag-business. It's less scary this way, because I know if I were to actually fight Amy, she would beat me.

The match goes on. Ms. Pryor keeps saying "One more point" until I win, 4-1.

"The winner is Jane." She holds up my arm, like a boxer's. I guess the class applauds--all I am aware of is our small group of three, Amy and I panting and sweating, Ms. Pryor calling out for us to bow to each other.

When I get home, all I can think is "I have to call my sister to tell her about this." She will not believe that her formerly wimpy sister just bested someone in a sparring match. I call over to London, where it's evening, but she's not home. She'll have to read this along with the rest of you.

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