Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Learning how to fight

One of the recurring themes in my writing this year has been what it's been like to learn a MARTIAL art. I guess the aspects that drew me to TKD were its grace, beauty, the discipline, the focus you learn . . . not really learning how to fight.

Yet, sparring's become my favorite aspect of Tae Kwon Do.

It wasn't always that way. I remember early entries about my usual gut reaction to standing in a fighting stance, ready to start sparring. I demonstrated to Mr. Houtz one day: my initial gut reaction was to turn around and walk away. Not even run--just walk!

One major breakthrough for me was learning that in ITF Tae Kwon Do, sparring isn't so much fighting as it is playing tag. You don't have to hit (or be hit) hard. You just need to touch your opponent with your glove or foot. When I realized this, it became much easier.

Watching my younger son, Eli, spar last spring also gave me an insight abour sparring: move fast! I then began to notice similarities between sparring and petite allegro in ballet, where you move quickly on light feet. I'm pretty good at petite allegro, so I use quickness in sparring.

I've also gotten better at another part of ballet which has helped me in sparring: adagio. It's the opposite of allegro--slow movements which require balance and control. Realizing that I can use my good balance in sparring was also a breakthrough.

This all sounds like I've got it figured out. But I can't forget that occasionally I've gone through phases of sparring angst, where I'm just afraid to get out there and spar. I'm not sure what causes this. My guess is that sparring with teenage boys (no control, too much strength) might have done it. Or maybe overthinking what I'm doing (me?! overthink something?!)

I love sparring and right now I'm doing OK. But I want to learn more. I'm ready to be challenged by my classmates--I feel like I've learned a lot recently from sparring both Brians and Stephanie, from helping the little kids, and from talking to and working out with Justin. I'm hoping that this will help me be ready for sparring angst, new competition, and, heck, maybe tournaments.

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