So on October 23 I took part in what may have been the only direct competition of my (almost) 38 years and it was truly bizarre.
I know that the only way to really test yourself is to get on the field, and for my Taekwon-do school that means taking part in the October competition. I could choose to do just patterns or just spar or I could do both. I figured I might as well go the whole way and do both.
It was really tough, I was terrified.
I know that many people compete in things like this from a young age, learning a graceful way of losing and, hopefully, graceful way of winning. I didn’t get that practice so I generally avoid competition entirely, either putting myself out of the running before I start, or, when competing in say, a writing contest, I convince myself that I am in the situation for something besides winning, say for experience, or for understanding or whatever. And then, I often just don’t try, because if I don’t try, I can’t be judged on the results.
I say this like I understand my motivations in the moment, but in truth, this took me a long time to figure out and I’m still working on this all the time. How do I make myself try hard enough to have a chance, yet accept that I may not win, and learn to deal gracefully with that without looking for fault in the system.
So I spent the whole week in a tizzy, trying to strike a balance between my desire to win and my knowledge that my patterns needed work and my sparring might not be all that.
The pattern I did was this one: Dan Gun , which is somewhat complicated for a fairly uncoordinated person like me (although taking Taekwon-do is helping with that). The thing that gets me is the timing, when I land in a certain place , my hands have to be in a certain position and my feet in another. It is black and white, cut and dried, it is either right or wrong. It isn’t a matter of opinion. Even the things I studied in university weren’t often like that, and I am way more comfortable with an intellectual test than a physical one.
But, I did okay. There were only three people in our group so we were each were going home with a medal. I got second place, which I was pleased with. If I had gotten first I probably would have fainted from shock. The real gain though was that I actually did it. I put myself to the test, and I did as well as I could.*
The sparring was horrible though. We tend to practice with light taps, and the woman I was sparring with was from a different school (of both Taekwon-do and of thought) and she pulled no punches (nor any kicks – I swear she was hopping around on one foot and kicking me with the other). It was, well, horrible. It was only 90 seconds of fighting, but it seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t really get my bearings and my techniques were not instinctual enough to call on under pressure.
This is huge.
I stayed in the ring. Even though I was losing, rather badly, I didn’t cry and I didn’t cry foul. I just kept trying, did what I could and then I came out of the ring determined to try harder for next year.
I also came out of the ring with a rather unpleasant feeling in my hip and across my stomach from a poorly placed kick that took a few hours to get over, but I was really proud that I ended thinking of how to do better for next time rather than frustrated with myself for this time.
And I don’t feel nervous at the idea of competing again.
I can totally do this.
In other news, 2000 words today! That’s a total of 6221!
*Not to be confused with doing my best, because I’ve done a far better example of that pattern than I did that day, but at least I did the damn thing.