Haley, Age 12, Beaverton, OR

Face padded, chest padded, hands enveloped in gloves
Fists curled to protect my face, the key to winning
I am on my toes, forever bouncing,
trying to psych my opponent
our instructor
throws his hand down, giving us the
to fight
The first sword is slashed, my foot against her padded head.
"BREAK" Our instructor calls.
"Point!" his almighty finger points at me
1 to 0
The hand is thrown again
this time, a sneaky side kick is thrown at my chest.
"Point!" His finger is guided to my opponent
1 to 1
I am ready, I'm in the zone.
Only me, the mat under my feet, and my opponent
"First to two points wins the match"
My adrenaline fires inside,
a fire burning inside me feet, my arms..
My partner stares at me, her face scrunched...
we are no longer friends
That hand is thrown down once more
We dance, hop, switch position, fake each other.
We are both good.
"SAI! SAI! SAI!" I do a multiple kick combo
side kick, block from her, hook kick, block from her,
360 round kick.
"BREAK!" We trudge back to our spots, waiting to be crowned.
"POINT!" He cries and points to me.
I nod, that's it, no smile, because that is considered rude.
We are all winners, some more than others.
I bow, shake hands with my partner.
We peel our protective gear off
Peel our warrior-side off
and become friends once again.

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