Obviously this picture does not depict me and my wife – I just thought it would fit the blog post! 🙂
My wife told me about her work as a hapkido and self defence instructor and how she started practicing martial arts already as a small child already on our first date. But it wasn’t until almost 4 months later that she showed her fighting skills (or at least some of them) to me first hand.
I had been curious about it ever since we met. The fact that she was a black belt martial arts professional intrigued me – it showed she was a strong and independent woman and made her seem even more attractive to me. In some way it kind of challenged me as a man too, as I assumed her skills meant that she – in spite of her very feminine looks and demeanour and apparent harmlessness – was perfectly capable of defending herself and no doubt was able to take me down in a hypothetical fight. It provoked my ego a little bit – but I basically just viewed it as something very positive about her.
It was a really warm July summer day when we went over to the martial arts gym where she practices and gives her hapkido lessons. I had asked her if she could show me some of her skills and give me a demonstration of hapkido self defence. She happily accepted. I remember my feelings as we stepped up together on a quite thick and soft blue mat. I had never done or been in contact with any martial arts training in my life up until then, so I had basically no idea what to expect. On our way to the gym I felt excited and a little bit nervous.
But when I stood in front of her on that mat and she told me to grab her and try to overpower her by any means I choose, I have to admit I suddenly did not see the black belted hapkido expert and professional martial artist that she is, but rather the beautiful, petite young woman that I had fallen madly in love with over the preceding months. I felt I was towering over her as she stood in front of me, waiting for me to make my move. She looked so beautiful and it made me feel almost like I was doing something “wrong”. It felt like a mismatch. And more or less automatically and subconsiously the instincts of not hurting or “beating up on” a girl/woman – deeply ingrained in most men – took over. I felt I better go easy on her. This is ridiculous, I know, but to be honest that’s how I felt.
So I grabbed one of her arms in a steady grip with my right hand. Firmly but not too hard, so I wouldn’t risk hurting her. With a quick “twisting” move she broke free of my hold and the next second I felt how she swept my legs from under me and I landed on the mat flat on my back with a thud. I was already impressed by her skills!
I got up and tried the same thing again, only a bit harder, and also determined not to let her surprise me with that “leg sweep” again. But again she used a hapkido move to quickly break free from my hold and this time she applied (what I later would learn was) a joint lock on the same right hand I had used to grab her. I felt a sharp pain whipping through my hole right arm and I was forced down on my knees. And there I found that every effort to get up or get free caused me to feel that same sharp pain immediately shooting through my arm. She had me immobilised! Now I felt a bit embarrassed and frustrated by the situation – and the apparent ease with which she had taken me down twice in a row!
I felt I needed to take this more seriously, so on my third try I was using both my hands to try grabbing her by her arms – but she anticipated it, got hold of me somehow and the next thing I knew the world around me was spinning around – and I actually let out a cry, I guess from the shock – before I landed on my back again. She had thrown me over her shoulder! It had the benefit of knocking most of the unwarranted worries about “hurting a woman” out of me. However I felt the frustration growing inside.
I remember how I during the next 15-20 minutes or so tried harder and harder and again and again – with different approaches – but always with the same result: me quickly ending up flat on the floor and/or immobilised in a painful hapkido lock. Two times I managed to get her off balance and take her down on the floor with me – only to end up immobilised in a hapkido hold with her legs locking and painfully bending my arm, leaving me with no choice but to submit to her. In the end I just felt I had had enough and I told her I gave up. No matter how I tried, there was no way I could defeat her. She had an answer to everything I threw at her and it seemed she was anticipating my every move. I was completely overwhelmed and outmanouvered by her skills and speed. The “humiliation” was topped off when she softly and compassionately inquired if I felt ok and informed me that she had been careful not hurt me, as I had no training in how to fall/land properly after a takedown (I now know this is something you practice as a beginner in hapkido classes).
After this very one sided duel, I was humbled, slightly bruised, in a bit of a shock and mighty embarrassed – but also full of admiration, love and fascination for my then girlfriend (and future wife). It might sound a bit pretentious, but in a way these 20 minutes changed the way I look, not only at her, but women in general!