Sunday, January 22, 2012

Humble Pie and a Side Order of Ribs

I know I've said this before, but I absolutely love to spar. It is one of my most favorite things about karate because I learn something new each time out.

Thursday, I learned my ribs are a little tougher than I ever imagined.

While round-robin sparring in class, my Sensei stepped into the mix. He'd already told us that he was going to push us all a bit - and it became apparent after the first round with my training partner that he meant it because there was no "Yame!" after a clear hit was made. He kept going - trapping us against the wall before hitting us with a barrage of punches and even sweeping us to the floor. Knowing a technique is coming and being able to defend against it are two different things, we found. But surprise, surprise - each one of us stepped up our game because we HAD to. He told us later that getting us to do just that was exactly what he was trying to do.

As we faced off, I had an epiphany: if I waited for him to attack, I was toast. In an effort to be more pre-emptive, I began to try to move off his line to see if I could create openings. At one point, Sensei dropped his left shoulder a bit while he prepared to blitz. For some strange reason, I lifted my rear hand to attack, thinking I could somehow get to him faster than he could get to me (ha!). The next thing I felt was his (pulled) side kick landing on the right side of my rib cage. And yes, even though he stopped the technique, I saw stars.

You ever get hit so hard that there is no pain or sensation at all for a few moments? That's what happened, although it was quickly followed by an intense wave that made me want to spew profanity and drop to my knees. My mind was telling me to suck it up and keep going, but my body was saying "Sit your butt down and lick your wounds!" In the end, my body won.

It took about a minute to catch my breath - mostly because I was afraid to take a deep one because I thought my rib was broken. My right side is the side that received radiation seven years ago during my breast cancer treatment and it has been a bit more sensitive as a result. I was panting like a pack mule in what probably seemed like the most melodramatic way ever, but I'd never experienced anything like that before. Sensei, of course, felt terrible and was the first one checking my side to see if anything was broken - but it wasn't his fault, really. My raised arm presented a target, which he hit with total control. That I was moving in at the time is what caused the pain. Once I was standing again, he told me to take off my gear, have a seat and get comfy since I'd be spending the rest of the evening watching. But after observing my training partners for a few rounds, I felt OK - so much so that I put my headgear back on and asked if I could continue.

Pain, it has been said, is a great teacher. What I learned from my dance with her is that I didn't shatter into a million pieces when I got hit hard, which was kind of liberating. And since she wasn't much fun to hang out with, if I didn't want to face her like that again, keeping my rear hand down is a good idea, indeed.

She's a pretty fair teacher, I'd say...