So, there was a tournament in Reno on Saturday. I didn't know that I'd be going until the night before, and at 10 pm I confirmed with my boss that all was good with my projects, went home, washed my uniform and finally got to bed at midnight.
After a brief 5 hour sleep, I was on my way to Reno. I had to get there early enough to register and I was only allowing myself one cup of coffee. I had the jitters anyway, I think my usual mass load of coffee probably wouldn't have done well with my nervousness.
For almost the entire drive, all I could think about was that the last time I had entered in a tournament. I was probably only 11 years old, but I remember going up against this blue belt who was very good. I remember, he had very fast hands and a mullet sticking through his helmet in the back. For memories sake, I'll just play it safe and say that I had a blue belt too, but I was not nearly as confident as him. I knew before I even went into the ring that I was probably going to lose. And, invariably I did. I got into the ring, and I just froze. I probably didn't even have my hands up. So you can see, I must have been a sitting duck, when WHAM, he nails a perfect side kick to my gut and I go tumbling backwards. Let me tell you...this hurts something fierce. I would not ever suggest putting your guard down.
But this is what fear does to people.
It tries to convince you to put your guard down.
Back to my story, though. So all I could think of driving down, was me at 11 getting my ass handed to me by a little boy with a mullet. These are powerful emotions! Yet still, I pressed on. I had to make it to Reno for this tournament, I just had to.
There was even a snow storm that I had to pass through. The same one that my friend ended up getting stuck in on the other side of the Sierra's, coincidentally. I pressed on, taking my time.
So the story continues with my arrival to the Convention Center. It was packed. I made it through the crowds to get my two class entry wrist bands. I would be competing in two things that day, sparring and kata (forms...martial arts dances). I was very confident about my kata, because I have practiced it so much that I could do it in my sleep. The sparring, however, would prove very difficult.
Until I realized, that I was the only red/brown belt in the entire convention that registered in the adult category. All of the big, intense, super awesome fights and such were all red/bown/black...under 21. They would have kicked my butt. Something that I must have been craving for, with a smile on my face...until I realized that I was the only one in my division. And this younger guy comes up to me, "...Um. excuse me Miss. Is it OK if I put you with the 50 and older division, they need someone to fight."
I looked to my right and saw the 2 most interesting people I have seen in awhile. There was an old man probably in his 80s with thick rimmed glasses, a hunched back, a grey beard and a pot belly. He looks over at me with this great big ol' gleeful grin which covered most of his face. I smiled back apprehensively, and then looked up to his friend in the same class. It was a woman in her late sixties about 3 times my size high and two times wide....a Goliath woman towering over me. She had a big nose and greasy curly hair to her shoulders. She, too, had glasses and a toothy smile. She let out a big HIYA as I glanced. I was so amused, relieved, and piss out of my pants scared. She terrified me, but I couldn't ignore her, so I grinned my biggest right back at her.
The ring steward had to have gotten a hearty laugh out of the 3 of us standing there waiting for a ring to be open.
See, and it wasn't even fair because, well. They paired me with the old man to fight first. I was nice about it...I gave him a chance. My theory on the whole situation, is that Goliath (I never caught her full name) was this woman's friend. Because after I ended up beating him (like I said...I didn't hit him hard at all) Goliath stepped into the ring with a fury so intense that it sent a ripple up my spine. I could hear little children in Japan falling over from her earthquake stomping. I had to be strong, but not strike that delicate line between grandma, big crazy lady coming after me, and fighter. It was hard to think about. And I felt myself going back to being eleven years old again. I started to freeze up and lower my guard again.
Then the most miraculous thing happened. I heard a voice outside the ring, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING PUT YOUR HANDS UP! MOVE AROUND!" And a bell snapped in my head. Wake up dummy! DUH. So I started moving around. Goliath came at me with a series of punches. I dodged to the right..WHAM. Point. I hear "TIME OUT", look around, and see Joji sitting outside the ring.
Joji was not technically one of my teachers, but I took a sparring seminar from her and her husband, Sensai Martin. The lady waves me over, grabs my head and starts talking in my ear. "Make her off balance and for God's sake, MOVE AROUND. Don't give her the chance."
I go back and we are sparring again. WHAM. I blitz and end up getting her forehead. Point. But upon landing my blitz, she throws one right back. BOOM! She got my jaw and scores another point herself. If I get one more point, I win.
Joji yells, "You can do it!" I dodge left and then right. I go up and try to come down with a front snap. Too late. Goliath saw it coming. BOOM! To the side of my face. Point.
We lined up. We shook hands. But I still. Lost. I got a first place trophy and I didn't want it. I didn't deserve it.
Joji gives me her card. I came back and wrote this. Just now.