One of my courses this semester is a theatre course. Because it is a practicum focused on acting, rather than a general theory course, it meets in the small experimental theatre at our school, giving us ample space to work.
I get along fairly well with most of my classmates in that class, and all of them know I have become involved in martial arts. In fact, several of my classmates are either currently involved in learning a style of martial arts themselves, or have done so in the past. So, naturally, when I was a few days away from testing for white belt, I confided in them about my nervousness. A couple offered to serve as sparring partners so I could practice a bit, given all the open accessible space we had access to. I agreed, and two of my friends did a little bit with me, fairly successfully. They mostly called out the names of strikes or blocks and critiqued my form as I did them.
Then one of the classmates I have been sort of wary of since the beginning of the semester arrived and noticed me working. He asked what I was doing and I explained that I was getting some practice in before my white belt test that coming Saturday. He scoffed at the fact that I needed to test for my first belt and my uniform, but said he would like to see what I could do. As I am uneasy about sparring or demonstrating techniques with someone who has no background in the martial arts I asked if he was trained in any way. He said he was a red belt in Karate. Sensei usually trusts me to use my best judgement on whether or not someone is safe to spar with. I had no reason not to trust my classmate, so I agreed to demonstrate what I knew. Now I wish I had thought twice.
I brought my hands up into the ready stance and he threw a punch, but I really didn't know how to defend against it because he lunged into it, and it started as what looked like an elbow strike but resolved into a punch. I attempted to use Brush Trap Strike but when I was trying to trap him against the wheel of my chair like Master Eric taught me, he resisted the redirection and forced me to bring his punch into my chest. He then proceeded to tease me,
"Oh, that's your defense? Making me punch you in the tits? Real effective."
I quickly figured out that Brush Trap Strike would not help me in this situation, and so I resorted to just blocking his strikes. Unfortunately for me, he found a reason to criticize me for that too. Karate uses hard blocks, where the hand arm or fist is brought up hard, to force the strike out of the way. Hapkido uses soft blocks, which means instead of using force we simply redirect our opponent's original momentum. My classmate attempted to make me use hard blocks rather than accomodating the difference in fighting style, saying
"Your technique needs work. No wonder you're nothing but a pathetic little white belt...let's see if you can defend against this. "
Okay. Ouch. Wait, what?
Next thing I know he's aiming a kick at my head. While it is possible to defend against that, I have not learned how yet, and asked him to stop but he said something about having to learn sometime. I would like to now add insult to injury. He did not have me out in the middle of the stage area, where we would have ample room to spar. He had me backed up against two rows of chairs, and most of the ones immediately around me were occupied by a classmate. Furthermore, if someone asks to spar in a controlled setting, such as a dojang, or where we were in a large open space, shoes are removed in the absence of sparring shoes. When my classmate aimed that kick at my head, it was with shoes on.
Thankfully my teacher entered the room shortly after he threw a couple kicks, which I responded to by ducking and covering. That meant "training" was over and class needed to begin, so my classmate had to leave me alone.
However, the entire incident really unsettled me , and I found myself questioning my ability to succeed in this endeavor. I ended up filling Sensei in on what had happened and he was absolutely livid. He said that my classmate did not deserve his red belt, if he was so willing to belittle and humiliate me. He might have the best technique in the world but without the discipline and respect that go with it, he is not much of a martial artist. I was still unsure, and it took over an hour for Sensei to calm me.
It has taken me two weeks to even have the courage to post this. I did test, and I did earn my white belt, but I am struggling with the torment he put me through mentally every time I set foot in that theatre.
I only hope I move past it soon.