I almost didn’t go.
He threw punches hard – right at my face. I kept my hands up to protect myself, but it took all my strength to stop the blows. I focused every ounce of my attention on blocking his fists as they came barreling towards me. He hit hard – he was the same height as me, but at least 50 pounds heavier – all muscle. And I was still weak, recovering from the recent birth.
I wasn’t ready. The roast chicken was just finished and straight out of the oven. The kids weren’t even fed yet and Husband was still at work. There was no way I could go, even if I wanted to. My phone buzzed – A message from Husband: Are you going? I’ll meet you there to pick up the kids… Don’t worry, I’ll feed them later… I don’t want you to miss it because of me.
It was my turn now. I finally got my opportunity to hit him. I used all my strength, but there wasn’t much. I wasn’t very coordinated either: punching someone’s face is just not something that comes naturally. Left fist jab, right fist power… those were the instructions, I remembered. All my power was barely enough to make him flinch. He took them though. He let me hit him and I gained confidence in my ability. I didn’t stop for a full minute.
I rushed up the stairs to change, leaving the golden chicken, half carved on the cutting board. I yelled down the stairs for the kids to get ready to leave. I packed up the baby and into the van we piled. I was going to be late, but that’s better than missing it entirely.
I’ve met him before; a polite, older gentleman… it seemed. He used to come with his son, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the teenage kid. We’ve exchanged polite pleasantries in the past, but we’ve never really spoken more than that. Nevertheless, it was obvious that he was strong and that I would never stand a chance.
Husband arrived shortly after I did. He ushered the kids out and left me there for my class, alone. It was glorious to finally have my time to myself. After a day of hashing out work issues and my recent discriminatory evaluation, I was deflated, exhausted, and feeling defeated. I wasn’t really in the mood for conditioning, but I figured the physical activity would be good for me.
After I finished my round of punches, he started at me again. This time he added in the elbow strike to the face. Here was my chance! He was stronger than me, but in his older age, he lacked the coordination to properly execute the move. He was slowing down with each change of motion. The blows were not as hard. If I wanted to, I could have overpowered him in this weakness. But I didn’t. I let him finish.
The conditioning circuit was a challenge, even after being back for almost two months. Fifteen stations, one minute each, with a fifteen second break in between. My heart was racing but I was starting to feel better. I’m glad Husband forced me to go… this is what I needed.
Another minute was over. I had gained confidence after seeing my opponent’s weakness. It was my turn. The elbow strike to the face was challenging, but I adapted quickly. Now it was him who almost couldn’t keep up with me. Left jab, right power, left elbow to the face. Harder and Harder each time. More speed. More power. I didn’t even see my opponent anymore. Instead, I imagined hitting the face of the person responsible for all the stress and anguish I’ve been through. It felt good… No, it felt exhilarating! One minute was not long enough.
When the circuit was over, it was time for some partner work. My usual partner is another woman similar in age to me. We met up to start the drill. However, we were separated because she was much shorter than me. For this drill we needed to be similar heights. I was matched up with the older gentleman. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to match his strength well. The instructor then handed out the hand pads and explained the drill.
One last drill: him first, then me. Left fist jab, right fist power, left elbow to the face, right elbow straight up under the chin. Yes! One more power blow to really drive it home. I held the pads for my opponent while he struggled with the coordination of the drill. I spoke the moves aloud to help him with his concentration. I wasn’t vulnerable anymore. I had the power. I gave him the pads after his minute was over. Now it was my turn. With each successive drill I gained power and confidence. That jerk, with that smug, “I have power over you” look on his face stood no chance. With each impact my body made with the pads I imagined him struggling and reeling in pain. YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME. I AM STRONGER THAN YOU. My minute was over. My fists were sore, my elbows raw. But in my head I saw his face, dejected, battered, and bruised. I had won the fight.
The punching drills were challenging, leaving my arms tired and sore by the end. Regardless, I felt great. I dropped the pads to the floor and faced my older, male partner. We shook hands and bowed towards each other. I thanked him, and him me. “You’ve got quite the power and coordination,” he said to me. “Great Job.” I felt a small amount of guilt imagining beating someone else to the ground, but I quickly shook it off. He deserves it, even if it’s only in my imagination. I was thankful that I scrambled to come to class.
And in my victory, I went home to eat my cold roast chicken. It was delicious.