At Krav Maga there are some big lads. I don't mean just big lads. I mean dudes weighing 17 to 20 stone. BIG guys who are in the higher grades and have done various martial arts for many years. We have classes twice a week and they mainly cover techniques and drills of those techniques at the end of the class.
On a Thursday night we do a Combat class after the main session. An hour of full on sparring and kicking, mixed with further technique work.
I have a phobia of being punched aggressively. Always have. I did this class for the first time about 8 months ago and was extremely uncomfortable during and after the session. We wear full head helmets, shin guards, forearm guards, groin guards, 16oz boxing gloves and gum shields. We are protected but when the instructor splits us into pairs and says "OK go!" you protect your head and try and punch hell out of the other guy's head. Then those words, like nails down a blackboard are uttered; "SWITCH PARTNERS!!!" Here we move to the nearest other person, BUT you don't know who you're going to get. They could be big, small, male, female, experienced or novice. Then off you go again.
It took me about 6 months to get used to this class and, like a phobia of spiders, I still get nervous sometimes when I decide to stay the extra hour once most people are packing up their kit bags in the trunks of their cars after session 1.
Tonight a 16 year old girl from the main group decided to stay for the for the first time at the Combat session. She started the classes when she was still 15 and is always happy and smiling, even when knackered after a heavy workout. I suggested she stay on and the instructor said ok. As we got into the physical contact I wondered how she'd cope and one inventive scenario had us stand in a circle with our arms outstretched wearing boxing gloves. Guy in the middle had to throw punches to the hands of one person (who couldn't retaliate) BUT anyone behind or to the side of that person could throw a punch to make them turn around. Doubly so if the guy had dropped his guard and had left his face or head exposed.
I was first up and it was exhausting. Shouting, some encouragement and cries of "COME ON! HARDER!" Disorientating, scary and tiring. It only lasted a minute but felt a lot longer. My arms felt like lead and having to hold them out for the others to hit after, was doubly aching. We worked our way through one at a time and then it was the 16 year old girl's turn. None of us lay into her the way we had each other but she took it all in her stride and to my pleasant surprise threw a last burst of energy into the final few seconds, giving it her all.
The final 5 minutes and we were going to have full on sparring so we helmeted up. The instructor said to her "you can sit this one out."
She looked at him and said curiously "why can't I join in?"
After a pause he said "you don't have the equipment yet. You can watch."
We then had a glorious time knocking the shit out of each other and at the end as I pulled my sweaty gloves off and yanked the helmet from my head with a sodden tug I waited for my breathing to return to normal and then asked her "now you've seen that, would you have still wanted to do it?"
She beamed and went "yes, if I'd had the same equipment as you all."
If a 16 year old, 5 feet 4 inch girl can fight with a room of guys aged between 22 and 42, of varying sizes and ability and simply regard it all as F.U.N.....then I have no excuse for feeling nervous.
The moral is....
Courage is from the soul, not the body.