Contrary to popular belief, I did not start karate to understand what it was like to get smacked in the face. Nope. No sir-eeee. You may have guessed already from the title of this blog that I now understand the basics of reptilian reflex better than Professor Brian Cox understands the universe. That statement is pure fact blended with a good serving of exaggeration.
This blog starts with a massive caveat – Goju Ryu karate is not full-contact in the dojo – it never is otherwise we’d all be constantly in hospital. But you do get hit from time to time and every now and again, fist meets flesh and feet meet testicles (hilarious for onlookers, disastrous for the recipient).
The first time I got hit in the head was a shock. Being punched in the face triggers one of three reptilian reactions – fight, flight or freeze. I froze harder than a choc-ice served in the Arctic. It was mad – I saw and felt the punch at the same time. The black silhouette of a clenched fist only visible before it’s too late to move. A millisecond later I was jolted backwards by a plum punch to my forehead, jolting my neck backwards with a snapping sound like the breaking of a finger of kit-kat. I couldn’t believe it – i just stood still, bamboozled. Walking away from my sparring partner with one hand held up as a gesture of defeat whist I stared into the distance trying to make sense of what had just happened. It wasn’t a eureka moment, more like terror freezing all of your body. A couple of seconds later all I wanted to do was cover my head and curl up in a ball on the floor, then to rock gently backwards and forwards in self-pity. That was what every cell in my body wanted to do. But of course I fought on gingerly in anticipation of another head shot. Yep, at this moment I declared myself officially softer than a Mr Whippy on a hot day (am loving the ice-cream metaphors today!).
From that moment I decided that I had to toughen up. My goal – to react like Big Daddy after he had been whacked by Giant Haystacks, minus the belly bumps but with equal verve and determination…followed by chants of “easy, easy, easy…” after sparring victoriously with my opponent.
I am pleased to report that I have progressed since that worrisome day. I am not quite at Big Daddy levels yet – more like Nacho Libre – fearless but severely lacking in technique. Unbelievably I now relish the thought of a quick sparring session. I get this amazing endorphin rush when someone connects with a good hit (testicles excluded).
Note to wife – don’t worry, I’m not turning into a Sadomasochistic freak.
Second note to wife – this doesn’t mean you can start one-inch-punching my face.