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It's a Saturday morning, and sunlight streams in through the windows. Dust motes dance in the air between us, swirls as we circle each other. The padded floor squeaks under my feet, and I can feel drops of sweat - the balls of my feet slide over them.

I'm dressed in white, and my sensei in gray. It used to be black, but his gi has been washed so many times it's fading away. He likes sparring with me - my size and varied background means we can fight standing, kneeling, sitting - wherever, without having to worry about breaking each other. The padded floor lets us continue until one submits.

He never submits.

I've been practicing for a few years now, and between martial arts and wrestling, I have begun to get cocky. At sixteen, this is a common occurrence, and will be repeated several times, and in several subjects.

My sensei has been doing this since before he was my age. He is one of the fastest fighters I have seen, but I am feeling pretty good about my own skills. I am more aggressive, stronger then the other students - and I have a plan.

I've been practicing throwing kicks in series, and today is the day.

I throw a few jabs, attempt a collar grab, escape with a sloppy side-kick. He waits and circles. I lead with a hook-kick, at waist height. He blocks, deftly, and I begin my retraction. Time seems to slow down, and I can see every detail. His leading arm rotates upward, to protect his face. My leg reaches the end of its arc, muscles tense and coiled. I fire off a picture-perfect side-kick, like a pool cue striking the cue ball. There is a four-inch gap between the bottom of his elbow, and the top of his pelvic bone. I have to be fast, or he'll slam his elbow into my ankle.

My heel finds its mark in the soft tissue under the ribs, and my sensei stumbles back. I pull my leg back in. He looks at me, smiles, and tilts his head slightly.

He feints with a few jabs and a cross, then hits me with a round-kick, which I block.
Instead of kicking again, like I had, or replacing his foot, he drags his foot down my lead leg, and steps on my lead foot, putting his whole weight on it.

It wasn't painful, but I couldn't step away. He flurries my face and body with punches; I block as quickly as I can, even try to get in a few shots of my own, but any move I make is countered quickly and violently.

He switches to a collar grab, then shifts his hips adroitly. I land on my back.

As he helps me up he smiles. "That was pretty good - I didn't expect that."

"Well, I didn't expect you to step on my foot."

"Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill."

I nod ruefully. We reset, in the honey-colored shafts of sun.


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