Thursday, August 25, 2011

Breakthrough!


Hello again, Dear Readers (assuming someone is still reading this thing...),

Yesterday I had a breakthrough in the Level 2 muay thai class. I sparred...and I wasn't scared. If you've been following my journey, you know what a big thing that is for me.

Our instructor, Joscelyn, set up the sparring in a fun way, almost like a game. There were four female and four male students last night, so each gender had its own half of the gym. One person from each group stayed in the "ring" and sparred one round with the other three. Then we switched who was in the middle until everyone had a turn.

At the very beginning, as I clamped on my awkward headgear and shoved in my gag-inducing mouth guard (hate that thing!), I felt a few flutters of apprehension. But then I reminded myself that I spar with a world champion and our club's best fighter on a regular basis--so there was nothing to be afraid of. And this time, my positive thinking did the trick. I wasn't nervous. I didn't forget everything I knew. I gave as good as I got. I initiated some attacks, and I countered when I was attacked. And I didn't get hurt, although I can't say the same for everyone. Yes, a little blood was drawn on the women's side, but all for a good cause.

It was so awesome to finally have a great sparring experience again, one where I wasn't so painfully outclassed that all my efforts were futile. I still have a ways to go, but I'm proud of what I've learned and happy that all the hard work is starting to pay off. And just in time, as fight camp starts in less than two weeks.

If you've never sparred before, here are some tips for beginners:

  • Take deep breaths to calm your nerves. And yes, you will be nervous. It's only normal!
  • Yes, there are some jerks out there, but in general, people will hit you as hard as you're hitting them. If you're really getting pummeled, chances are you're hitting with more power than you think. Try toning it down and see what happens.
  • If you're with someone who's much better than you, work on your defense. Watch for openings. Don't flail madly at them--you'll just get hurt. And don't just take their attacks...move around, block.
  • Try as many hits per combination as you can. Joscelyn recommends seven or eight. You probably won't land them all, if your partner is the least bit competent, but your chances are better to land something the more you throw.
  • Try to vary your attacks. If you always do the same thing, your opponent will quickly figure it out.
  • Don't let on that you're tired or hurt (unless you're really, REALLY hurt). Don't drop your hands, and don't say "ouch!" when someone kicks you. This is part of building heart. Never let them see you sweat, as they say.
  • Don't give up. What's the worst that can happen in two or three minutes? Actually, never mind that. Just keep moving.
  • Keep your guard up. Rest your gloves against your cheekbones if you have to.
  • Remember to protect your body. Everyone's always worried about their head and face, but a good body shot can bring you to your knees.
  • Have fun! And learn as much as you can every time. You will get better. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Thanks to all of my awesome sparring partners.

8 comments:

  1. Congrats!

    And good tips for life in general!

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  2. Thanks, TS! And bless you for my first comment in days.

    A quiet blog is just depressing. :)

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  3. If a tree falls in the forest... :)
    Much obliged!

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  4. Exactly! As far as I can tell, I've created a cool site for people to "borrow" images from. Not my intention!

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  5. Congrats. I'm happy to hear your moving forward. I couldn't help but think that all you did was hold back on the session you had with me. I know you outclass me in experience and while I have probably 100 pounds on you, I kept thinking that if you wanted to, you know exactly how to drop me really good. :)

    But I must say it hurts really bad to hear what I missed out on while I had to be at work. I don't spar very much in level 2 as it is. And wish I did more. I think I would feel more comfortable. I hope we get to try something like this next week. I would like to see if all these drills lately have improved me. If you ever want to knock someone around, feel free to ask.

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  6. Hey Chris,

    Thanks so much for your comment! It's sad to say, but I don't even remember that sparring session. It was most likely when I was going through a very bad time with sparring. My guess is that I was either: a) intimidated by your size; b) going easier because you were new to sparring; or c) a combination of both. It's weird that I'm intimidated by the big guys at our gym, because I used to spar with a 6'4, 220 pound guy all the time. And the guys who've pummeled me most at KWest are the ones who are smaller than me! Too funny. Fear is definitely not logical. That said, not wanting to spar Grant seems to me to be a very smart kind of terror. :)

    Don't be too sad about missing out. I heard a rumour that Jos is going to have us spar more often in his classes, so you'll probably get lots of chances to try out your skills. And there's the new Friday sparring class starting up, too.

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  7. I can't imagine that someone who writes about sparring as sensibly as you do will be able to resist the temptation to have a full fight soon. I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts on that.

    I'll lay a bet that when you do it, you'll be hooked on the sheer excitement. The thrill far outlasts the few bruises you might pick up. And there is certainly nothing to compare with a few rounds to take your mind off other worries.

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  8. Thanks, Boxing Scientist. I don't want to spoil it for you, but I DID fight, on November 5, 2011. I didn't get hurt, but I didn't go back to my gym for over a year and a half. I'm still struggling to get back into training consistently.

    So it didn't work out the way I'd hoped. I honestly think the training burned me out.

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