woman falling

I want to fall in sparring class.

No, I mean really fall, crash to the ground with a spectacular splat that happens so fast I can do nothing but laugh.

I’ve fallen in sparring class before. I’ve been kicked to the ground by people a lot bigger than me, I’ve gotten my leg so tangled up on someone’s shoulder or chest gear that the easiest thing to do was to just tip backwards, and sometimes I’ve just mis-gauged my distance and fallen down.

No, but really, here’s what I want: I want to fall from doing a spin kick in someone’s face. Maybe I make contact, and maybe I don’t. I just want the rush of doing something complex and advanced and dangerous and fast that pushes me beyond my tightly controlled sense of balance, physically and metaphorically.

Also, kicking people is fun even when, or sometimes especially when they are trying to kick you too.

I like to watch the elite fighters in our weekend open sparring classes. Sometimes I get to do light warm-up rounds or partner drills with them, and sometimes I just watch them fight together out of the corner of my eye. I’m on the lookout for the things to learn, and I just l like watching a good fight.

In the last class I attended one of our elite competition fighters, a college-age young man, was throwing his body like furious hell at his opponent…and in the process he fell more than once.

“That looks kind of fun,” I thought as I watched him race around the ring. In some instances he probably just lost his balance (even elite fighters can do that), and in others it seemed he was trusting himself to take a risk–maybe he’d make contact or miss. Either way, he was pushing himself and his skills beyond the safety of solid ground.

I told myself that to move toward my sparring goals (good head shots and back kicks), I’d have to take more risks and throw myself out of my comfort zone–and that includes falling my face, my ass, my back, whatever. And that’s okay. It’s not like I’ve never made contact with head shots or back kicks before, but I’d like it to be more consistent in each match. I mean, I’m a second degree black belt. Age forty be damned, I still want to step up my game.

I thought about the huge change management training project I’m involved in at work. I’ve never been involved in an initiative (sorry to throw in a corporate buzzword) this big before, and there are some writing  and design tasks that are new to me. It’s scary. It’s risky. But if I just sit in front of my computer and worry about not getting it perfectly the first time then there will be no first time. I need to throw the proverbial kick, see where it lands (or doesn’t), learn from it, and keep fighting.

More recently I was at the dojang waiting for an evening class to begin. A young set of siblings were learning to spar for the first time, and there are few things cuter than young children padded up in sparring gear flopping around in the ring together. I stopped to chat with their dad and see what happened during their very first match.

The younger child, a little girl, was screeching with laughter the whole time. She and her brother were actually pretty good as they kicked and punched and ki-yahped in between their giggles. More than once she plopped to the ground after her brother landed a good kick. That made her only laugh harder.

When the instructors finished the class and asked how they liked it, the girl replied,
“That was fun! It was fun to fall down!”

She loved it. Some kids get upset or scared when they spar for the first time, and falling can really take them by surprise. Not this kid. Nothing pleased her more than to get the crap kicked out of her and to fall on the floor. If she had a comfort zone she was trying to stay in, I didn’t see it.

I’m not sure whose fall impressed me more–the elite fighter or the grade school yellow belt. I had equal admiration for them both. I wanted what they had, the fearless determination to throw themselves into an unknown and changing situation.

Let’s get ready for some spectacular falls.



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Stay tuned for my upcoming book – “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!

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