Sunday, March 20, 2011

As Good As The Guys: A Short Story

                   Visualizing kicks, punches, and feet pivoting to and fro is what made me grow to love the art form of self defense. Trying to mimic all those who successfully mastered this art was the hard part. My success was solely based upon my discipline and physical abilities. However, when arriving at the self proclaimed United Mixed Martial Arts studio in La Mirada, I realized I had no skill (whatsoever) to work with. The studio was thriving off of its own energy and subtle treasures – tattered boxing gloves, a fresh blue mat spread across the dojo, and an old man’s body stench permeating the room. The old man in the black Tapout long sleeve was teaching a particular take down method to the male-dominated class. Taken back by the many men in the class, I stepped away from the scene for a countless amount of seconds, as if I was a hermit crab retreating into its own shell in fear of the enemy. My timid disposition floored me. I shared nothing in common with any of these fighters: nothing in the least extent. The studio itself was a living / breathing male entity. I was the only one with the polished lips, little dodge ball shorts, and clips fastened in my hair…I was the only girl!

             Would it be look right if I carried on with this class? “Skye, this is more than you can possibly handle,” I told myself with a stained sigh escaping through my teeth. While trying to regain my composure – “try” would be the key word – the old man gazed over in my direction and signaled me with a wave of his hand to walk towards him.
 “What’s your name, kid? Are you new,” he said in a deep voice while gasping for every last bit of air he could gather. The man looked built, most likely my height – maybe even a little bit taller – he had long, gray hair – definitely surpassing my locks – tied securely in a pony tail. His facial features were burly and strong like that of an Alaskan lumberjack. Traces of aging were dug in the bold crevices of his face. He looked like he was most likely bridging that age gap between 45 or 55 years of age.
With a failed attempt of me getting to know the instructor better, one of the fighters cried out to him, “Al, when is the next CXF gonna be? I am dying for my moment in the ring!”
Obviously these people mean business. Maybe this little cave of a studio, with its dark, dusty corners had its own source of vitality.
“Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought,” I convinced myself. Even though it mirrors the heat of hell and had the constant weird / awed looks directed towards me, I would learn a lot here. Al – I assumed that was the old man’s name – then turned back towards me and stuck out his firm hand. I grabbed his hand delicately yet sturdy enough and said with a confident smile, “My name is Skye…and yes I am new to this class.”
“Well,” he said looking down at my clean hands, “you have a lot to learn, kid. Maybe one of these days you can take up sparring with one these guys over here,” laughs and smiles from some of the fighters surfaced, “but for right now, you need to learn the basics.” I inhaled and held my breath for awhile. I need to be quick, I need to be fearless, and I need to fit in. I knew damn sure, without a doubt in my mind, I was going to be as good as the guys. Period.
 Time passed and I continuously got better. Many of the fighters started noticing me mature in the class and slowly the odd looks started fading away. I met a few friends but mostly, I was alone; I was too submerged in the activity and not so much the people around me. I didn't care to the least extent...too many melodramatic people with insignificant issues in the Mixed Martial Arts world. Trainers turn against friends...but luckily, I kept my distance. Regardless, I started gaining respect; and, before I knew it; I was throwing combos like a mad man / revolving my feet quicker than lightning crashing into the earth / kicking down bags as if they were the most hated people I knew in my life. Blood breaking through my elbows and knuckles was the only reassurance I needed to know that I was doing my job. The taste of salt hitting my lips was enough hydration for me. Rough bass thumping through the speakers was in sync with the intrinsic reverberation of my heart beats. Feeling my shin make contact with the bag was swift like a bullet, piercing the air it traveled through. Smelling my perfume slowly getting masked by the pungent stench of sweat was glistening over me. My zone encompassed this checklist. I felt unstoppable.

After a year and a half, I left the studio. Everything started piecing itself together and in the end, I finally realized I needed no verbal affirmation. I gazed at everyone, half relieved and half overwhelmed, as I took my final steps out the door. Getting lost in my thoughts for a second, I smiled a vicious grin and said to myself, "I am as good as the guys."

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