Hello again, Dear Readers (assuming someone is still reading this thing…),
Yesterday I had a breakthrough in the Level 2 muay thai class. I sparred…and I wasn’t scared. If you’ve been following my journey, you know what a big thing that is for me.
Our instructor, Joscelyn, set up the sparring in a fun way, almost like a game. There were four female and four male students last night, so each gender had its own half of the gym. One person from each group stayed in the “ring” and sparred one round with the other three. Then we switched who was in the middle until everyone had a turn.
At the very beginning, as I clamped on my awkward headgear and shoved in my gag-inducing mouth guard (hate that thing!), I felt a few flutters of apprehension. But then I reminded myself that I spar with a world champion and our club’s best fighter on a regular basis–so there was nothing to be afraid of. And this time, my positive thinking did the trick. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t forget everything I knew. I gave as good as I got. I initiated some attacks, and I countered when I was attacked. And I didn’t get hurt, although I can’t say the same for everyone. Yes, a little blood was drawn on the women’s side, but all for a good cause.
It was so awesome to finally have a great sparring experience again, one where I wasn’t so painfully outclassed that all my efforts were futile. I still have a ways to go, but I’m proud of what I’ve learned and happy that all the hard work is starting to pay off. And just in time, as fight camp starts in less than two weeks.
If you’ve never sparred before, here are some tips for beginners:
- Take deep breaths to calm your nerves. And yes, you will be nervous. It’s only normal!
- Yes, there are some jerks out there, but in general, people will hit you as hard as you’re hitting them. If you’re really getting pummeled, chances are you’re hitting with more power than you think. Try toning it down and see what happens.
- If you’re with someone who’s much better than you, work on your defense. Watch for openings. Don’t flail madly at them–you’ll just get hurt. And don’t just take their attacks…move around, block.
- Try as many hits per combination as you can. Joscelyn recommends seven or eight. You probably won’t land them all, if your partner is the least bit competent, but your chances are better to land something the more you throw.
- Try to vary your attacks. If you always do the same thing, your opponent will quickly figure it out.
- Don’t let on that you’re tired or hurt (unless you’re really, REALLY hurt). Don’t drop your hands, and don’t say “ouch!” when someone kicks you. This is part of building heart. Never let them see you sweat, as they say.
- Don’t give up. What’s the worst that can happen in two or three minutes? Actually, never mind that. Just keep moving.
- Keep your guard up. Rest your gloves against your cheekbones if you have to.
- Remember to protect your body. Everyone’s always worried about their head and face, but a good body shot can bring you to your knees.
- Have fun! And learn as much as you can every time. You will get better. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Thanks to all of my awesome sparring partners.