It was my freshman year of Cornell. I had joined the Tae Kwon Do sparring team and had been practicing fervently for a few months. I had this, and still have this mentality of sparring with the best people. When I was a yellow belt I would challenge the higher level black belts, some of these guys were National team sparrers, and would get destroyed. Usually when sparring higher level black belts, they can immediately tell that you aren't good and would graciously fight down to your level / slightly above. Everyone did this.. except Lushima.
The first time I got back kicked, was the first time I sparred Lushima. Lushima had graduated a few years before but would occasionally come to help lead the sparring practices. He was tall, athletic, and very strong. His signature move was the jump back kick counter. I was not aware of this. All I knew is he was legend, and I wanted to spar with him.
After practice one day I approached him and asked him if he would spar with me. Being the fish that I was (a mere yellow belt), he graciously agreed. Little did I know, he was going to actually spar with me. In a way.. put me in my place.
So we put our gear on, bow, shake hands and we spar. He's fast, but I'm determined to try out some moves of my own. I go for a fast kick - a front leg roundhouse kick, and before I know what is happening, he does his jump back kick, and lands a solid heel into my chest protector, right in my solar plexus, literally lifting my body off the ground.
My legs gave out. I fell to the floor. It was the hardest I've ever been hit by someone, and to this day, was the hardest I had ever been hit by anything in my life.
I learned a lot that day.
I learned how important it was to develop a strong back kick. I learned how important it was to have a good counter. I learned that I wouldn't die even after getting hit hard.
Lushima was genuinely sorry that he hit me so hard. He probably could have hit me harder. He wasn't one for moderation. I really appreciated him not going easy on me, he certainly could have gone a bit softer, but I improved greatly after that singular kick.
To this day I still believe that to improve you must take risks and push yourself to spar with stronger people. That you must be willing to get beaten, in order to learn. That after you fail, you must learn from your mistakes, acquire feedback, and continue to learn.
And now.. thanks to Lushima, I have a dank back kick as well.