The small padded room smelled like a humid concoction of sweat, discipline, and invincibility. I paused with my face smashed against the mat, slick with sweat and the perfumed imprint of other fighters. My professor had me pinned. I caught my breath and organized my escape plan—don’t telegraph. Collect your thoughts. Keep it cool. Be smart, act swiftly.
I orchestrated a flurry of meticulous moves ending in the perfect amount of pressure applied to my professor’s shoulder joint, forcing him to tap. Our bodies unwound victoriously as he smiled and my body fell slack against the mat. My chest heaved as a mischievous smile spread over my face. I rebounded off the ground and busted out a celebratory handstand on the spongy surface of the dojo. My body was strong and flexible, reactive and malleable. I was a tiny Amazonian-in-training who could spring effortlessly from a beautiful yoga posture into a surprising martial arts attack. In that moment, the world stood still, and I was invincible.