There’s always that moment after we bow out. After we shake hands. After the sparring where we’ve played at killing each other until one of us taps. After we’ve collapsed exhausted at the merciful interjection of the buzzer. When we’re letting the body catch up with itself. Stream rising and puddles of sweat appearing. Hard stares into the blue vinyl, waiting for the breath to return.
I look around the emptying mats, still glistening with sweat. I see the people getting changed, leaving, ready to get on with their day.
But some remain. Now the work is done the defences can come down. The body relaxes and we can reflect. People get philosophical and start asking the big questions. Questions like, ‘Why do you do this?’
“I see it as a form of self defence,” says Mike. “I don’t want to miss a single class because I might miss that one technique that saves me in a real fight”. He goes on to talk about all the ways that self defence is important to him and how it could save his life. Or maybe the life of his wife and child. How it could be the most important thing he ever learns.
Mike looks at me, wordlessly, expecting me to contribute my own details and honorable reasons for studying the noble art for so long. For so many years. Pushing myself. Accumulating techniques and polishing them until they work under the worst sort of pressure. Finally earning a black belt, yet not stopping there. Still continuing.
I stand up and head to the changing room.
“I just like to fight”.