Once a year our whole Club gathers for a day of competition. There are patterns competitions, physical challenge competitions (you wouldn’t believe who wins the iron-bridge!), and the much-anticipated sparring competitions. The highs, the lows, the tears, the occasional blood and plenty of bruises. When the sparring finals come up we gather around the mats as exhausted competitors silently scream “Are you not entertained?”. But sparring is for everyone, not just for gladiators. Oriana Pagano, who trains with Instructor Dave Courtney Jones, puts forth a passionate argument calling for more women (and indeed, men) who train with us to take up the gauntlet and try sparring.
“April 2017, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu Club competition. I’m standing near the mat, watching two fellow students spar. I’m still wearing my sparring gear, but I’m relaxed: the women’s competition is over. A young woman, also a Club student, comes and stands next to me to watch the fight. I’ve never seen her before.
“You were very brave,” she tells me after a while.
I turn to her, puzzled.
“To do the sparring” she adds, reading my confusion.
Wait a minute. That. Why?
Before I know it, we are deep in conversation – the men’s fight blurring into the background noise. The more we talk, the more I get the feeling that she would love to try sparring – yet something is holding her back. So I push on, arguing my case, rattling off all the benefits of sparring, stressing how important it is, especially for women.
For some reason, I want to convince her.
We talk some more until the full-contact sparring brings us back to the competition. We are going to watch it from different corners, so we say goodbye and part ways. Read More