So, um, there's a reason I started Taekwondo when I joined uni. Because I was super overweight and unfit. Not a very attractive image, I know. I can, however, for the first time in my life say I am losing weight, and am fitter than ever (still not fit, but I've suddenly gained a love for walking and exploring now that it doesn't hurt, haha). Plus my confidence has really increased, and I'm also more flexible than ever, yay!
But sparring I still sucked at. When the mention of the first of the academic year's competitions was going on at Imperial, I took almost no time to decline it. I was way too scared haha. But whilst waiting alone for the class to start a few days after, a girl who had joined after me walked up and said hi. We started talking. She and I were white belts, and she said that if I fought then she would too. We'd be white belt buddies, haha. I agreed!
So flash forward two weeks to the day of the competition. Surprisingly, I actually wasn't nervous, I think I was just numb. It was a freezing November day. I met the guys and girls competing and we made our way there. A red belt named Brad who was a little strange was giving me "advice".
"If you get hit in the head and feel faint, just let yourself go. Trust me. Just faint. Trying to recover is horrible, and then you have to keep fighting." he said. The others told him to stop scaring me, haha.
I sat with Abigail, the girl I mentioned earlier. We made an agreement that our goal was to get just one point. In Taekwondo, punches almost never scored, a kick to the body was worth 1, a really good kick to the body was worth 2, and a kick to the head was worth 3. Punches to the head are entirely forbidden. We shook hands.
Abi's fight was one of the first ones. Of course, you were fighting somebody of your own weight category and sex. I was in the heavyweight (as anyone 85kg+ is).
She was amazing. She fought a girl a belt higher than her, and though she lost the fight, she scored a brilliant kick to the head and ended with ten points! I was so happy for her. Now I had to fulfil my end of the deal! My fight was the penultimate round 1 fight in our club of 9 fighters. We were a small school. I believe UCL was essentially the big club you see in the films - huge numbers of rough looking dudes and dudettes all chanting one aggressive chant ("UC-WHAT? UCL" over and over again. It got old fast, haha).
The fights went on. We had an amazing club. Winning fights left, right, and centre. Then it was finally time for mine. I got warmed up, and I felt confident and excited. I met the guy I was to fight about thirty seconds before. He was about a foot taller than me, two belt grades higher, and unlike most Heavyweight guys, he was here because he was muscular. But strength wasn't his best asset, as I would later discover (the hard way).
I entered the ring, and that is when the referee told me something that completely drained the confidence I had.
"You can't fight with your glasses, you know."
I looked to my coach. He seemed slightly surprised for some reason when he looked at me. He was well aware of that rule of course. A kick to the face could shatter the glass and hurt both me and my combatant. It hadn't crossed my mind at all.
Now, I didn't have to fight. I was under zero obligation. But I'd totally forgotten. My friends, who were cheering for me, saw me take off my glasses and later said their collective jaw dropped haha.
See, without glasses, I couldn't tell you the colour of your eyes were you standing in front of me, so this guy was a white shapeless blob. Now I was nervous!
The fight began, and I threw out some kicks. The fight was being live streamed. Watching back, I can't believe I even came close to landing anything, given how little I could see. My coach was shouting. Then the guy got me. I saw later that his leg had shot straight up. He was strong, sure, but he was, hands-down, the most flexible guy you have ever seen.
Let me tell you friend, being kicked in the head by a heavy-weight male, even in protective gear, really rather hurts...
I nearly fell over, but it was okay, I kept my hands up, and threw out more kicks.
Bam. Another kick to the head. This one was harder. I hesitated for a moment. The ref started counting down in Korean. I shook myself and guarded again. At this point, I really should have called it off, but like an idiot, I kept fighting.
After a few more kicks that failed to land on our ends, he shot out another super high kick (none of these, bear in mind, could I see. It was a blur of white and then wham). This one got me right in the temple, harder than the other two. This time my had swam, my knees buckled, and I felt faint. It hurt so much I clutched my head with my gloved hands. Brads words to let myself fall didn't ring in my head. I fell onto one knee but heard the ref count down again. I felt humiliated. Mustering all my remaining energy, I stood.
But it was too late, my coach had seen what was going in and threw in the towel (literally, we have white towel we throw in to call it off). I was taken to a medic, given a painkiller and was seen to, since my head was bleeding a little.
We had three coaches. All of them reassured me in some way or another, one mentioning that this guy was more flexible than most women he had seen, another saying that I had now officially competed, something only 5% of taekwondo students do.
When I got back to my friends, they were all really supportive. I was called insane and crazy. A guy called Tee, who had annihilated his opponents every time said it was "the bravest thing I'd ever seen, taking off your glasses and just kept getting back up. I'd have never had done it." my coach laughed and agreed.
"I'd never have done it either," he said. "To be honest, Taha, this is kind of my fault. I'll be totally honest, I never really realised that you wore glasses." I looked at him stunned. "Thanks for that." I said, smiling. "I've no idea how you manage to miss that." the others were looking at him incredulously as well, haha.
Finally, Abigail came up to me and gave me a hug. I apologised for not getting even a point. "The deal doesn't really count if you can't bloody see!" she said. "I was really worried, because we saw that last kick and then we saw you wobble, and got really scared." They were all super great people. But I still felt really embarrassed. The guy I fought later came up to me, after my head had stopped hurting, and apologised, haha. He was also a nice guy.
Then I was given my phone, since the uniforms don't have pockets. 5 missed calls. Oh shoot. The fight was streamed. My parents were watching that. They saw me take off my glasses, get kicked so hard I wobbled, the towel get thrown in, then my mate streaming the fight cut it off.
I got a stern and concerned talking to from them, haha.
And the most embarrassing part? Because there are so few heavyweight guys, for that abysmal performance I won bronze!
So that's my Taekwondo Disaster, haha. It was fun though, and I learned a valuable lesson: get contacts! Which the other day I learned is actually not possible due to my astigmatism :( hopefully I can wear prescription goggles or something.