Monday, October 24, 2005

Sometimes you can't win.

Passed my yellow glove test.
Hoo boy I'm sore. But frankly, I'm surprised that I'm not more sore than I am. They went easy on me. My wind *stunk,* which was only to be expected since I was still so weak on Monday that I couldn't make it through warmups, but let's face facts: running out of gas during two-on-one sparring is NOT a good idea. Actually, it wasn't really wind, but that endurance, that horrible "the body betrayeth thou" feeling, that I could feel coming on after my very first round. One down, eleven plus two two-on-one plus weapon sparring to go... hrm, define SubOptimal.

Otherwise, it was good, or at least that's what I'm told. Picked up a (rare) compliment on the test from my instructor, twice.

Blew through the sets without missing more than a couple of points, I think. Didn't do nearly as well as I'd hoped on stringing combinations of kicks together, but I wasn't hopeless, either, and I got to play with guests, which is always a blast. Pancho, who is much, much better than me (and he ought to be, since he's in his late forties and has been doing this since he was seven), worked my angles and distance and kept me moving around while he whupped up on me, and I got in a couple of honest shots on him, too, which I found immensely gratifying. His student Elijah and I are probably about the same level -- we'll have to figure that one out next time I'm not ready to keel over after round three. But he's a former boxer with a mean uppercut... two rounds in a row I played doubled over, because he'd simply tapped me in the breadbasket so often that my abs wouldn't let me straighten up. At any rate, Elijah and Pancho are real gentlemen, have fantastic control, and are just a true pleasure to play with... they'll take it from pattycake to organ-pounding, wherever you want to play, and remain cheerful, nice guys all the way through.

Then there's Grayson.
My teacher, God grant him long life and bless his evil little heart, set me up. For three weeks prior to the test, he kept pushing the idea that my job on the test was to hurt this guy or I'd be in trouble, as he slowly and carefully sold me on the notion that this guy was roughly my level, but a wrestler.

Such bullshit wrapped in literal truth... such incredible naivete on my part not to see this coming.
Wrestler. Yeah. As in, former national sambo champion. As in, has been training since he was a kid in a weird can't-believe-this-survived traditional lineage just like ours... one of those really awful Japanese styles done not by American samurai wannabes, but by the real deal who compared "child abuse" to "child casualties" and did the math. Yeah. Que quiere decir "I didn't stand a fucking chance?" It was bad. I've sparred guys who were faster, guys who were stronger, lord knows tons of guys who are just plain better... but I've also been lucky enough to have seen a lot of different martial arts, so I have at least a beginning of a clue how guys are going to play.

Not this guy. He dropped back into what I later recognized as ichimonji-no-kamae, and showed me that, yes indeed, Virginia, there are guys who can actually fight out of that. He didn't fake, he didn't feint, he didn't even bother hiding any holes. I knew a move and a half ahead of time what he was going to do, because he was so much better than me that he didn't even have to bother hiding it. Grayson gave me two attempts to figure out how to break the guard (I actually had the right idea, not that it helped), and then gave me a front kick I saw coming from far enough away to stop and make tea and biscuits, but not from far enough away to actually avoid.

For his second act, he flowed around me like water, and took me flat-ass on the mat in a neck break on the entry (actually, because I have a leftover neck injury from previous training, I can vouch that he "broke" it while he entered, and then switched to two different neck breaks on the way down, each of them taken precisely as far as they could go without making the cripple/kill... not that I have even the foggiest clue how he did any of them). Bang, dead, game over.
Needless to say, I'm glad the rest of the rounds were friendly, because I was about as much a challenge for him as picking your average supermarket orange.

Anyway, yellow glove is supposed to test heart, so the moral of the story as given to me is "sometimes you can't win, and all you can do is take the other guy with you." I don't think that's good enough. I think it's more involved than that. Any schmuck can keep getting up after they're knocked down. Sometimes you can't win, and you're not good enough to take him with you... so all you can do is go down swinging, andtry to make it last long enough for more good guys to get into position, or else long enough for the picture to change in some way that makes him lose down the road.

If you're not somehow involved with violence on the retail (martial arts, security) or wholesale (military) levels, that probably sounds depressing. But it's not, truly: it means that there's always a way to pull a win out of a defeat. It may not be your win, but it's a win you can hope to help bring about. Hope doesn't go away just because you're out-everythinged.

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