7:30 a.m. Muay Thai sparring team practice. Oh, man, what a way to start a Friday.

It looks like Team Upchurch is going to be five strong, including our instructor and namesake.

This morning saw us work on a bunch of moves, including the clinch, which is extremely close-quarters combat. You lock up with your partner—arms wrapped around the head and neck in a number of possible positions.

I was in a clinch when my partner locked my right elbow away from my ribs, bending me at the waist while forcing my upper body toward the mat. Picture it for a second…OK, now where did that leave me? It exposed the entire right side of my torso…to his knees.

At that point, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Now, it’s sparring practice, mind you, so the intent is not to deliver damaging knees (as is the case in competition), but to learn the technique and develop muscle memory. But we’re going hard. And we operate under the premise that if you’re soft on your partner, you’re not doing him a favor.

The converse is true, too. And believe me, my partner was doing me a big favor.

So, while we were pulling our knees (not striking to damage), we weren’t just traipsing insecurely through the motions like Pelosi at a press conference. We were banging…less the knees to the sternum.

And that’s still a heckuva way to start your Friday.

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