“UGH” I grunted, for the umpteenth time, as the wind was mercilessly knocked out of me. Sparring is painful, especially if you don’t happen to be particularly good at it. Perhaps by this time, three years into my uninspiringly ordinary Tae Kwon Do career, I should have been a somewhat more dangerous man, but my short stature and characteristically slow movements left me miserably vulnerable to just about everything my opponent decided to do.
Now, it is worth noting at this point that my opponent, Victoria Chong, was a two-time provincial sparring champion. She was also two years older than me, and, in my defence, two years makes a big difference at the age of seven. Of course, it was at this present moment – while I was unable to inhale even the slightest amount of that sweat-saturated air and was (courageously) fighting back tears (of the manly variety) – that my instructor decided to ask me if I was “alright.” Unbeknownst to him, I was not alright. Not because I couldn’t breathe, and not because of what felt like a Stage 4 Visceral Hematoma, but because I had been beaten – by a girl.