Fighting a Much Smaller Opponent

21 Mar

I started my Taekwondo training at age 33 (along with my not-quite five year old son, Robert). I was overweight, previously inactive, and had no real fitness, never mind athletic or competitive, background. Just a cream-puff dad starting martial arts so his son could start.

Part of Taekwondo’s tradition is sparring. Sparring was not my thing, and I avoided it whenever possible, both as a color belt and then as a black belt. I had to learn to judge it, referee it, and coach it, but I avoided doing it. And, I didn’t really train for it. I fought a handful of times, mostly when the corps of color belts or black belts were asked to shore up numbers at a tournament or help to highlight competition in some way.

In local and regional tournaments, then and now, it’s hard to get sufficient divisions to accommodate rank, size and age. So, if you want to spar, you never know whom you’re going to get placed with. Maybe by the time I hit age 45 there were sometimes “senior” or “executive” divisions, which usually meant age 30 & older. (Insert giant-sized rolling-eyes emoji here.)

Compared to me, my potential opponents were generally younger, taller (I’m five-foot-five), and likely better practiced for sparring. Also, I simply was afraid of getting the snot knocked out of me! I was a husband and a dad, with a very-dad bod. Oh, and I also was blind in one eye with whatever limitations or risks came along with that (*WHACK* Didn’t see THAT one coming . . . “Huh? How many fingers?”)

Then, one year our Korean Great Grand Master introduced Kumdo/Kumbup training to us. Sword arts. Kumbup, wooden-someday-sharp sword technique practice, and also Kumdo, armor & bamboo sword training for sparring competition. We drove five hours one-way across the state once a month for a few hours of training; we did that for two years or so, maybe three, before head instructors could supervise local training.

A drawing on the back of a shirt that shows two Kumdo competitors in armor fighting with bamboo swords.Our big, annual August black belt camp, an outdoor camp taking over part of a state park, began including a Kumdo tournament. With this being a newer art for our organization and seeking to build a following, it was pretty much mandatory that we competed. We weren’t legally obligated to compete, of course, but we definitely were in a tradition of “there is no answer other than yes sir/ma’am.” Whether we preferred it or not, we prepared for a battle each August. And, like a Taekwondo tournament, you never knew who would show up as your opponents, how easy or tough a battle it would be.

I felt better about Kumdo sparring than I did about Taekwondo sparring, even if only seeing out of one eye while wearing a vision-obscuring, breath-inhibiting helmet was its own challenge. I might pass out but I wouldn’t get knocked out! I might get purple welts but I won’t get any cracked ribs. Still, coming from my non-competitive background, I had trepidation. I realize now how much a fragile ego came into play; I didn’t want to look bad, or feel bad about not showing well. Still, over those first few years I gained confidence.

Things changed one year. I decided I was going to get ready and I was going to win, or die trying. Even though I had always trained regularly and worked hard, I buckled down and got more serious. I trained harder yet. I also took on a greater mental intensity, a singularity of focus, a commitment. Even if the next tournament was nearly a year away, I did what I believed was necessary to prepare to win. I prepared in a way that was harder than would be the actual event, more challenging than any opponent, more arduous than would be the mid-August-sun-beating-down-on-us-armor-wearing-warriors conditions. I was ready for battle.

August arrived. Three matches. Three opponents. Three wins. First place. Even if I hadn’t won, I think I would have felt satisfied knowing that I gave it my best. I wouldn’t have lost for lack of preparation.

Right now, we as a community and a nation are preparing for a battle and we don’t know how challenging it will be. Actually our preparation is in support of the people and institutions (aka medical establishment) who will be in the battle, as they prepare to face the challenge. We are all preparing in an extraordinary way to make the fight as easy as possible. To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.

We don’t know how long the battle will last. We don’t know how tough the opponents will be. We don’t know what the conditions will be. We don’t know how many matches or rounds there will be. We might be oddly disappointed that it turns out to be a pretty flat event. We should find peace of mind in knowing that we have prepared and sacrificed the best we can to win even the most challenging battle. Better that than to get the snot knocked out of us.


4 Responses to “Fighting a Much Smaller Opponent”

  1. thebizgro March 21, 2020 at 17:04 #

    Great post. Thanks for sending!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Chris Correia March 22, 2020 at 12:17 #

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Don! Be well, be happy.

  2. Bob Weiss March 22, 2020 at 08:30 #

    Thanks Chris. Great perspective for the rest of us who have not been directly in the battle yet. Commitment to a goal and preparation are keys to success. One definition of luck is “when opportunity meets preparation.” May we all be lucky this year.

    • Chris Correia March 22, 2020 at 12:19 #

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Bob. Nice add on! Stay well and happy.

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