"Music is a gas," my old band teacher used to say, "because all you have to do is go around a corner and you run into somebody better than you." What a great attitude he had.
I was flustered last night in sparring class--my last before vacation--because the new sempai was just so much better than me. I found myself going back to bad habits from two or three years ago--bending down to avoid punches, narrowing my stance, even turning my back. To be sure, he had great control, he was not hitting hard enough to hurt me, but it did sting a bit, as it should. He would close the distance between us and I would get totally flustered.
In contrast, when I sparred with a couple of lower belts--even though they were much bigger than the new sempai, and roughly my height--I felt in control of the situation, able to spar at the distance I wanted. I felt safe.
So, when class was over--it was the last one of the night--I went up to Sensei and asked him for some things to think about over the next week, while I'm on vacation. Things he said:
1. When I jab, I should protect my chin with my shoulder, or move my head to the side.
2. He noticed that, when the sempai closed the gap with me, I would jab but move my front foot back so that I was standing on a very narrow base, and lose balance as he kept attacking. I had no idea I did that. So I need to move backward while jabbing by moving the rear foot back first. Basic stuff, but I don't do it when I'm flustered.
I said I need to practice, practice this stuff so that I can do it even when I'm flustered.
Beyond that, he said:
3. Stand my ground at times, don't back up. As he's closing the distance, I should even move forward sometimes, jamming his punches.
4. If he's in real close, push him away and throw a quick uppercut or hook as he's off balance. Sensei showed me how he practices that on a heavy bag.
5. And, as always, move my head, keep covered up.
Things to think about on vacation, and to practice, so I can do them even when I'm flustered or nervous about somebody closing the distance with me.
It was great that Sensei took the time to talk with me after class. I'm sure he wanted to get home.