Sparring – your hands are weapons too!
We can’t see into the future, as Pocahontas says, we don’t know what awaits us just around the river bend. Sometimes a day can unexpectedly change into something completely unanticipated.
When I awoke on Friday morning I had no idea that by that Friday evening I would be attending my first sparring class! My Kuk Sool Won Master told me that he had gone to collect more sparring gear and had a set for me too!
Sparring class is the closest environment to being in a real altercation, without actually fighting. It has the specific purpose of allowing you to sharpen your skills and practice things like controlling distance, balance, timing, speed, agility and focus in addition to being a fantastic cardiovascular and muscle endurance training session.
Friday is usually the day that my kids go sparring. My son took to it a lot more readily than my daughter did who not surprisingly was a bit fearful. Nobody likes to intentionally put themselves in a situation where they could get hurt.The clincher for her though was when she discovered that she could get pink sparring gear. Anything pink in her book is a winner.
So contrary to the customary laid back Friday evenings that we usually have after a busy week – I was off to class again.
My sparring gear was red. I wasn’t initially sure whether the red or black would be better. Red for power or black for wisdom – a combination of those would be great! After donning the gear I saw myself in the mirror – my first thought was of the Michelin man!
We were reminded that the objective was not to cause injury. Control and etiquette were prerequisites for this engagement. Points were scored by light contact in the designated zones on the chest guard, on the sides of the helmet and above the belt location.
Master Saidi suggested that we think of sparring class like creating a book. In the usual class we learn forms and techniques which are like letters and words. In a sparring situation we learn to put the letters together and make sentences with the words creating a coherent story and producing our own book. Forms and techniques are woven together to create a tapestry of skills that can be applied in any conflict situation.
After the first round I already resembled a very ripe tomato in a rain shower even if I hadn’t been wearing a red helmet! The Victorian phrase “Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow” came to mind but I felt much more like the horse!
Students were also told to watch their sparring partners’ eyes. They certainly are windows to the soul and give clues as to intent, focus and approach of your opponent.
We got a chance to switch partners and every interaction was different. The more advanced students offered suggestions and gave opportunities to help me understand what I needed to do without bringing all their superior skills to bear on the newbie. I was very grateful for that!
I am a conflict averse person by nature but the way I responded to sparring class surprised me – I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think I have the advantage of having had an older brother to interact with as a child, that as a teenager I au paired for a family with two little boys who loved duels and that I am raising my son who loves practicing his Kuk Sool Won techniques on me – it certainly boosts your confidence when squaring up to a stranger.
Martial arts weapons look so impressive but sparring class reminded me that your hands and legs are weapons too! Throwing punches and kicks strategically and getting out of the way fast was exhausting but exhilarating! It’s another interesting journey of self-discovery.
“To be safe we lose the chance of ever knowing – what’s around the river bend” ~Pocahontas
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.