“Ri! What happened to your eye!”
“What? Oh yeah, I got hit in the face…
Me at work a couple of week ago. And it gets even worse, because technically I hit myself in the face. That’s right, I was blocking my face, fists raised, when the guy hit my fist that then hit my eye. Shit happens. It didn’t even hurt that much but did make for a nice bright red eye, and a host of concerned colleagues.
Such are the woes of a fledgling kickboxer like myself. I’d been meaning to try it out for a long time, but a few months ago I finally signed up with a gym not too far from here. I made up my mind after one free trial lesson. That lesson entailed mostly hitting and kicking giant boxing bags hanging from the ceiling. It was great, and I definitely still enjoy kicking and hitting inanimate objects the most. But, nowadays there is a lot of sparring involved. And the lessons are people of all skill levels thrown together, plus you keep swapping partners so inevitably you will be paired with someone who’s pretty good at it. And they hit hard. They also kick hard, but sometimes we are simply tasked with kicking an opponent repeatedly. No blocking allowed. So yeah, bruising is another thing to get used to. Of course, you can always ask your opponent to kick a little less hard but people slip, you know, and some people’s soft kick can still be quite hard. Plus, you don’t want to appear chicken. I accidentally kicked our instructor in the knee with my shin and created a beautiful bruise (on my shin, not his knee as far as I’m aware, the guy is wiry and all muscle it seems). Also had to learn to turn off the cry-reflex when someone hit me hard in the stomach or in the face by accident. Had a close call once! Boy that would have been awkward. So far so good!
I had to change my mindset about sweat. Kickboxing, as you might guess, is quite the strenuous sport. It involves a rigorous warmup, and the gym I go to just so happens to have no air conditioning. People sweat a lot. Especially guys. And that’s fine, I mean we’re all here to work out, sweat is just a natural side-effect. But I must say people dripping sweat on me, feeling sweat just flying around, standing in other people’s sweat with your bare feet, yeah it took some getting used to. It’s not for the squeamish that’s for sure. I had to let go of any notions of cleanliness and just repeat in my head that none of it mattered because I had a shower waiting at home. That is not to say that I am now comfortable with sweat dripping down my nose, into my eyes, down my neck etc. let alone other people’s sweat, but I’ve definitely gotten more used to it.
At my first trial lesson I did not yet have any kickboxing gear of my own. Thankfully they have gear on hand for you to borrow. I say thankfully but I have to wonder if this is some clever sales tactic. Because nothing makes you want to buy your own gear more, than having to use stinky second-hand gloves still wet with another’s sweat. And the smell, oh god the smell. I’m not exaggerating when I say hanging with my head over this chest filled with sweaty gear almost made me gag. Almost. I ordered the whole gear set right after that first trial run and the next week brand new shiny non-stinky gear was waiting for me. Bliss! The gear consists of boxing gloves, hand wraps, shin guards, a mouth guard, and a skipping rope. Yep, a skipping rope! Because each class starts with about 6 minutes of straight jumping rope. This is admittedly my least favorite part, but it’s probably good for me because I just about die each time.
You might wonder after all this, why would anyone pay money for this! Well, the best part of it by far, is the afterglow. Getting on my bike and cycling home whilst endorphins are flying through my body is, suffice it to say, pretty awesome. It always makes me feel great, not to mention it’s a great way to stay in shape. In the days after I often have muscle aches which remind me of my efforts (which to me is a good thing), and it certainly helps your confidence to you feel like you could potentially hit or kick someone in the face should you want to. You know, hypothetically.