I've been training a lot this week, and it's not done yet. Interesting week, though.
After a couple of weeks of anxiety and anticipation, I finally got to free spar this week. First time was Saturday morning, at the all ages/all ranks family class. Which was funny, I suppose: my first free sparring experience and my kids got to see it. They also got to see my first free sparring injury, although it was a minor one and was entirely my own fault. I was sparring a don member (for the uninitiated, more or less the same as a "black belt") who threw a nice leisurely kick at my head. Being the newbie I am, I see the kick coming out of the corner of my eye and ... look right at it. Whap, foot to the eye, and a nice little rub/scrap on my cheekbone from his foot pad to remember it by. Didn't hurt all that much, really, and when he ducked in to apologize and make sure I was OK a second later I tagged him on the head to make myself feel better. Cheap shot, to be sure, but hard to resist all the same. The rest of our two minute match was fairly uneventful, with my opponent getting in 4-5 shots for every glancing blow or kick I managed to land. But fun.
Then I sparred again, but this time with a new student who has just joined our school. She holds a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, and decided to change things up and try a new discipline. However, her sparring technique/protocol is different than the one we follow in our school. See, sparring for us is kind of formalized, with the opponents stopping and bowing whenever a hit has clearly been given or received. In her school, however, sparring must have been more akin to a boxing match, with hits being thrown without interruption until the match time has expired. So she tagged me once or twice and I backed off and bowed, and then I managed to actually land a couple of decent head shots ... and she kept coming, even though I dropped my gloves. Got a good shot to the chin as a result. Meh, whatever. Didn't hurt. Just confused me a bit.
So then more free sparring last night, but this time with two guys closer to my rank. Orange belts, one a teenager with previous martial arts experience and the other a middle aged guy who is unexpectedly quick for a larger man. Both of them soundly handed me my ass, although I still managed to get a few jabs in and did a fairly decent job of blocking a lot of shots. But it's frustrating, mostly because I just don't have a clue how to get started. I get in a fighting stance and then .... what's next? How do I start attacking? How do I decide when to go on the offensive, and when to just wait for an opening and be defensive? I spoke with Sa Bom Nim Nunan afterward and just flat out asked "How long does it take? How long before I have a friggin' clue how to do this?" and he was typically encouraging in his response: "It just takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it will be for you to spot openings." Plus he suggested I work on some basic free-sparring combination moves (backfist/reverse punch/front kick and the like) so that I get more comfortable with them, therefore not having to "think" so much and just attack with some fairly effective opening moves.
Sigh. I just feel so damn slow when I'm out there. Lumbering. Clumsy. But my forms are looking pretty darn good, and I've got all the basic movements down to a reasonable degree, so I'm pretty well along the way to getting a grasp on the building blocks of the art. I need to work on my patience a bit, I think. I feel ready to test for my belt, but the next test isn't until next month, so the earliest I can expect to see my next belt would be late March. This shouldn't matter: I'm still learning new things, and while I have gotten the hang of the basics there is no such thing as mastering them, no matter how long you work at them. There is always room for improvement, for enhancement of skill and deepening of understanding, no matter how simple the movements might seem. But I'd be lying if I said that I'm just fine with having to wait another month to test: I want to do it now.
But it's not my decision. Patience. Patience.
Tonight is advanced class, which will probably once again involve some free sparring. At the end of class the students will be sticking around to get the dojang super clean in preparation for tomorrow night's promotion ceremony. Sa Bom Nim will be officially promoted to 4th Don tomorrow night, so it's a big deal for the school. His instructor -- Master Riley -- will be visiting our school to hold the promotion, after which he and Sa Bom Nim will be co-teaching the students (all ranks) a bunch of advanced elbow techniques. Should be a blast, although that will bring me to 4 training sessions this week. Plus I still plan on attending the all ages/all ranks family class Saturday morning with the kids. At this rate I'll probably be in traction by Saturday night -- my hips are tired, and the hamstring in my right leg is aching a bunch. But these are all unique opportunities, and I won't let a little discomfort get in the way of taking part.
Now Playing: Raul Malo, "At Last"