Tag Archives: fighting


1 Sep

When I first started doing krav maga, my appearance matched my skill level. I’m a 40-year old Asian woman with First Lady hair and capri workout pants. Of course my punches sucked, I couldn’t block for shit, and could barely stay on my feet as a I kicked. I looked like I should have been driving a minivan to the mall.

But over the past several months, my skill level has begun to belie my appearance.

As a woman without Linda Hamilton-Terminator arms and in schlubby workout clothes, I look “safe.” Beginners, especially women, will want to pair with me. But when we start practicing, they’re often surprised. “How long have you been doing this?” they ask.

Sometimes guys will make similar assumptions. For instance today. We warmed up by touching shoulders. You don’t stay with the same partner the whole time but switch several times. At one point I ended up with a guy who was much taller and bigger than me, and I laughed because his reach was about twice as long as mine.

So we were doing our thing and then he said, “Look here,” and pointed at his chest, which I appreciated because sometimes I forget and look at the hands (looking at your opponent’s chest gives you better peripheral vision and the ability to see strikes coming from any direction). I nodded, but then he continued to lecture me about why it was good to look at the chest.

Dude, I know.

Then one of the assistants said, “Don’t take it easy on her, she’s a badass!” and I was glad for that.

Later I got paired with an Asian woman. At first my partner was this guy with tattoos. I’d seen him before and always assumed he was at least level 2. So when the Asian woman asked to be my partner, I thought she might be a better match. Spotting for strong experienced guys is not my favorite thing. I always end up jamming an elbow or hurting my wrist. My former partner, tattoo guy, gladly went with someone else. Well, I don’t know what tattoo guy’s experience was, but I should have stuck with tattoo guy.

The woman was very nice, but it was her first day, and even after I corrected how she was holding the kick shield, she kept holding it wrong, which was very bad for what we were practicing, front kicks from the ground. If the shield is not held right against the body, ie, if it’s held away from the body or against one’s arm, the kicker can hyperextend her knee. I’ve done this before, and it really fucking hurts.

I corrected her several times and she still wasn’t getting it. Unfortunately I got a little impatient. But the teacher and instructors swept in and helped her out.

The second thing was she didn’t know how to take the kick. When you get a hard kick, you let yourself step back. You don’t try to hold your ground. When you hold your ground, you end up falling on your butt, which is exactly what happened with this woman. I kicked the way I normally do, and the next thing I knew she was falling. Twice.

“I think you’re ready for your test,” one of my classmates told me.

I felt bad knocking her down, but I also felt kinda good because everyone saw me do it.

Evil, I know.

She was an excellent sport about it. She wasn’t hurt, and kept apologizing, suggesting I switch to someone who was more experienced. But that would have been more trouble than it was worth at that point.

The funny thing is tattoo guy and I ended up being partners in KO Bag anyway, and he wasn’t as experienced as I thought he was. He was strong and fast and knew what he was doing, but he wasn’t an expert. He actually complimented me on my front kicks, with a note of surprise.

We were all guilty of judging by appearances today. The tattoo guy and Asian lady both assumed I was a beginner, and I assumed the tattoo guy was a badass. I let myself be intimidated by his ink, confidence, and eagerness to change partners, and I was a little too eager to change partners myself.

Now I understand why some women are so snotty about who they get paired with. Maybe we’re more often underestimated, especially in an environment that’s 75% men and 25% women. But I don’t mind partnering with a beginner, or someone who appears to be a beginner.

You never know.