“Today we get used to contact,” the instructor said to my beginning Tai Kwon Do class.
Used to contact?
We stood in one line, shoulder to shoulder, facing him and two other instructors.
“Masters Lee, Kim and I will strike you all over the body many times at once. In this way, you will get used to being hit and not lose focus when fighting an adversary.”
Get used to being hit? I grew up in a family with 6 kids, including 3 brothers. I was getting hit since I was 6 months old. This will be a cakewalk.
One by one, the three instructors surrounded a student, yelled out, and then hit them all over their body with a flurry of strikes, chops and punches. Some started yelling, others folded on the floor from the pain.
I smiled to myself. What a bunch of wusses. My brothers and I used to punch each other every day like this.
Soon my turn came. The head instructor must have sensed my confidence because he gave me a half-smile before yelling, “Hai!”
The three of them began hitting me from every direction. It was like getting hit by fists coming out of machine guns. Bolts of pain shot through my arms, legs, neck and torso.
They stopped. The pain was searing, but I stood there smiling.
The instructor yelled “Hai!” again, and they started a second round.
I felt like I might pass out. Maybe I did.
“Hai!” he yelled again. One of them picked me up and through me to the ground. I laughed.
“Hai!” he bellowed, and he began dragging me along the judo mats. The others grabbed two Yawaras — judo sticks — off the wall and began raining blows to my body.
I fought to stay conscious. My head felt like a melon that fell off the fruit display and was crushed by a grocery cart wheel.
They stopped and I chuckled, blood poring out of my mouth, nose and ears. This incensed him even more.
“Hai!” he yelled as all three picked me up and threw me into the plate glass window in the front of the dojo. I tumbled into the street. A wave of glass shattered on the sidewalk, covering me in a blanket of glistening shards.
“Are you used to contact now?” he said.
I slowly pulled my head up from the pavement. “Wait until my brothers see what you did to me.”
“Yes? And then what?” he yelled.
“They will laugh at me and high five you,” I said.
“Your brothers are sick!”
“Yes, yes they are.”