Friday, January 21, 2005

I just witnessed an almost-fight. A few weeks ago, I saw another full blown slug it out affair. What I find remarkable is that in the past few years, I have lamented that people don't fight anymore. Now, don't get me wrong, I am opposed to fighting. As a kid, I was not one of the stronger ones and fighting did not suit me. I had a mixed "record," but fought when I had to. In fact, i am most proud of having fought a bully and pinned him into submission. He cornered a couple of us and challenged us. Not having anywhere to go, we reluctantly took him on, one at a time and we kicked his butt. Nothing like chest-swelling moment for a fifteen year old.

These days, I'd just about have a heart attack if I was forced to swing a fist that fast. Anyway, I am opposed to fighting.

My point, nonetheless, is that I had been lamenting the decline of fighting. Back in the day, there was this paleo notion of honor and a fight was how and where you settle things. Not anymore, I thought. These days, no one fights anymore. Why? If you have a problem with someone, you shoot him. Or you are reluctant to fight someone because if you kick butt, they'll come after you the way they know how, with a gun. So you can imagine my reluctant delight to note that young men still fight and it doesn't have to be settled by a duel, Zell Miller style.

I have been thinking of getting back into fighting shape. Wait . . . it's not what you think. Many moons ago, I had attained the honor of a Brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. That's right, I didn't do all that wimpy crap that's known as Kung Fu. This was the legit martial art form that requires some heavy lifting. If I wanted to dance, I'd join a dance club. Karate is a little more respectable, but I've never seen a fighting form so bland.

Tae Kwon Do, ah, so gracelful, yet lethal. Tae Kwon Do is a Korea martial art form. Kung fu is Chinese and Karate is Japanese. Tae Kwon Do is distinctive because it is 70% kicks. Kicking is much, much harder, and it drains you. But a well placed strong kick does more for you that three fancy Karate chops. I was fortunate to learn from a Master who was far less into fighting and more into the spirit of the art. He hardly let us spar, he was not competition crazy, but he made you master yourself. Good stuff. One interesting experience was the big exam was coming up, I was not due for an elevation to a higher belt grade. But the Master, on a whim, made me spar with a first degree Black belt and said if I could kick him in the head, I'd make Brown belt. Well, well, well, we sparred for 45 minutes and the combination of a mental lapse on his part and quick thinking spurred by desparation, I did it and earned an "easy" raise. That was the day I really respected Black Belts. I was light, skinny and razor quick, he was heavy set, but I learned that day that it was about what was up in the nugget and in heart.

I did a few competitions in my day. I always did horribly in the general martial art competitions because they had stupid scoring methods and they were less about real fighting. You got a point if you could touch the other fighter's head and so people would simply lung forward to touch. After each touch there was a reset and three touches got you a win. The Tae Kwon Do competitions were different. Three rounds,a minute each, most points or knock out. Fights like these are always about strategy, roundhouse x 3 followed by back kick, next time vary that a little, keep the other guy guessing,learn their tendencies, etc. Those were fun.

Unfortunately, school and work requirements forced me to stop with the Tae Kwon Do lessons. Now, I'd like to go back just to get back in shape and stay that way. Also I'd like to touch my toes without crashing into my belly. I'm no longer up in NY so I have to find a new school, one that captures the spirit of the art and is not about fight and competition.


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