I’m a Sega Genesis girl. We had Nintendo and Atari when I was a kid, but all my favorite games were for Genesis. The game I played the most was Altered Beast, a completely ridiculous side-scrolling game in which one or two players are risen from the dead in order to save some wizard-looking guy’s daughter. As you go along you have to kick and punch zombies, pterodactyls, wolves, and various other creatures in order to a) have some running objective and b) in order to “power up” from a scrawny marathoner, to muscle man and eventually into some kind of – wait for it: altered beast.
I loved this game. Not only were the controls and objectives simple enough that my pint-sized hands and attention span could actually play the game, but it was also tremendously easy to beat the “end guy” of every level once you knew where the sweet spot was. Basically, you could find a spot to stand and fire your weapons without being hit by the villain at all. The player of the clip below doesn’t do that, but I did:
Part of what I’ve been working on in my training is finding this sweet spot. I’m a short fighter and for a long time was fighting taller opponents. Cutting off their reach is a matter of stepping into it, finding my range and staying there. In Thailand I’m not shorter than my opponents, even when I’m lighter, so it’s not a matter of cutting off arm length, but Thais depend on their kicks in the way westerners depend on our punches. That is: a great deal. Kicks have much longer reach than punches (excluding footwork that can even it out), so again it’s a matter of closing distance and finding that sweet spot where I can keep hitting without being knocked out of range by a counter.
This isn’t a simple mathematical solution. My own range is in flux at the moment. My punches are getting choked out when I come in too fast with my head forward and all my strikes are hitting air when I don’t step in enough. When I train with my coaches I am in danger of being thwarted at pretty much any distance. That’s what 300+ fights does to you, it makes the entire ring within your reach. When I try to stay on the outside I can’t land anything and I’m still taking kicks. When I try to come in I’m eating punches and knees and getting tossed on the floor before I can lock a clinch. So, identifying a comfortable range is really more a matter of becoming comfortable with being hit and then picking my optimal range despite it.
There’s a really beautiful scene in the movie “Red Belt,” in which a woman who has been traumatized by a street assault is trying to find the courage to take a Jiu Jitsu course for self-defense, but she can’t even handle the trainer being near her. He very gently walks toward her and away from her, asking her to rate her sensitivity to his proximity. When he’s standing near enough to her that his arm could reach out and touch her she expresses severe panic. His advice: “Ok. Don’t stand there.”
There are distances within a fight situation in which I feel paralyzed. It’s not that I can’t move to another place, but more that I explore the movements that are needed in order for that place to be safe. If I had better defense, if I could block and kick back with speed and power and balance, that place would be mine. But instead I have to choose one, or sometimes none of these options in any given distance. At this point, with my current arsenal, the solution is not to stand there. Find a different place, a better distance. Right now, as it is, that is always moving in, even though it is more clever and skillful to be able to move in all directions. I don’t have a sweet spot where I can settle in.
Part of what’s going to help me to be able to have greater range, to be able to stand my ground and let the fight come to me (these women never come at me when I just stand still), and ultimately to be able to feel safe and powerful anywhere in the ring is to fortify myself to believe that I can stand there. I’ve said it before in a video journal update, but it’s like acting. You perform the confidence and capacity of a fighter in the way you play a role in a play – the decisions, actions and consequences all come within the context of that character, which may or may not have much to do with your own person.
So now I have to go kick the zombies and tackle the grey wolves in order to find the way in which I will “power up” when I step into the ring. To become everything I expect to be without the burden of everything I am or think outside of the ring. It’s one of the rare opportunities in which your powers and abilities are selected out of your weaknesses and inhibitions.