Liz is beating my ass.
Liz is an amateur fighter on a 5 win hot streak, and I’m an out of shape physician, just returning to life and the world after being hidden for what seems like years.
We’re in our second round of sparing. She’s teaching me how to fight as a Southpaw (left handed fighter). She’s just kicked my left side. My block or check, came two seconds too late. Which in terms of Muy thai is an eternity. I fake a jab and instead go for a low kick. It catches a piece of her leg, but she’s already in mid motion pulling it back. Only half a second of contact do I enjoy. She laughs, eyes sparkling, before throwing her own jab, then a cross, followed by a knee. I’m dazed, but also smiling. It’s as intricate as a game of chess, but with the added dimension of physicality. Your body and mind are supposed to work in harmony but that involves developing new neural connections. I’m learning a great deal, and that process of learning the art is enlivening.
It strikes me that Liz is beautiful in a way that most people wouldn’t understand. Much like the sport we’re practicing. Our society assumes that fighting is a masculine endeavor, when there is nothing masculine about Liz. She moves gracefully, circles me calculatingly and attacks when she sees an opening. To be strong, mentally and physically, to possess will and determination, to me is beautiful and absolutely can be feminine. Only philistines think beauty is only in bikinis. Only cowards could feel threatened.
Many people feel that mixed martial arts is too violent to enjoy. What they mean is that its violence is direct. They see one person’s actions on another and have to bare witness to the consequences of that action. The same people have watched the news or an action movie, where someone is shot in the head or 30 bombed to death and think nothing of it. Their revulsion comes from ignorance of what is actually occurring during a fight.
To an untrained observer, two people are standing in the middle of a platform throwing punches and kicks at one another for the entertainment of a blood thirsty group of miscreants, like in the Colosseum. While I am sympathetic to the premise that most people are garbage, this observation says more about the crowd than the sport.
To those who appreciate and practice the art, it is a symphony of footwork, feints and perseverance. The athletic feats performed are incredibly difficult. Most of MMA’s detractors have no concept of the rigors of the fighters’ training. How each session is a quest to find your limits and learn how to surpass them. How a fighter must both think and move, attack and defend, while struggling against the inner voice that says ‘this is too hard, you should just quit’.
At the most professional level, you will see two highly skilled fighters at the end of a match embrace each other. The truly elite are not fighting from rage, or anger but perfect focus. A fight is merely a microcosm of life, except that it is fair in a way that life is not.
At the end of training Liz congratulates me on my effort. I thank her for not knocking my teeth out. My body is in tremendous pain, but again I have progressed a bit further than I did yesterday. To struggle to become better in whatever art you choose and value, is what being alive is all about.