Sparring and I have a long and troubled history. Because of my background, I've struggled with it. I don't mean I've struggled to reach the point of enjoying it. I mean I've struggled to reach the point where I can actually free spar with light contact without finding myself curled up in the fetal position in a corner somewhere. But I did get there -- in fact, I got both places -- by a long process of skill development, trust-building, and desensitization. It took years, but it worked.
Unfortunately, it's been at least 2 years since I've sparred and, as I expected, the desensitization is long gone. That turned out not to be too much of a problem with my first 3 partners. Either I was the more experienced fighter (scary thought) and could set my own pace, or I was pretty nearly matched with someone who was being very careful with me. That part was fun.
The trouble arose when I drew the assistant instructor as my partner. Understand -- he has exquisite control and proceeded precisely as he should have given my physical ability. There was precious little I was going to be able to achieve offensively, but I tried here and there to maneuver around his mile-long legs and arms. Mostly I played defense, so he took on the job of challenging my guard, footwork, and reactions. Unfortunately, not knowing any more about my background than that I get squirrely with stuff coming at my head (which I told him right as we began), he tapped me a couple of times in the face and took me down with a beautiful sweep once.
I made it through most of the round, but eventually took one too many brushes to the face and went into full panic-attack mode. I managed to bow out of the ring before I started crying, and was able to walk off the worst of it in time to bow back in before the end of the bout. That was the last one of the evening, so I was able to use the time it took to get my gear off to deal with the adrenaline after-effects. Thank heavens I've experienced it enough that the wheezing and shakes didn't make the panic worse :)
So now I know -- I have, indeed, lost all of my desensitization. On the bright side, though, I did enjoy the sparring and, odd as it may sound, felt very safe with all of my partners. Now I need to figure out how to recover what I had. It's tough, though, because we spar so seldom and because I don't have a regular training partner who can help me drill the way I need to. I suspect that I'm just going to have to (gasp!) ask for help; I'm pretty confident that I'll get it.
Hard to admit that the tough chick needs help -- but there's no sense in trying to hide it if I want to grow in the ways that count.