“Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.” —Tsunetomo Yamamoto.
Boxing is more about learning to take a beating than to give one; everyone in this life is going to have to take a beating of some sort, sooner or later, and if you can’t take one, you’re gone.
I learned to take a beating.
It took me a while.
I was a sensitive little boy, and even though my father taught me the fundamentals of boxing, it wasn’t enough; I was constantly bullied at school, for various reasons, and by “bullied”, I don’t mean being harassed or made fun of.
I got the shit beat out of me on an almost daily basis.
One day I came home from school with a black eye. I was seven or eight at the time.
My father asked me what had happened, and I reluctantly explained to him that the son of the police chief in our town had punched me in the face. Amongst other places,
“Did you hit him back?”
Because he was the police chief’s son, and because I didn’t want to get our family in trouble (the boy’s father was corrupt, and is currently serving a life sentence in prison for murder and drug-trafficking), and because I didn’t want to get expelled from school for fighting.
“I don’t care who hit you. You don’t need to worry about that. And I don’t care if you get expelled; you don’t need to worry about that, either. But if a boy hits you, and you don’t fight back, you have something to worry about; me.”
My father never believed in corporal punishment, and never laid a hand on any of his children, so I was both scared and confused.
“If you don’t fight back, everyone else will see it, and you’ll become a victim. You have to defend yourself.”
“But I’ll lose.” I was scrawny and small for my age, and not used to this type of treatment.
“You’ll only lose if you don’t fight back. You’re going to take a beating one way or another; don’t ever come home again with a black eye and tell me that you didn’t fight back.”
And so I fought back.
Again and again.
Sometimes I won, most times I lost.
But the other kids at school were starting to realise that, even though I was physically weak, mentally, I was not going to lay down. They backed off, just a little.
Then, when I was eleven, I began studying Chinese and Japanese martial arts; this was before MMA, so it was a bit standard, but it was something “outside the box” for the kids who bullied me.
“Don’t ever tell anyone you’re learning this,” my father told me. “Some people will find out anyway, but the less people that know, the better. Do not lose the element of surprise.”
For once, I listened to him. I wanted to tell everyone at school about my martial arts studies to impress them, but I didn’t.
When I was thirteen, I started to grow my hair out long. This didn’t go over very well with my father, or my male classmates.
But the girls liked it quite a bit.
Which partially explains why some of the boys at school did not.
One day, five of them approached me, and told me that if I didn’t cut my hair come Friday, they would cut it for me. By force.
“I’ll grow my hair anyway I want.”
Followed by prolific profanity. From me.
I thought it was a bluff, but it wasn’t; that Friday, after French lessons (another attempt to impress the ladies; also worked), three of them cornered me in the hallway, one with a pair of shears.
I was scared shitless, not so much because I didn’t want to lose my hair, but because I knew I had to fight them; and I was afraid that I would lose an eye or worse to these boys by struggling while they practised their promising careers as hair-stylists.
One of them pinned my arms behind my back, and the boy with the shears started to move in on me.
I put my weight on the boy holding me, reared up, and caught Mr. Shearer with a lucky snap-kick to the groin.
I was immediately released. I later found out that I’d kicked him so hard that his testicles were driven up into his abdominal cavity, and I felt so bad about it that I offered to let him kick me in the testicles as well.
He very politely declined my offer.
After that, I didn’t have very much trouble with the boys from the hood. They had finally realised, as I had, that I would rather die than be subjected to any sort of mistreatment.
That doesn’t mean I’m a brave man. I’m scared of just about everything, which has kept me alive.
I’m not done yet; stick around.
It gets better.