An Observation – Part 4 – The Fighter

Sparring 2

Hot. Sweat and heat and hurt as fists fly, looking for an opening. Water slick under the plastic coated shin guards, fingers curled in her gloves. Her helmet is tight around her ears and forehead, squashing her cheeks around her mouthguard, which feels dry and heavy in her mouth.


The fight stops, both women pulled back to their starting position as they wait, fists raised, staring at each other until the centre referee drops their hand again. And it’s wash, rinse, repeat.

The other fighter stays in close. She’s older and more experienced, recognising that her opponent will want to use her legs and superior reach to gain points. So she cuts her off, jamming up her kicks before they can land, reaching over and under and around so all the other fighter can do is block, arms working frantically, elbows in tight, impact hard against her ribs. She will be bruised, later, but for now she barely feels a thing.


The fighter is pulled back to her chair, her mouthguard removed, helmet loosened. Her coaches crouch either side of her, both of them talking as one squirts water from a plastic bottle into her mouth. She nods at what they’re saying, but doesn’t really hear them. Her focus is all on the woman in the chair opposite, dark eyes staring back at her.

Time is called. Her helmet goes on, mouthguard in and she is back in the ring. And then it happens. The sensation she’s only experienced a handful of times before, a gift from the gods who govern such things. Everything slows and becomes crystal clear. As the other fighter comes towards her again she steps to the side, easily evading her punch and landing one of her own. It’s so easy it’s laughable. ‘Why can’t she see it coming?’ she thinks, only vaguely aware of her teammates cheering, the roar of the crowd.

Pulled back to starting position she feels calm, as though she is at the centre of a storm, pinpoint, absolute. The other fighter comes towards her, oh so slowly it seems, and she does it again. It is almost as though she has stepped outside herself, controlling things from a distance. A heightened place of awareness where is no fear, there is no pain. There is only step, evade, punch.

And she does it a third time. Her opponent is rattled. She has to change her stance, the way she approaches. And as she does so, the strange feeling is gone and the fight resumes as it was before, all sweat and noise and thudding impacts. Experience wins out, as it so often does, but the girl is elated as she goes back to her chair, teammates coming to hug her and offer congratulations despite her loss, for they have seen what happened. She is still dazed, feeling surrounded by a silver mist, the remains of the battle frenzy like mist over a green field, slowly dissipating.

It was the longest six minutes of her life.

6 thoughts on “An Observation – Part 4 – The Fighter

  1. Wow, I was right there in the scene. Thanks for the wonderful and vivid post. 🙂 Have you had this experience yourself? Oddly enough, I think I experienced this stepping out of yourself, in slow motion which you describe while defending myself in orals for my comp exams. It was like watching my committee from far away, and words came to me for my arguments that I couldn’t even remember saying afterward. And also afterward it took me a good half an hour at least to return and stop feeling dizzy and unstable, everything filtered through a haze, I was glad a friend drove me home. But it’s such a different context, I’ll never be sure.

    • Thanks EIlis 🙂 Um, yes, it’s my experience. I’m the fighter in red in the photo above. It was taken during a different fight but at the same event – as I recall, she knocked me out and broke my nose! Very vivid indeed 🙂

      • Okay, ouch, understandably vivid! 🙂 I thought it might have been your own experience but wasn’t sure. How many fights do you do in one day at a tournament? Sounds exhilerating and absolutely exhausting simultaneously. It is hard to imagine what it is like as it’s so out of my capacity for experience. Go you!

        Oh and also, I wish I had such an honorable story behind breaking my nose, it happened in a swimming pool at age twelve when I lept at a solid object I thought was my little brother but it turned out to be the concrete wall. On the other hand, I can get away with a terrible pun at my own expense which captures the moment too well, “I just didn’t see it coming.” 🙂

      • Oh ouch right back to you! That sounds so painful and what a shock to the system as well. As for tournaments, it depends on the way they’re set up – this one was a big international event so I had a few fights spread out over a few days. Whereas others I’ve had three fights in a row and then it’s all done. It is exhausting and the adrenalin is quite something – I would always be very nervous beforehand.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. In my mind, it’s great writing—like Éllis, I’m right there with the fighter. I love the moment it comes to her crystal clear, and she’s in control.

    I wouldn’t have picked that it’s you in the photo—I would never have guessed that you were a boxer! I’m in awe! I hope this comes out the right way, but I had this image of you as like an English rose, now suddenly you seem so much more real! I’m so pleased to learn about this side you! It’s amazing the many sides of ourselves that we have.

    • Ha ha, thanks Louise – I appreciate the comment about being an English rose 🙂 I’ve studied martial arts on and off since I was eighteen – I went back to the dojo last year after a 12 year absence and am really enjoying it, though I think my competition days are behind me now. It’s true, isn’t it, about the hidden sides we all have – I’ve learnt never to judge a book by its cover 🙂 xx

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