Jab. Cross. Uppercut.
Shit! You got her in the boobs. Again.
Should I give her a push kick? Will she be able to take it?
Perhaps, I’ll just touch her lightly.
Yikes, that was close! Almost got her in the nether region.
Seriously though, can I be done now?
I have been practising Muay Thai (Martial Arts) for close to 3 years now. Inevitably, I’ve had to spar with fighters of the opposite sex – the ladies (in case you were wondering). Whilst I’d like to think of myself as a chivalrous person, I have to confess that I unreservedly dread sparring with women.
I am probably exuding the misogynist vibe right about now. I’ll sort out this misconception in a bit, but first allow me to describe the 3 types of ladies I’ve (generally) met in the ring.
1. The Beginner
She comes to you with a smile that points to trepidation rather than elation. “I just started learning; please go easy on me,” she says. You reassure her that it’s just a learning opportunity where she gets to focus on sparring techniques. Being the gentleman you are, you throw punches only to stop the motion right before they reach her. Does she return the favour? No. She proceeds to wildly and randomly throw punches – as though your face is tantamount to the proverbial bullseye. Perhaps it’s natural reflex, or her inability to contain her excitement. Nevertheless, it freaking hurts.
2. The Eager Learner
Unlike the volatile novice, the eager learner is more technique-oriented. Her moves are much more controlled and relatively predictable, and consequently less painful. “Don’t worry about me, just hit me harder – that’s how I will learn,” she says. Apparently, there is no room for chivalry. In fact, you hope that she wasn’t offended by your decision to soften your blows. You tell yourself to go harder, but your heart doesn’t permit it. You conjure images of your sister or your mother (given her age). There is no way in hell you are ever going to consciously hurt her.
3. The Serious Fighter
She approaches the ring with years of experience under her belt and technical skills that may even surpass yours. “I am training for an upcoming fight,” she says, capitalising on your size and assumed strength. She may be the better fighter, but you’re much bigger than her – piece of cake, right? Now, prepare yourself for bruises. She will come at you like the force of nature. You’re nothing but target practice to her. This is the best time to practise your blocks – because you’re not going to hit a girl, are you?
Even so, everyone has a limit. Her strikes will agitate you. There is only so much you can take before you subconsciously return a kick at full force. You immediately regret what you have done. Your moral compass eats at you (even though you know that it’s permissible in this predicament). In shame, you regress to your role as a walking punching bag. Goddamn conscience.
One thing I learnt from these collective encounters is that women are ruthless. Regardless of which category they belonged to, women generally reciprocated my gentle moves with power – they wanted it to hurt. I suspect that this could be a result of the indoctrination of gender roles. Normatively, men are the big macho tough guys and women are the demure damsels. Could it be that women find a certain sadistic pleasure from knowing that they could hurt someone who is generally deemed to be stronger than they are? Or perhaps they just do not want to come across as weak – thus making their punches ‘count’ (in other words, painful). Or have I just been the unlucky chap who happened to have reminded these women of the aggressor that spawned the viral twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen? Of course I’m being hyperbolic here. Nonetheless, it begs the question if some women are learning Muay Thai for self-protection against plausible assaults and I just happened to have been at the right time and (wrong) place.
To be fair, I must acknowledge how the gender roles have influenced my perception as well. My reluctance to fight a woman to the best of my ability –even when the opponent is better skilled– could possibly indicate my refusal to perceive women as on the same level playing field as men. It also goes to show how I perpetuate the notion of women being the weaker sex. Or how I would inherently want them to be the fragile damsels in distress, just so that I can reassure myself of my masculinity. Perhaps this is why I pretended to be unaffected by their strikes even when they were painful. (Epiphany: Is that why they kept striking harder? Because I make them feel impotent?)
Obviously, I’m going to remain indignant of these accusations (even though they happen to be self-imposed). I still cannot fathom how any man can deal with hitting a woman unrestrainedly. I guess I will simply invoke the latent ‘gentleman’ card by actively avoiding women in the ring.