Friends and Opponents

Since I began training in self defense, I have found myself being challenged by the idea of my friends, well one friend in particular, being my opponent. We’ve mostly grappled during class. Though it’s my least favorite aspect of training, learning how to grapple with someone is a necessary part of self-defense.

During a recent class we did some sparring with boxing gloves. Even though we were doing light taps, I found myself feeling very challenged by the idea of even lightly hitting someone in the spirit of learning self defense. Especially someone I love.

It looked a bit like this

As far as I have come in learning and consistently being out of my comfort zone, I have found this to be most difficult challenge thus far. Even grappling has not been as difficult for me, perhaps because we started grappling in a fun way with a game of one person trying to get a pillow away from the other person. We have worked our way up from there into actual grappling. Even though I don’t like grappling, I am a little more comfortable with it than I was with the light sparring.

But hitting, even lightly hitting someone, is a new level of discomfort for me. I found myself having a lot of difficulty with the idea. In the moment, I was struggling with dizziness from moving quickly. After I overcame that to some degree I found I could hit and block with some tiny bit of proficiency. But man, was it uncomfortable. My brain was saying, “Hey! She is your friend! What are you doing??”

It was rather disorienting for me. I had to fight against my brain’s natural panic of, WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING?? and keep going. At first I was not exactly sure what I was feeling until the panic set in. But we were already engaged. There was no going back now. Ironically enough, we were not doing this to hit each other. It was to learn the importance of keeping a low stance when you are moving in a possible life threatening scenario.

Lightly tapping my friend in a sparring match falls into the category of “doing it anyways.” It’s hard and scary, but a necessary part of defending yourself. I hope I never actually have to physically defend myself against someone who wants to hurt me in some horrible way. But if I ever do, then knowing how to defend myself, including how to hit and being okay with it, is going to be a necessary part of that.

Together we train, together we fight.

So hitting and grappling with my friend is part of the process. She is my friend and I love her, to be sure. But she is my opponent as well. She is my foe in lieu of training because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to learn how to overcome a real enemy in the face of danger.

Self-defense training is very tough. But I believe it’s also very necessary. We tend to think nothing bad will never happen to us — until it does. Doing the necessary things to train is part of protecting oneself. For me, seeing my friend as my opponent or foe, is part of the discomfort of protecting myself. If I’m ever in a dangerous situation with someone trying to hurt me, I need to know what to do. That person would not be my friend. Their motivation would be to hurt me or worse.

So overcoming my brain’s natural inclination to object to even lightly hitting someone I love is a big part of protecting myself. Overcoming fear and changing the way I think about these things is good and will serve me well in the future — even if I don’t ever have to actually defend myself.

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