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I did it again.

Failure seems to wait for it’s chance to remind us that we are weak, slow, and dumb. It found me once again at my Kung Fu school last night.

After our normal class ended and we bowed out I invited an old training partner to spar with me. This partner had previously injured himself seriously during a conditioning exercise. There is contact and there is lots of it. It is hard and it is performed with martial intent. It’s why my partner previously got hurt. The contact tests us, pushes us, toughens us, and yes, sometimes it hurts.

My fellow classmate, Yury has worked his tail off getting back physically to where he was pre-injury. In the last few weeks he has shown he is ready to get back to our extra-curricular session of hand throwing. Yury has a boxing background. He also has additional experience in martial arts and fighting from a life that is much different from my own.


fighters break

I’ve used sessions working out with Yury to push and test myself. He is faster, more technically skilled, and more relaxed than I am in fighting exchanges.

Most nights he will land a few clean shots. Last night he landed lots.

In the time I’ve waited for him to recover I stood and traded with a handful of other classmates. Each of them has had different styles and comfort levels. I have felt as if I’ve held my own and even improved in the time I’ve trained with them.

The whole time Yury has been in the back of my mind. Conquering him would such a prize. It would mean I’ve leveled up. It would be a measure of my success and improvement. I have become faster, more skilled and definitely more comfortable with my own capabilities.

I should have been ready for him.

What we are doing was combat. It was fluid and progressive. We stepped to center of the school’s wooden floor. We had the whole front half of the school to ourselves. The shrine was to one side. The wall of mirrors on the next. Across from that a few senior students lingered. Some were just decompressing from an already intense physical and mental session that was our class. Others were checking out what we had brewing.

Yury and I were not done yet.


gloves and bells

We strapped up our 4oz MMA gloves. I put in my mouth piece. Yury forgot his, but he wasn’t worried. I raised my gloves to just above my chest. He raised his to his eye level. We stood for a moment sizing each other up and I went in for a set up jab. He blocked it out and cracked me clean in the center of my nose just above my guard. Short of dazed, I came up from the shot feeling the pain between my eyes.

I knew the blood would be coming soon.

I instantly felt like I’ve been here before. So many months prior, before Yury’s devastating arm injury, we had a few exchanges that had gone this way for me as well. I was immediately outclassed. My opponent took up his place directly in my head. He would remain there for the rest of our bout.



I recovered and put my gloves up again. My feet felt flat and tight. I was slightly angry with myself. The kung fu I had trained countless hours on had escaped my recollection. I would not call on it much tonight.

I proceeded to attack.

Yury parried my shots with ease. He struck me on the left ear. During another exchange I turtled up and ducked my head. He let it slide without punishing me with a flurry of blows I arguably deserved for such soft behavior. We reset and I would be rewarded with another clean shot to the nose. Another would come shortly after to the back of my head.

I would try to change my strategy by throwing a kick. In return I would be dished a kick to my side. Thankfully Yury is my friend and classmate. He pulled his strikes to ensure he did not hurt much more than my nose and my pride.

I kept coming back for more. I knew I was not improving regardless of the adjustments and attempts I made. They were not mindful.

Eventually I accepted my fate and bowed out with Yury. I would be blowing blood out of my nose for the next 24 hours. My nose is still sore. Who knows how long that will linger?

Yury beat me up.

I pushed against the failure. The answer should have been more abstract. I should’ve thought to climb over or around instead of trying to go through the wall. Writing this has been therapeutic. It has allowed me to process the ass whupping.

It feels as if I am looking at the moment from an external perspective.



I hope to be more fierce and unafraid next time. I hope to incorporate the kicks more efficiently. I hope to use the style I have been training in for the last year and a half more thoroughly in our next bout.

Yury called me today to check in and see how I was doing. I told him my pride was the only thing he really hurt. I told him I appreciated the opportunity to train and spar with him. I warned him we would be doing it again soon. If my nose isn’t still sore it may be tomorrow night.

I used to play ping pong or Foosball with opponents who were incredible. They used to beat me so quickly and by such large margins of point and skill. I always appreciated that they did not relent. I would get better, smarter, faster and more powerful.

I would not beat these mentors often, if at all, but they would push forward and upward. My skills and abilities would improve as would be shown when I matched up with opponents that are more evenly matched.

Last night was another in a long line of similar examples in my life. Last night I received possibly the most complete beat-down I can remember receiving in my life.

I failed once again.

It was beautiful, uplifting, and I hope it will become transformative as I become further removed from the moment.

The fight was a reminder that I am not done. In fact I am further from done then I knew. I need to stay humble. I need to worker harder and smarter. I need to continue to study and improve. Above all else I have to look for the looming, inevitable failures and side-step and climb over them as I see them coming.


shmkf 2017 promotion class

{Acknowledgements tonight to my entire school at Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu in Boulder. These guys teach me discipline, humility, compassion, and toughness. They consistently help me work through failures and celebrate my successes. The above picture is my promotion class from this previous January. I’m sporting the mustache. Yury is to the far right.}

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  • Yury says:

    First things first, it’s always an honor to train with you too. It’s humbling to read this because I feel the same way against people who have more experience than me. I think it’s a feeling that never goes away. I really appreciate that defeating me would be a massive prize for you. My apologies about the 24 hours of blood in your nose. It’s never fun to deal with.
    However, it’s a lesson in patience and perseverance. You are certainly persistent, and the patient bit will come. Time, energy, focus and patience are part of getting better at any martial practice. You’ll get there. Lose the things that aren’t serving you any longer, like the fear. It’s very normal to have it when you are getting more comfortable with any kind of fighting. But that will come with the above.
    After today’s bout, I can see you’ve improved a bit. It’s really marginal, but you have improved your techniques. That’s the important part, you’ve made progress. So despite the strikes, the blows, the pain, keep going. You will get there and soon the prize will be yours. I’ll be waiting.

  • […] written previously about my good friend, Yury Vilk (see: Face First into Fist). He is a fellow classmate at my Kung Fu school in Boulder, Colorado. Aside from being one of my […]