Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The All Important Tap Out

As most of you know, I have been taking karate lessons for about three months now. Karate has been a fantastic outlet for me, physically, mentally, and even spiritually. I enjoy the challenge of it (Oh, yes. It is challenging!), learning the principles behind martial arts, and I confess, I am a little tickled at the fact that I can flex at Mark, say "Welcome to the gun show!", and he seems slightly impressed by my biceps. Karate rocks.

The other day, I had an...interesting...experience at karate that got me thinking. To frame this scenario, you need to know one thing. My karate instructor is not human. Seriously. He's had more championship wins in more styles of marital arts than I've had hair colors. He is freakishly strong and fast and intuitive, and I have moments when I think if you peeled back his skin, you'd find bionic titanium. I have been around wrestlers, boxers, and a weightlifter or two, but I have never seen anything like this guy. He is pure physical insanity.

Last week, we were talking in class about the difference between being a decent, strong fighter versus a great, smart, but smaller fighter. This is a discussion I could really get excited about...all 5'5" of me. Our instructor was demonstrating that you don't have to overwhelm ALL of a bigger, stronger fighter to win, if you can instead fight smarter. He decided a visual would be the best way to make this point effectively, so he told me to lay down on my back.

Already, I knew things were going to get ugly.

Our instructor went on to explain that when someone is on their back, if you know where there center of gravity is and focus on containing just that part of their body, you can easily control the fight. Apparently, when you lay on your back your center of gravity is across your sternum, because he took his thumb, pressed down (in an appropriate fashion) on my sternum, and then told me to stand up.

(Let me say here, I already think this was NOT a fair fight as his thumb is about the size of my thigh. The man is freakishly big...)

I began to try and stand up, but found myself utterly unable to do much more than lift my head up about a quarter of an inch off the mat.

"Hmmm", I think to myself. "This is interesting. I will have to remember this. Good lesson, Teach!"

Thinking the point had been made, I try to sit up and end the little demonstration. This maneuver was misinterpreted in an unfortunate manner, and my instructor began applying even more pressure to my sternum thinking I was still in the fight.

"OK. Yep, definitely can't get up", I said, thinking that this declaration would encourage him to stop poking my aorta and remove his 50 ton thumb from my sternum.

Perhaps hearing a challenge in that (What??? How the heck can that be thought of as a challenge?!?!!), my instructor then proceeded to show the class if a person still struggles, you can put your weight across them, pin their arms and legs, and then squeeze and the opponent will concede.

Or die!

As I began seeing flashbacks of my 37 years racing before my eyes, I became nearly frantic in my efforts to find any oxygen and a lot less pain. At one point, I am certain I called out the name of "Jesus!" while waiting for the end to come. It was pain like you cannot fathom...unless you have ever been trapped under a locomotive with no oxygen and your hands and feet being stretched like Gumby in opposite directions.

Just as I began to give in and go towards the light, the instructor finally got up and moved on to working us through sparring techniques. As I tried to peel my half dead self off the mat, a compassionate red belt helped me up and whispered, "Why didn't you tap out?"


Oh yeah. Apparently I missed the class where they tell you that when you reach a point where you are in pain or in danger of injury, you TAP THE MAT so your opponent will know to stop. So even though I am screaming for the apocalypse, I didn't "tap out" and thus my instructor continued the lesson on effective human torture. Looking back, I am not sure what finally stopped him - whether it was my blue face, my incoherent spiritual hollering, or the fact that he had used all his skills on me and could move on.

I walked (OK, that's a lie. I limped) away from that class with a bruised sternum and a life lesson. When I feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life, instead of flailing and yelling and lashing out at anyone and anything around me, I need to remember to tap out. I need to be up front with Mark when I need some time to relax or regroup instead of allowing the pressure of my days to squish me into ineffective yelling. The tap out is a great life skill too.

You just need to know about it to use it...

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