Monday, November 12, 2007

I Love the Smell of Icy Hot in the Morning

© 2007 Leighann Lord

As I sit here with a ThermaCare Heat Wrap on my back, an Icy Hot Medicated Sleeve on my knee and liberal amounts of BenGay coating my triceps, biceps, and quads, I'm wondering how the hell I got here.

Back in 2006 I began doing mixed martial arts to get in shape. One class per week turned into two; two turned into four. Now I average six hours of training per week. I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm learning skills I hope I never need and I'm having fun.

Well apparently I messed around and got good enough to get invited to participate in an upcoming tournament. Holy crap, Bat Man! I was really just in this for fun and a killer set of abs. It never crossed my mind that I – The Delicate Flower – would ever compete in a tournament, but I was so stunned and flattered by the invitation that I said, yes. This is very reminiscent of how I accepted my husband’s proposal of marriage, but that's a story for another time.

So now in addition to my regular classes, I also go to tournament training: three hours on Sunday. Praise the Lord and let's get ready to rumble. If you’re keeping score at home, that nine hours of training. No wonder I don’t have time to go to the movies, see my friends or wander through mall clothing stores trying on cute outfits.

The extra training has been intense. This is where I’m actually applying the skills and techniques I’ve learned in order to beat, I mean best my opponent. I've never considered myself a violent person — sale days not with standing. In my experience, a well-placed elbow will let a fellow shopper know that you mean business. Only one of you is leaving with that last pair of size eights and it's not her.

Kicking ass sounds like fun but I've learned that one can not kick ass without presenting one's own posterior for a reciprocal thrashing. There's always someone with more skill, speed, stamina and strength. Even if you’re winning it’s exhausting and giving can hurt just as much as receiving.

Recently while going for a take down I felt my knee do something a knee was never meant to do. It slipped out of place ever so slightly to the left and then, as if knowing it shouldn’t be there, quickly slid back to the right. For the record a knee is supposed to bend, not slide. Sliding bad. Bending good.

I remember in "A League of There Own" Tom Hanks shouting, "There’s no crying in baseball." Well, let me tell you, there is crying in martial arts. As a matter of fact, if you get whacked in the nose with just the right amount of force, it’s biologically impossible not to cry.

I also never realized how long a two minute round is. It doesn’t sound like much until you begin slugging it out, toe to toe. How anyone can do it for 12 rounds is beyond me. I have a new found respect for professional boxers. I even understand why someone would take a dive. For me, "Rocky IV" is now a horror movie. There's not enough BenGay in the world to make me fight the female equivalent of Dolph Lundgren.

Come to think of it, I don’t know who I’ll be fighting. Matches are based on belt ranking (red) and weight (a lady’s got to have some secrets). On one hand, I’m glad that I’ve trimmed down. Hopefully this means I won’t be up against any bruisers in the Amazon Division. But one the other hand, a little extra weight could be a nice cushion. Maybe getting punched in the fat hurts less.

For now, adrenaline gets me through the training, but the next day I’m a wreck. I walk like Fred Sanford and I smell like a medicine cabinet. In order of increasing pungency I’ve used Ben Gay, IcyHot and Tiger Balm. I guess the theory is the worse it smells the better it works. Perhaps the odor is meant to distract you from the pain. I personally prefer Sports Creme because it's odorless, but then I worry: If I can’t smell it, is it really working? What I wouldn’t pay for a muscle creme that smelled like cupcakes. Cupcakes are very distracting.

Muhammad Ali once said, "I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'" While I’ve always loved that quote, I am ever so grateful that hitting to the head is not allowed in the tournament.

When it’s over, I’m going to treat myself to a trip to The Mall. The other shoppers will probably smell me coming and get out of the way before anybody gets hurts.

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