The sensation spread out across my face like ripples from a pebble tossed in a pond. I shook my head back and forth instinctively, hoping not to feel liquid land anywhere as a result. I kept moving toward him slowly, with hands lowered to chest level – an inappropriate and incorrect positioning with the match still going. Of course I knew he wouldn’t take advantage of the lowered defenses. If I’d stopped shaking my head, stopped thinking about the sting, I could’ve actually focused on what he was asking me long enough to answer.
Am I what? I thought.
“Mom! Are you ok?”
He sounded worried. He must have asked the question several times while I was shaking my head, lost in the surrealism that always exists when actual pain comes at the hands of one of my children.
“Yeah, baby, I’m fine. You tagged me pretty hard there. Give me a second.”
My fault, I thought. My hands were clearly down.
And with that, we were back at it: circling each other; moving in; grappling when too close and about to be cornered; blocking kicks; shelling up against a barrage of punches to the head; catching kicks and holding them just long enough to show the other the error of not retracting faster, and so on.
It was the first time in forever that we sparred together in gear with full force. We used to do it regularly, every Saturday, when I was testing for black sash. Getting beat on by my son, who’s fast and who has difficulty controlling his power, was a key element in learning to control my emotions in a match. But somewhere along the line, after the black sash was attained, his lack of control began to anger me. Sometimes I just wanted to work on a few techniques with an opponent, not have an all-out fight. When we couldn’t seem to find the middle ground, I called it quits on fighting my son. But Saturday it occurred spontaneously, with both of us in gear to better train his sister, and it all came back: the annoyance at his greater mobility, the frustration at moves of his that made me worry about my knees, and yes, the fun of having the kid put me back to the test – and holding up just fine.
There is no getting used to wincing while getting dressed and knowing that the force of your own child’s foot against your side is the reason. There is no way for me to be guilt-free about sending my son to school with a bruise above his eye that I put there. With that said, there was once a value in this most unnatural activity of physical confrontation between mother and son. It was good to remember that… if just for today.