Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sparring

In my taekgyeon class, we have switched from the weekly rotation of wrestling-tumbling-kicking-soccer-weight training to the slightly more grueling schedule of sparring practice five days out of five. I was not too pleased with the idea when it was first announced, but I understand why: we have a competition in one week.

There are only a few adult members of the dojang where I train, so in order to get a large enough group to attend the competition, I was roped in to the sparring team. This does not bode well for my team's prospects, since everyone at this competition will be a super-hardcore black belt but for me, a puny little no-belt who only stumbled upon the existence of taekgyeon all of three months ago.

Speaking of puny, I'm in the lowest weight class for this tournament. In taekgyeon (택견) and ssireum (씨름, traditional Korean wrestling), weight classes are cleverly named after the highest peaks on the Korean peninsula. The largest competitors, 75kg or heavier, are 백두 (Baekdusan, in North Korea), followed by those in the 한라 (Hallasan, on Jeju Island) class, and then 금강 and 태백. I'm in this last class, for 65kg or lighter. I discovered that there are only two other competitors in this class for Saturday's events, and one of them is barely pushing the upper weight limit. I don't fancy sparring him at all.

Yes, I'm going to a martial arts competition next week to get my ass kicked, quite literally. I'm sure they'll hand it to me with two hands to be polite, but I'm also sure that I am going to come home with a black eye or worse.

In a sure-to-be fruitless attempt to prevent this from happening, it's been all sparring practice, all the time lately. But matseogi (맞서기) is not easy. It requires speed, flexibility, and good reflexes, none of which I possess. Even as I spar and try in vain to dodge or block my partner's impossibly-fast legs, 관장님 yells advice at me, but I don't always understand. Actually, all I hear is, "Andrew, good!" when I land a kick, "Andrew, no!" when I miss a kick, and "Andrew, 집중! (pay attention!)" when I get kicked. It'd be hilarious if I weren't also in so much pain.

While being beat up by black belts every night hasn't been all that fun, it's still invigorating to be getting so much exercise. Also, after class I've been practicing random gymnastic stuff like handstands and front hand springs. I'm actually seeing improvement, too, which is what keeps me going, even though I've been perpetually physically and mentally exhausted lately. I'm going to continue at it diligently, at least until the tournament. Then I'll let myself pass out for a few days...

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