Some things are just not in done in public, except then it just happens and you scramble to regain your sense of center. Especially when it happens while you’re sparring with a formidable opponent during his brown belt test, and EVERYONE is watching. Unladylike. Arrrgh!
A fellow named Ben tested for his brown belt last night (he passed, a very good showing). He was sharp and on top of his katas, his push-ups were strong and went on forever… and then came the fun part. Sparring! He got to spar with all of us, starting with the more junior folk (like 1st degree black belt) and ending with the most senior (Sensei with his 10th dan). And there I was, toward to bottom of the pile, thinking, “This here’ll be fun.”
And it was! My turn came. We bowed to Sensei and then to each other. Circled around a bit. Ben threw the first punch, and we were at it. Blocks and kicks and strikes. Engage, tangle it up, back away and regroup. Then do it again. And again. I tagged his chin, he kicked me good. And I thought, how’bout that double kick I haven’t done in so long? So I dusted it off (Seriously, it’s been a while, I’ve opened more AARP junk mail than I’ve thrown double-kicks in the last three years), and dammit if I didn’t leave my leg out there a bit too long.
He grabbed it. (Good man!) As I was going down, I slid down his body and hugged his knee in an effort to take him down with me, and we fumbled for a while (it looks a lot easier in action movies, folks) before I decided to bail. A not-so-smooth ukemi (into the audience, great, just GREAT), and I was on my feet again.
Regrouping after a fall was so easy I didn’t even think about it. Two more exchanges of blows thrown and avoided, one more square-off. I sprang forth, all poised for a strike – when I farted.
Action stopped. Our gazes met, and Ben’s serious, deadpan expression yielded to his laughing eyes. Mine too, I think, because the tension of the moment just drained away, replaced by an odd mix of humor and utter mortification. This was a lot worse than being punched or kicked, more humiliating than being thrown by my own kick – I had a biological function. In public. He heard it and Sensei behind us must have heard it and half of the dojo that was watching probably heard it. Hell, the fart was like a report of a gun shot echoing in a valley.
Action resumed. We’re all grownups and we know to ignore these little indignities. The lesson stuck, though. Two lessons, actually. First, don’t eat high-fiber food if you expect to fight with ninja-like stealth that evening. Second, sometimes an embarrassing breach of social mores is more unsettling than getting thrown into the audience. (BUT WHY??? Offer a theory, why don’t you? The comment box is below.)