Kickboxing in Tangier

A younger version of myself frequently underwent diverse training sessions with my father, ranging from basketball to football and even boxing. My father, committed to ensuring a healthy lifestyle for both my older brother and me, would bring out the gloves and pads for boxing sessions, signifying a shift to a more serious training regimen. We practiced diligently every night for a few months, though I never anticipated having to apply these skills in real-life scenarios.

Having enrolled in kickboxing for three months, I found myself once again employing the techniques my father had imparted. The reality check came swiftly during the initial sparring session. Each class commenced with cardio exercises, followed by drills teaching new combinations—whether punches, kicks, or a combination of both, including knees and elbows.

The anticipation for the first sparring session had been building since our initial class. At the end of the combination drills, Ilias, the instructor, paired us up for light sparring. Fate landed me with Ayoub, a legend in the sport, as evidenced by the numerous plaques, pictures, and awards adorning the room. While not nervous, I knew I was in for a challenging bout.

We tapped gloves to commence, throwing light punches and kicks, adorned only with shin guards and gloves. I managed a few solid body shots, but Ayoub swiftly countered with powerful kicks to the gut and uppercuts to my jaw. Surprisingly, Ayoub acknowledged my efforts, praising the limited skill I displayed.

The moment arrived for actual sparring. Ilias called individuals two at a time to the front, with the first pair engaging in a fierce battle. Anticipation filled the room as Ayoub, equipped with body and head protection, awaited his next opponent. Expecting to be spared, Ilias and I made eye contact—though I couldn’t see much without my glasses. Despite my reluctance, Ilias called my name in his distinctive French-Arabic accent.

I popped in my mouthguard, raised my arms for padding, and tapped gloves with Ayoub once more. Ilias declared, “Fight!” We began cautiously, gradually intensifying our exchanges. Despite Ayoub being a dedicated world champion, I threw punches with increasing power. Landing a successful combo, I almost apologized before a powerful kick reminded me of Ayoub’s prowess. The bout continued, with me landing impactful strikes and feeble kicks. As the class concluded, Ayoub offered his commendation, validating the combination of my father’s training and previous kickboxing classes.

Justyn Lopez is a Criminology major at the University of New England.

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