Ready, steady

I square my shoulders, grimace in pain, realize my mistake, and quickly hide it again. I look across the bloodied, dirty mat at my opponent, who looks calm and composed. I look down at my toes, taped up, blood seeping through the seams where the stickiness has not quite made contact with the fabric.

I put my hands in front of me, and forgetting the pain and exhaustion, I lunge in for the takedown. I make contact, but he’s too fast, too strong, too experienced. He gets me into a shoulder lock and throws me, bodily, into the floor. I feel the breath leave my body, and I quickly regain my composure, going to my back. Too late, he has it. I feel his arms snaking under my armpit, over my shoulder and onto my neck.

He squeezes with all his might, and I feel the world go black. I tap. He releases me, and we start all over again.

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