Taekwondo is starting to become my adult equivalent of my Mathematics class at school. That I pay for and willingly go to. Its two hours a week where I go through continuous motions and watch everyone surpass me again and again.
Yes, it’s another one of those posts where I bemoan my inability to be anything less than adequate in martial arts. To be fair it’s got a trigger – this weekend is the ITF Scotland Championships which I’m attending, and I’m not looking forward to it at all.
Today just honed in how unprepared I actually am for it. The first half of the class was for patterns, second half sparring. I was working through Yul-Gok, my grading pattern and my choice was patterns at the competition. When it comes to patterns I have no coordination, so I need to practice, practice, practice to get the moves right. I’ve always thought that my Yul-Gok, while not perfect, was relatively passable – I just needed more confidence in my moves.
Tonight, I could barely get through half without screwing it up. And it’s probably through doing things I was always doing. The teacher wasn’t letting anything slip through tonight, and I got distracted trying to perfect the two sidekicks (always the thing I can’t do) that I messed up the following sequences. By the end of the patterns I’d say my performance had actually gotten worse because I was desperately trying to fix things I hadn’t realised were wrong until now. I’ll have to spend the next couple of days practising to try and get it back to where I thought I was.
But to be fair, patterns have never been my strong suit. It’s something I enjoy doing when I’m stressed, but competitively I miss a certain spark that other students have. My bread and butter at competitions has always been sparring. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed sparring against people of my skill and weight category (being the only student that was both under 5’8 and female did not a great teaching session make). Then I hit blue tag and sparring went from being fun to just plain scary.
I have no self preservation instincts. None. Someone comes at me; my brain doesn’t register what they’re doing until they’ve done it and moving on to the next move. Blocking is non-existent, and my strategy generally consists of ‘throw myself at my opponent and take whatever hits they land so long as I can get close to punch’. It doesn’t work, but whenever I’m in the ring this just seems to happen. Since grading to blue tag, I’m coming away from these fights limping a lot more than I once was – in class and competition. Fighting stupid doesn’t work anymore, and I keep getting taught that painfully. Yet when I try to fight smart, my brain just cannot keep up with my opponent and I’m basically just standing there getting hit.
Case in point was class tonight. We went through random kicking drills, and despite knowing exactly what my opponent was sending my way, I failed to block more often than I didn’t. When it came to free sparring, I spent more time dodging than I did hitting (and this was a class of yellow and white belts – there was only myself and one other blue tag in the class), and when I did feel confident enough to push forward, I found myself limping when my opponent raised their knee to defend themselves and knocked my shin right out of the way. Again. Added to the fact that the pulled muscle in my leg has decided to get very tight lately, and it leaves me woefully underprepared and with a bum leg that will probably give halfway through my first fight. Still, it’s incentive to finally bit the bullet and buy shin guards. Maybe this time around when someone gets my leg I’ll still be able to use it.
Thinking through this, and looking back at the last few tournaments I’ve been in, I’m thinking I might throw in the towel with competitive TKD after this competition. The last few competitions just haven’t been as fun as they once were – the only reason I keep going is because our teacher gets upset when people don’t go. Financially and mentally, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason anymore. I would need to dedicate a lot more of my life to Taekwondo than I’m comfortable with to improve to the point where I think I could get back the fun of competing – much as I might wish otherwise, fact is, I’m just not the competitive type when it gets physical.