by Pari Noskin Taichert

P8050370Last Friday night, I paid men twice my size to punch me. Old and young, wily and aggressive, they landed kicks that doubled me over and knocked me on my butt. They slammed hammer fists on my head and used my belly for target practice.

What idiocy is this?

Just about every weekend starts with me standing in line with six to twelve other lunatics ready to attack and defend. Though I’ve been sparring in Tae Kwon Do for about two years, I still feel like a complete dope.  Sure, I’ve improved . . . I get my punches in and have a wicked ridge-hand to the head and neck, but progress feels slow when a 6’2" man, who’s built like a Hummer, is pushing me into a corner.

(It feels like the first rotten review for a new book . . . )

Saturday mornings I look like an abused woman. Bruises line my shins, chest, stomach and shoulders. Four months ago, a punch to the nose caused bleeding and I had a showy cut across the ridge for weeks. Two months ago, a woman’s long thumbnail slashed my cornea; the pain worsened overnight and I had to go to the hospital the next morning.

Why would anyone subject herself to this week after week?

Well, I love it.

(Um, just like writing)

Up until I started TKD nearly three years ago, I’d never thought of myself as a physically strong person.P8050204_2  I’d had an image of being petite and, basically, on the diminutive side. Though quick enough to anger, I’d never kicked someone and had only hit two people in my life.

Now I’ve lost count.

Nothing feels quite as good as landing a hard punch and knocking the wind out of an opponent. There’s a weird satisfaction in knowing I could break a nose or crack a jaw if I had to.

I could say that this is all research for my writing, but it’d be a lie — at least for now. None of my main characters knows how to fight. Hell, I don’t know that much yet either.

But I do know that sparring has given me a kind of confidence that serves me well in other parts of my life. Because I have more sense about how to throw and take a punch, I’m more likely to anticipate strikes that other people might not notice coming their way. Because I get hurt on occasion, I’m more apt to be aware of my surroundings and avoid getting into a fracas in the first place.

Sparring has made me tougher, too. It’s a good quality to cultivate when you’re a writer because as much pleasure as we get wielding our craft . . .  we face attacks, too (from others or our own sorry egos).

P8050356So, next Friday night, you’ll find me with a padded red helmet on my head, mouth guard on my teeth, punching gloves and kicking boots. I’ll take too many blows, try to inflict as many on my partners, and love every minute of the whole experience.

(A word about the photos: they’re from an old testing. We don’t spar with padding during these events. The thing that amuses me is that every sparring picture I have shows me grinning.)

15 thoughts on “Ouch!

  1. pari

    You know, J.T., that should be the saying for most of us writers.

    It’s so obvious and true.

    I wonder what it must be like for writers who hit it big their first time out . . .

    I know two who have had this experience. One is humble. The other one certainly has bought into her own hype.

    But where do you go next when you’re already at the top of the mountain?

  2. Mike MacLean


    You beat me to the PUNCH with the sparring/writing analogy (sorry, for the bad pun there).

    It’s almost impossible for someone who has never fought to understand its appeal. Why would anyone want to square off against someone, to cast out fear and charge into a blur of hands and feet? Why would anyone want to sit in front of a keyboard for hours on end, pounding out words with the mere hope of getting them read by an audience?

    When I first started sparring as a kid I’d come home with massive bruises all over my body—some so big they were comical. My parents were afraid they’d be accused of abuse and I’d be taken away by child services. But the skin toughens. I’m guessing the writer’s skin toughens too. They can take rejection like punches, dig deep, and come back swinging.

  3. JT Ellison

    But where do you go next when you’re already at the top of the mountain?

    JMHO, either you’re thankful for your success and grateful for the opportunity, or you look for a bigger mountain. There’s always another range, isn’t there? “Success” is so relative.

  4. pari

    Louise,My TKD master wants me to do this, too. I think it might be fun to write a short story with a heroine like that. She’d be a much better fighter than I am . . .

    Mike,Beautiful comment. Thank you. What martial art do you do; I know I’ve asked before but my brain’s a bit befuddled by the heat around here. I bet AZ is even hotter.

    J.T.,Yeah, you’re right. Mountains and more mountains; I like that image.

  5. Fran

    Pari (et al), if you get a chance, you should read Nicola Griffith’s Aud Torvingen series. I’m a stickler, of course, that people should read series in order – and you should with this one, you really should! – but I think you’d really identify with her most recent one, “Always”. Nicola used to teach self-defense to women, before MS stopped her, so she’s included a lot of her teaching in the book in an entertaining and very dark way. Well worth it.

    Good for you for going out and kicking butt! Both physically and literarily.

  6. pari

    Fran,Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll find her books.

    One of the things that I’ve noticed is that I’ve begun to finally think strategically about sparring and self-defense. For example, I can’t kick very high — say at head level — on most people, so, I’d go for a really powerful side kick (with the heel) to the knee to break it. That’d buy me time to get the heck away. Few people would anticipate anything like that either.

  7. Mike MacLean

    It’s called Ja-Shin-Do, which roughly translates as, “the way of self-belief.” It’s a mixed style developed by my instructor and several others. It has a Korean base (TKD, Tang Soo Do) but there are elements of Japanese karate, judo, boxing, and wrestling thrown in for good measure. Check out http://www.jashindo.com to learn more.

  8. pari

    Hey,Mike,Thanks for the info. I went to the site and it looks interesting. I suspect you’re a bit more proficient than I am — after all, you write about being a kid when you started. I started as an Ancient One.

  9. spyscribbler

    TKD is just about the most fun thing I’ve ever done. I love your pictures, so cool!

    I’m horrible at sparring! I’m more afraid of hitting someone than of getting hit. Isn’t that silly? I just LOVE forms, though!


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