That wasn't the only injury. Here's one of those photos that would have been awesome if I had shot it thirty seconds earlier. In the foreground, two competitors got out of control and started throwing haymakers at each each other. In the background, a different guy who had been punched in the face was knocked out and complained about neck pain when he woke up, so they strapped him to a board and carted him off on a stretcher.
You can see the stretcher in the background.
In the final match I sparred against a guy who was roughly my height, size, and age. In my mind, that means that I should defeated him easily. It's always the younger and taller guys who give me trouble.
When the match started, I bounced around a little bit and then moved in for a quick sliding side kick. I touched my foot against his rib cage for what would have been a quick point in our mild form of sparring. I paused to wait for the judges to shout "Call!" He countered with a back fist to the side of my head. Call. Point.
Hmm, maybe I didn't kick hard enough. I moved around a bit to change angles and then did a sliding front kick that was a little harder. Again I paused and again he countered and won a point. In retrospect, I should have been doing three things differently.
- I should have been making my slide kicks look more like kicks than foot placements.
- After my attacks, I should have been defending myself against counter attacks. I had learned a great way to defend my head—high block, reverse punch—but it never registered until after the match.
- I should have varied my attacks. For example, I could have switched my stance and tried a spin reverse kick. I usually avoid that move because it's hard to control the kick, but that didn't matter in this open tournament.
I also had tunnel vision. I stubbornly kept trying the same two or three moves. I got a few points, but he sat back and kept his lead with counters. It seemed like he had five different coaches on his sideline shouting advice and helping the refs to call points.
Even if I had varied my techniques, he would have adjusted quickly. He was crafty. At one point, I charged him for a back fist and he ducked and made himself vulnerable. While I tried to strike him with a hammer fist, he reached up and flicked me in the back of the head for a point. I shouted and clapped my hands together in frustration, which isn't like me. He had me rattled.
He ended up winning 6-5 or 7-5 or something like that. I talked to him afterwards and it turns out that he competes regularly in these tournaments and wins.
I returned home with a pair of second place trophies, an odd feeling of failure, and a sense of what I need to do to get better, which is more valuable than the trophies, and perhaps as valuable than donuts.