Now that the karate show is over, sparring classes have started up again. Last night, I showed up with my expensive new sparring gear in tow. Soft, squishy helmet: check. Soft, squishy hand guards: check. Soft, squishy foot guards: check. Hard, solid chest guard that would leave a Roman centurian envious: check. Mouth guard that makes you drool if you don't suck it in constantly: check.
There was a mix of kids, teens, and adults. As an second-rank orange belt, I was the lowest-ranked adult student there, and was paired with a green belt. Tang Tsoo Do karate is known mostly for its kicking and less so for its punching, so all the drills we did were kicking. My partner and I kicked back and forth--roundhouse kick, spinning back kick, side kick, wheel kick. We worked on dodging and footwork.
This was my first time, so I watched everything carefully. I had more stamina than my partner, but he had both rank and experience on me.
The last ten minutes of class were for actual sparring. The instructor called each set of partners up and we fought for one minute. I decided to play to lose--not only was it my first time, my partner was far more experienced than I--which meant I went on the offense and ignored defense. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to stop him from hitting me, but in getting close enough to hit me, he would get close enough for me to hit =him=, and I wanted to see if I penetrate his guard. If I could do that once or twice, I'd be happy.
The only hits that count are on the chest and on the sides of the torso. Kicks to the head also count, but not punches. (The danger of kicking your opponent in the head is that it's easy to lose your balance, and I didn't try, though I do have the flexibility for it.)
We bowed, and the instructor called for the fight to begin. It went pretty fast, and both of us were far more aggressive than the kids who had fought before us. At one point the instructor warned the kids to back away from the area. "These are two big men," he said, "and you don't want to get in the way if something goes wrong." I did manage to connect with a roundhouse kick once, and another time I snaked a hand in, jerked one of his wrists down to expose his chest, and punched him with the other (a sneaky, but legal, move I learned in an earlier class). Go me!
Meanwhile, I was taking a fair number of kicks. My partner was very good with a spinning back kick, and it was hard to block it in time. One time I tried to dodge one of these right when he mistimed slightly, and he cracked me a good one on the upper right leg, which has no padding. Oh, it hurt! I didn't notice it until after the fight was over and we were sitting down, but once I did--yeek! No bruise, but it's stiff and sore.
The above sounds extremely adversarial, but it really wasn't. We =were= fighting and we =were= fighting as hard we knew how, but there wasn't any animosity behind it. Most of the time we were grinning through our mouth guards. Afterward, my partner gave me a few bits of advice to help in the future.
For a few seconds I considered that it was rather . . . unfair? Difficult? Harsh? that I was partnered with someone so much better than I was. But then I realized that it was to my advantage. If I'm used to fighting someone who's =better= than I am, it'll force me to learn faster, and when I fight someone of an equal rank, I'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is.
And today my leg is in some fairly serious pain. I went on a long bike ride to stretch it out--ow ow ow ow ow--which helped, but it's gonna be sore for a bit.