Trying to actually hit someone can be very difficult. In this rather unsanctioned instructional class, basically anything goes. We still were on hardwood floors, so there was no grappling. Everything was a standup fight. Except for foot sweeps. Foot sweeps were ok. Unless you are the sweepee and you land hard on the floor.
One black belt came up to me and easily swept me to the side. I landed hard, got up and brushed myself off. I guess he thought that it worked so well the first time that he would do it again. In a blink of an eye I landed harder and most likely cracked a rib. Not much you can do for it in any event. Many years later my doctor took a chest x-ray and found a blackened spot on the rib. He had a name for it, but I forgot to mention where I likely got it.
But the full contact fighting experience was the most exhilarating thing I ever felt. You are completely mindful with what is going on all the time. You become aware of what your opponent might be doing. Is he inhaling, exhaling, perfectly balanced, a bit off kilter? Does he rise up when he comes in, or does he settle down a bit? Our training emphasizes not to telegraph our movements.
I always found that being calm and serene does help for defense. Your opponent has to cover a few feet before he can get to you, so this always gives an opportunity to defend and react. Karate is for defense only as they say.
Our instructor would lay out a practice katana as a line. We would then leap as far as we could in order to hit the body bag. If we managed, he would move the katana back a few more inches. Getting momentum from the back leg allowed me to leap six feet and still punch the bag. Landing hard on my heels, I developed actual bone spurs for a period of time.
But most of the time I found offence worked for me. I imagined having to leap across a chasm. Later I imaged a tiger behind me. You go that much faster using the adrenalin the body produced. This was not anger or fear but rather this was charging yourself up and discharging as fast as you can. You learn to do this without conscious thought.
After a couple of hours of contact fighting, I felt completely jazzed up from the tremendous feeling that for a period of time I had gone all out. It was exhilarating. Up to a point.
I came in hard to into another older, more experienced fighter. I may have been overly confident, but I knew that I was rather fatigued. He easily saw me coming in, just not as fast had I been a bit fresher. He sidestepped my launch and gave me a nice roundhouse punch to the side of the head. Even through the helmet, I felt completely undone. If he decided to finish me off with a second technique, I would have done nothing to stop him.
Now, Mike Tyson has a lot of issues going on, but he had it perfectly right here.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
This seems obvious, but he provides amazing insight to this kind of situation. And to any situation when you go with in something and all hell breaks loose. Whatever you were thinking just disappears and you go on instinct after that. If you have a second chance. More often than not, there is no second chance.
You realize how difficult it can be to actually hit someone that tries to evade you. If you miss, or he sidesteps, then you are likely at his mercy. I learned more by actually doing in those few months than the previous years of just constant training.
My next time at the westerns I won my division. Along with almost imperceptible notch I now have along the bridge of my nose when I was completely clocked between the eyes.
I managed to come in hard underneath to his ab region, and he came in hard overtop to my nose region. Only difference was that I pulled my punch and he didn’t. He dropped me pretty hard and I managed to crawl back to my side of the line. The head referee called it a clash. I called it taking advantage of the situation.
The good doctor came over and asked me if I wanted to continue. I said yes. I have not voluntary stopped anything I had ever started. Perhaps unwisely. The blood flowed pretty profusely during this time.
But he managed to pack my nose with a goodly pile of gauze. I retained my lead and win the match. I was told afterwards that I looked the saddest sight with that blood soaked uniform and a bit of gauze hanging from my nose. But fond memories regardless.
After that I began to wonder what other martial arts might have to teach me.
I spent a year or so learning hapkido. This is the Korean form of Japanese Aikido. My instructor spent several years instructing the Korean police force. The guy seemed ageless. His chest muscles were simply a series of muscular striations. He had no body fat or fear.
They simply taught general self-defense such as wrist locks and arm locks. Very handy if you want to immobilize someone instead of hitting them between the eyes. But they taught that too. I continue to enjoy the fighting and now the hands on grappling.
But I now have spent years working out in windowless basements, or dojos, or gymnasiums. I start to look for something else to motivate me.