Back in the summer of 2007 I think it was we sparred at karate a lot! At the time Pete and I were Sempais and with insurance rules allowing it at the time we ran a bit of a sparring session every other Saturday. It was quite a bit of fun actually and we did it for almost a year I think.
During the time we spent sparring there were days when the level of contact, commitment to techniques and competitiveness would rise. These are the days when I learned the most, because they would be invariably the days when I got hit a few more times than usual. Shots to the body were fairly common, hard blocks were as well, I enjoyed that aspect quite a bit really, I knew I had made contact, or had been hit well. I took a few punches to the head as well but with the gloves on it took a real hit to know you had your bell rung.
And then there are a few notable times where I got kicked in the face. What was important about these instances was that I bled. The first time it happened I was stunned, blood leaking from my nose we called a halt to the match and I went to the bathroom to stuff some kleenex up my nose to stop the bleeding. The second time it happened we kept on sparring until we had no choice but to stop since I was getting blood all over the place.
What was different? It certainly wasn't a gentler kick, and it wasn't about placement of the strike, both clipped my nose. Was I tougher? Was I more inclined to show that it didn't hurt? I don't believe so. I think it had much more to do with that it had happened before and I was therefore less impacted by the event at the time.
I learned that I can still continue when struck, I learned about how I would handle myself in a situation where another person has hit me hard enough with good placement to make me bleed in front of others. Did it make me any worse in the eyes of the people observing? I doubt it. Even the first time when we stopped sparring when it happened I'm pretty sure no-one was like 'Oh Chris is bleeding, what a wuss.'
Getting hit comes with the territory when learning a physical art. Over the time I've been at karate I've been head-butted in the nose, kicked in the crotch and elbowed in the head by students of various ranks, some lower than mine, some higher. The thing I have learned from those events is how I'm going to react to them, not only from a physical standpoint, but from a mental one, from an instructor view as well. Getting hit and dealing with it appropriately builds character.