A barrage of punches spatter at me. I keep my guard up. My sparring partner is much younger, heavier and stronger than I am. I’m overweight, out of shape and draped inside a sauna suit, trapped in drenching sweat. I try and penetrate through the punches with my own turn in combinations. I’m feeling confident even though I’m outmatched. I’m holding my own, keeping up with the pace. My partner comes back with another flurry of punches, nicking my right eye. My contact lens pops out onto the canvas.
And we’re only 30 seconds into the round.
I’m used to losing my contact lens on occasion while sparring, but this is the first time it’s affecting my game. Whether it’s the fact that I’ve been out of sparring mode for several months or if my right eye is my dominant eye — I can’t get my bearings straight. I’m disoriented. My confidence wanes. I stall and move in a round about way, waiting for my brain to make sense of what’s in front of me. I back-pedal and show no signs of aggression. I’ve become an easy target. The barrage of punches continue and I’m not able to answer back.
My mind goes back to my contact lens, lying there on the canvas floor — that helpless, clear piece of plastic just waiting to be stepped on and ripped apart. I take a glance to see if it’s still there and whack! — his left hook blindsides me.
It’s a wake up call to stay focused. My confidence is shot, but I continue to try. I’m finally getting used to this half-vision and am able to land a few more combinations. I’m pretty sure it all looks ugly, but I’m enduring the round and at this point that’s all that matters.
This is a huge part of learning… developing those instincts through struggle. Training against real resistance is essential to learning about the intensity and pace of a real fight… You need to develop a feel for what a fight is like, the intensity of the moves, how desperation fuels the struggle. – Sam Sheridan, The Fighter’s Mind.
Desperation is sometimes all we can do under the circumstances that lie before us. Sure it isn’t pretty. I remember the days of battling with emotional demons: the crying, the puffiness around the eyes, the snot dripping this way and that — all the uncontrollable convulsions that your worst fits offer. The scenes were raw and ugly but somehow I managed to get through it, as if all that ugliness, all that desperation, were part of surviving. Somehow, beyond your own doubt the will to live takes over and you endure through.
When three minutes seem like an eternity or the night does it best to never end, it does. The bell rings and the dawn breaks. We are weary and humbled but we’ve learned much from all this un-prettiness. Ugly doesn’t matter. Getting through it does. We can and will survive. Even in our most desperate moments the will to endure is there. Trust it in it. We do it over and over again. Round by round, we fight on.