All my life I have worked hard to not see myself at an automatic disadvantage because of my size. However, it is still a challenge when the first thing that people notice is that I am short and they frequently feel it is necessary to inform me of this fact as if it has never crossed my mind.
In class, the instructor usually encourages people of or close to the same height to be partners. The circumstances are always different because there are people of all different ages and heights and some people are not at all the classes. There is usually three other girls who are around my height however they usually have a friend who is the same height which leaves me with someone who is noticeably taller. This leads to problems, like when it is my turn to hold the punching cushion for my partner to practice, I often feel as though I have to try and push myself to hold the cushion higher because I would like them to feel as they are getting sufficient practice.
Although when I signed up for classes I anticipated getting injured at some point, I have managed to keep that concern out of mind in order to be able to focus on improving skills. Up until this class, I have survived unscathed.
After I practiced one drill, it was my turn to hold the punching cushion for my partner. It was difficult for me because you are supposed to hold the cushion by the side of your face. I often cannot get the cushion completely over by the side of my face and because of this it ends up covering some of my face. My partner who has had much more experience with kickboxing than me, punched the cushion a few times. Next thing I know, she punches towards the cushion and I end up getting hit by my left eye because of both the force and my inability to keep my hand secured on the cushion. My partner felt bad and asked if I needed a minute and went to go punch a punching bag while I took a minute to make sure I was feeling okay. Luckily, my partner was going easy on me with her punches so I was not hurting too badly and I took the time to try and get over the shock and laugh it off once I knew I was okay. The director walked into the room a minute later and casually said something about me taking a break but before I could respond, my partner turned around and said I got hit a little in the eye. I explained that I was fine and tried to put a positive spin on the situation by saying that it was a good experience to get hit in a safe environment and the director agreed and laughed. I often reflect on how much of the real experience I might be missing because people are going easy on me since I still have so much to learn. Therefore, although it might sound weird to say, I think this was an experience I needed. Yes, a good portion of being an effective fighter is knowing how to throw a punch and avoid getting hit I figure it is also important to know how to take a hit because if you can’t bounce back quickly and defend yourself, you’ve lost.
Furthermore, a lot of the time I am asked by partners if they are punching too hard for me because they could go easier on me if I’m having a hard time. I do have trouble most times because of how hard they punch and always think it is abundantly clear that I’m struggling. However, I never tell them to go easier on me. My perspective is that in a real fight if you opponent will not go easy on you and if they know you are struggling they know they are close to winning.
I have been paired with an instructor several times and have realized in one way that having an instructor as a partner serves as a disadvantage. This is because the time we are given for each drill is split in half so each partner gets to practice. However, when I am paired with an instructor they let me practice the drill the entire time. From my perspective, this is a disadvantage because I do not get to experience the feeling of getting punched or kicked, therefore I found this a very good experience. Also, a big reason why I never say anything is because I would like to be able to handle how hard they are punching and the only way that I will be able to do so is by being continually exposed to it. I don’t want anyone to go significantly easier on me in class for too long because of my experience level or because of my size because odds are if I am to get into a fight I will be in a fight with someone taller than me.
It is extremely important to recognize your limits in a physically straining situation. Although I try to push myself as much as possible, there are times I tell my partner I need a minute to recuperate because my arms hurt too much. It is in your best personal interest and well-being to figure out your limits because only you know how you feel and can properly assess whether it is best for you to rest or try even harder.