The Academy 2H

I can tell Butch is standing as still as possible, nervous that any movement will take him out of position, generating another correction from Coach Dan. He’s stiff and uncomfortable, like a kid taking a game of freeze tag way too seriously.

“Relax,” Coach Dan tells him, pushing down with his palms. Butch eases the tension in his shoulders, the action rippling down his arms. “Don’t lower your hand,” says Coach Dan. Did I have this much difficulty when I started last year? Probably.

Coach Dan crouches down into position in front of Butch, and calls out the drill. “My side, just advance/retreat. Mix it up, vary your pace, try to throw off your opponent. Other side, your object just to keep distance, not too close or far away. When you hear me say ‘stop,’ everyone freeze. If my side can hit the other side with just an extension, no lunge, that means we got in too close. And if we can’t hit with an extension, the other side extends and lunges, and if they can’t hit, they’re too far away. Too close, or too far — our side wins. Other side hits with a lunge — you win. We’ll do this a couple times, then switch. OK?”

We all nod, and start the drill. Rex is on Coach Dan’s side, so he starts with two quick advances toward me, and I jump back. “Stay low,” Rex tells me. I do that a lot, get out of my crouch when I move quickly. Your knees staighten, you loose bounce and flexibility, can’t react as quickly. I force my body lower, feel the tendons or ligaments or whatever it is in my knees stretch, follow Rex as he retreats, focus on not standing as I advance — lift the toes on the front foot, push with the heel, land, bring the back foot forward. “Good,” he calls. Rex advances a step, then Coach Dan calls halt, check your distance. We stop, and Rex’s Slinky arm comes forward, the tip of his index finger landing effortlessly on my chest. I swear, and Rex laughs as Coach Dan calls for us to resume the drill.

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