My first night in the cage was a few years ago.
The place smelled bad. Piss and beer. They used to allow the animals to drink, until the day an idiot started a brawl that sent twelve wire-heads to the hospital. Following day, police was making questions, and alcohol was forbidden.
The Pit didn’t seem like the most enlightened place on earth, but I had little choice. The sports scene in the Bay Area, with its McDojos crowded by Lululemon-moms, makes me want to puke. Tournaments were crap too. Misguided by America’s obsession with safety. Even the MMA scene got corrupted: rules, controls, can’t dos. I haven’t trained my entire freaking life for that.
The cage wasn’t perfect either. Eyes and spine still off-limits. But that’s all. Beyond that point, bringing more reality into my training would send me to jail.
The dude was a monster. Hairy, shoulder climbing over his melted ears, biceps as large as my chest. Good. They are slower that way. Buffalo, they called him, smiled. From the side of his mouth guard, a thick string of spit stretched down to the ground. I cracked my knuckles. It would be fun.
The bell rang.
Men get dumb when they fight. Try too hard to grab, to block, to show strength. I kicked him upstairs. A foot slap only, light and fast, just to raise his guard. Silly, I know, but works. As he followed my instructions, I blew a single short punch that pierced through his muscle reef. His liver deformed to my command and he folded with a grunt squeezed through the plastic between his teeth.
A few steps behind and bouncing again. Safe.
Sifu told me I had to be more like shadow, cross the opponent without being touched. I always liked clouds better. That’s why I chose Claudia as a name, when I moved to America. The image of giant smoke puffs splitting around a mountain and reuniting unharmed and victorious on the other side fascinated me.
Head down, he charged once more. Buffalo, huh? A double-leg take down. I trained with a boy that tried that all the time. The only day it worked, he laid over my chest tried to kiss me. Bastard. Next off, I came for his face. Never again.
As Buffalo dove, up went my knee. Straight onto his snout. The cartilage snapped against my thigh. Crunchy. My landing, I admit, wasn’t very cloud-worthy. But his was worse.
The bovine face-planted. I gave him a few seconds to stand. Blood rained from his breather. In China, they say red makes us happy. There was so much joy in that vision…
His fists returned in a combo: jab, cross. So unoriginal. Does anyone still get hit by that? I dodged, switched angle like you learn when you are lighter than every foe, and chain-punched his ill-fated face all the way to the fence. Bam bam bam bam bam!
The wire threw him back at me, his chin straight into my uppercut. A mouth guard flew through the ring. His knees failed. And man, the Buffalo was big. On threes, the fourth limb up, begging for mercy, he was still almost my height.
The crowd exploded so loud I got a little aroused. Next came a yank. A push on the back of my waist. My feet lost the ground, then down. Hard. I could have sworn there was a mat underneath us? The shock pulsed through my spine all the way into my head. The world, so distant, sounded like inside of the womb. Everything was slow and nice. It didn’t hurt anymore. Buffalo was on top of me. His teeth, so much whiter than I thought. A shadow grew from inside my eyes. No, please, no! Lights dimmed up again. His jaw, clinched in anger. A giant fist dropping fast. Closer and closer. Until it eclipsed his head.