It was the second time in as many classes that the instructor for the green sashes couldn’t make it in, leaving me to assist with the most advanced group of the beginners’ class. I had a blast on Monday helping to refine parts of the Dragon Fist form for some of my earliest students. It was a bonus to help them with the part of kung fu I like the least but that taught me the most.
When I became a green sash and had to start sparring, it was a tough time. I’d come to kung fu for the beauty and agility of the forms, not to beat and be beaten. Getting clobbered by young men (and a few older ones) who’d come to kung fu to learn to fight – and who could move a lot faster than the female in her forties with arthritic, surgically-repaired knees – was something I couldn’t go around if I wanted to advance in the curriculum. And believe me, I tried going around it. Helping the sparring class gave me the opportunity to show others a short cut through potentially rough terrain.
“Don’t use both hands to stop a kick. It leaves your entire upper body wide open. Try not using your hands at all. Block kicks with a leg check.” A blank stare came back at me from inside several sets of headgear. “Just lift your bent leg straight up,” I added, demonstrating. “This way, you can stop your opponent’s kick from striking you and still have both hands up and in front of you.”
“Ohhhh,” was the chorus of realization that came back at me. The next round saw distinct improvement. Mission accomplished.
There were a lot of tags to the face along my road to the black sash. Many happened because I could have used the leg check a lot earlier in my training. It’s something I can’t remember being formally taught in a sparring class. I picked it up simply by fighting other black sashes and having them check my kicks. The green sashes tonight got an early introduction.
One of the most important ingredients for doing well in a sparring match is the absence of fear. It’s unlikely fear will take a hike if one is getting hurt. So the sooner students learn the simplest tactics for defense when fighting a larger, more experienced opponent, the sooner they’ll have the confidence needed to master the offense. I could be wrong; but that’s how I see it – and it made me happy to pass it on.