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Thank You for Hitting Me

Taking a punch -- and liking it.

"Thank you for hitting me." Now that's a phrase you won't hear every day. Don't worry, you haven't wandered into the adult side of the About service. Instead, that phrase merely represents a different sort of attitude about sparring, one that in my opinion is the right way to think about getting hit.

There's basically three attitudes about getting hit when sparring: fear, anger, and gratitude. The first two are counterproductive--here's why. Everyone remembers their first experience sparring with an opponent. You're dancing around the ring, often just a taped square on the dojo floor, guard up, adrenaline rushing through your body. You're tentative, not sure if your attack is going to be countered, resulting in your getting hit. At this stage of your training, your fear of getting hit holds you back: you can't "get into the groove" and feel comfortable trading blows because you're worried about getting hit.

The other emotion, anger, clouds your judgement. Instead of thinking about the best technique to use against your opponent, you're thinking, "Why that no-good so-and-so popped me in the nose! How dare he!" We're not talking about those cases where the class bully needs to show off his ego. Those situations get me all riled up too. We're talking about a normal sparring set, where your opponent's landed a legitimate decent technique. Your indignation seems to pump you up; you feel fired up to deliver some choice blows right back at 'em. But instead, you're flailing around, and none of your blows are landing.

In both of these scenarios, the two emotions, fear and anger, cause you to focus on your opponent's attacks, and not your own. As a result, your own fighting becomes unbalanced, and you fight at a disadvantage.

The best attitude to have about getting hit is gratitude. If you're sparring with someone, and you get hit, well, you've just received some really good feedback on your defensive tactics--they're not working! As a result, you learn what your weak points are, and can improve them for the next time. By remaining calm, you can objectively assess your opponent's attacks, counter appropriately, and find the optimum timing for launching your own attacks.

You can use the sparring session for what it's meant: training to fight--and win. In our workouts, we give each other light to moderate contact during sparring sets. It's not enough to really hurt, but enough to make known that the technique really could have done some damage. Granted, this is in a workout where most of us have at least ten years of training under our belts. With less experienced partners, it might be harder to avoid heavy contact because of their less-developed control. But in our group, we've gotten used to the feedback, and like it. I wouldn't have it any other way

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