Naturally, Ivan paired me up with the tallest guy in the room. He wasn’t big in a bulky sense, athletic though. He still stood well over six feet tall by my guess. We were kitted out with a few padded gloves and slip on covers for our fists and feet, some bright slightly padded vests and a tight fitting helmet covering our ears and head.
It didn’t make me feel any better standing opposite him. By my guess his reach with a punch was at least a foot more than me – god knows about a kick. I only really had one option, getting close, within the range of those limbs.
But he was probably going to be a lot stronger than me too, getting into a wrestling match was something I always wanted to avoid when I was fighting someone stronger – which was all the time.
If I had my batons… But that was why I was here. I can’t always rely on an advantage like that.
We squared up, with the rest of the ‘class’ observing. They were giving the guy stick, saying that he shouldn’t pick on little kids. He kind of looked embarrassed…
Well, that was one advantage I had. This guy didn’t want to actually hurt me. I’d bet his first attack would be pretty tentative. I knew my limits. Maybe I could surprise him… Maybe I could finish this quick.
So I waited for him to make the first move. He was as reluctant as me it seemed – if for a different reason to me.
Eventually Ivan said he’d say that he’d count failing to attack me a loss. After a few more moments of hesitation he stepped forwards and pivoted on one leg to give a kick to where my midsection would have been. If I’d stayed still.
He was slow. The kick itself wasn’t, but leading up to it? It was really obvious what he was going to do so I was moving as soon as his leg got off the ground. I was expecting more…
I skipped forward and got in close as planned, driving my forearm down into his thigh. I followed it with a punch to his unguarded crotch with my other hand. I didn’t want to do any damage so I didn’t punch hard. He doubled over as if done it as hard as I could.
Him kneeling put his head easily within my reach. I used it to my advantage and delivered a blow to his temple, even with the padded gloves and a helmet he fell.
I stood back. He groaned and tried to get up. Unsure how to proceed I looked over at Ivan, who was making no indication this was done. What was I supposed to do, let him get up and punch him again? Kick him while he was down? Maybe he’d just give up. Might as well ask him.
“Err. Mr, you wanna give up?” I asked.
He got to his hands and knees. “Fuck no.”
Oh, ok. That’s why this wasn’t over I guess. I kicked him in the head. He fell over. Not wanting to let him get up again I wondered what I could do to keep him down…
I saw his hand, flat against the ground. Might work. I pressed my foot against his fingers. He gave a shout of pain but lying on his front didn’t give him much room to manoeuvre. He clawed at my ankle and punched it ineffectively. I was ready to move if he tried to bite me, but he didn’t go for it. I pressed on harder until he stopped.
“Give up now?” I asked again.
“Ok ok! Let me go!” He said.
I released his hand and turned to look at Ivan, he was looking a bit smug.
“Good! That’s what I wanted to see.”
I held out a hand to help the guy, Jack I think, up off the floor. Grudgingly he accepted.
Ivan continued. “Lesson for you here, don’t ever assume your opponent is weak. In a real-life scenario do what the kid did here; take down as fast as possible. You don’t know how many friends he has waiting around the corner. Don’t pansy about getting a ‘feel’ for anything, go for the goddamn kill. Metaphorically speaking of course…”
“She punched me in the fucking balls!” Jack said. I didn’t punch hard.
“Damn right she did, you let her. You think someone mugging you for loose change is going to give a shit about your balls? Or some male honour about not taking advantage of them? They are going to be mean, try all the dirty tricks. You need to learn them and damn well give them as good back.” He looked at me. “Kid, you ever done a martial art before?”
“No.” I said.
“You’ve been in a real fight though?” He asked.
“A few times.”
“She doesn’t know any effective stances, how to block effectively, any specific moves. But she beat you because you underestimated her and she’s got more real experience. From now on we’ll be doing a little sparring session at the beginning and end of the lessons, get you used to fast dirty fighting.”
He arranged people in pairs, leaving me as the odd one out. He spent a few minutes with Jack telling him how he should protect himself a bit better in future. After everything was how he wanted it he shouted for people to start sparring and came up to me.
“Right kid, you’ve got a lot to learn. You did well but if you had let him get a hit in you would have been knocked over. Here, stand like this.” He showed me, and then nudged my legs when I did it wrong.
“Stance is important, you want to be ready to move as soon as you get an opportunity or to avoid an attack. You also don’t want to be in a position where you can be forced off balance. Here bend your leg like this or…” He kicked out at my knee, it buckled and I fell onto the mats covering the floor. “…that will happen.”
We had about two hours, he spent the whole lesson directing me in what to do with words like: “Don’t block a kick like that you want to break your arm?” On a few occasions he left me doing some exercises and walked round the room giving people tips, pointers and harsh words.
I left tired, but feeling good. My terrible fitness levels were really beginning to show. If I was going to take this seriously I’d have to get much fitter. I should start running or something. I resolved to give it a go over the weekend. Now? I was much too tired. Leaving the gym I set off for the cold, windy walk home.