Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stepping into the ring, weighing...


Me and the Scorpio are talking about fighting and fighters.

“I wish that I hadn’t been raised thinking I was too tall, too thin, not athletic enough …”

He’s been a coach and a fighter too long to put up with this kind of negative self-assessment and shakes his head no. I hold my hand up –stop a minute, let me finish-

”…and taught that our family didn’t “lower ourselves” to violence and that I should turn the other cheek – I wish, instead, somebody had taught me how to fight.”

“You’d have been a good fighter,” he says.

“Why?”

“Because you project your feelings. If you meant to win, your opponent would see it and back up. I’m the same.”

We’re talking about Million Dollar Baby, which I’ve just watched for the third time. He’s quizzing me.

“What was her mistake?”

“She didn’t move her feet. Punch left, move to the right foot…”

“What else?”

I go over it in my mind. “She was punching the heavy bag when it was coming towards her and she didn’t have the power.”

“And…?” I don’t know what he’s looking for. He starts to demonstrate what angles have power and which will cause you injury. He shows me how the heel of the hand, brought upward and resting on a large bone, will have more impact than a fist. I imitate his actions until he thinks I’m catching on.

I’m mesmerized and grateful that he understands my interest is serious. I watch fight movies, boxing matches and martial arts like I'm studying for an exam. I don’t glory in the blood or injuries, but the physical skill fascinates me and I understand why someone would get in a ring and risk life and limb. I know why, and I’m trying to figure out why I do.

Later, I’m recounting this to Weedy, who, like many people, is sickened by boxing, by fights. “It’s the friction. It’s the friction of all the things that are at war inside. Fighters have that kind of friction, that kind of personality. I think it would be a relief to resolve it physically instead of having it trapped in your head.”

And frankly, there are times when popping someone in the head – or at least knowing you were perfectly capable of it – wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Once, the Scorpio asked me how I dealt with my enemies. My jaw dropped open.
Enemies? Enemies? I tried to think of an enemy. “I stay away from people who mean me harm. Or I try to see how something looks from their eyes.”

The question stayed with me. I asked Miz T and she had the same reaction.

“What if,” I say, “when you were walking down that street after dark and someone came at you, you knew could knock them out cold? How would that change things?”

“I’m so used to thinking defensively that I can’t even imagine….No. It would feel pretty good, wouldn’t it? It would be empowering.”

This train of thought jumps the tracks this morning as I’m reading blogs. Specifically I’m reading about the fear of writing that so many of us suffer – the fear of putting ourselves out there and having the knock-out punch land on our exposed chins. What else are we afraid of?

“You know how you handle anger?” the Scorpio asks me.

“How?”

He puts his fingers on my mouth. “With this. And your words can do more damage than any fist.” His own anger pattern, he says, is Passive-Aggressive, too, but also “explosive.” He hasn’t exploded for a long time. Age has brought enough wisdom that he handles it now without fighting. Age has made me cautious of the blood my words can draw.

But in my heart, I’m still propelled by that internal friction. And I write the way boxers box. This is the ring I step into to relieve the clamor inside. And I’ve learned that everybody is scared before they put on the gloves and risk the chance of going down in full view of an audience.

What you do is – tape up, put the gloves on anyway, throw your best punches, keep your feet moving.

Count on someone landing one on you sometime, but
believe, with the bloody-minded persistance of a fighter, that you'll go on getting in the ring and no one is going to knock you down.

11 comments:

beadbabe49 said...

yes...I've come to believe, finally, that sheer, bloody persistence is even more vital than talent...

LJ said...

I love your comments BB. I do. Yeah. And I believe you're right about that.

Mary said...

Like I said, LJ, great writing. Thank you. I find beadbabe49's comment immensely comforting.

zhoen said...

I think it is important to be a credible threat, to be seen as potentially, dangerous. Throwing the punch means running out of other ammunition. Knowing you can hurt, and instilling a healthy fear in others, but deciding the other is not enough of a menace to lash out, is the most potent position.

LJ said...

That's the thing, Zhoen. It's wanting to have the confidence that you could stand up when you have to - doing it, in the sense of acting aggressively - is not the part that interests me as much.
And the psychology of it is fascinates me.
It's interesting to me that I choose to be with men who are fighters, in one sense or another. I project that part of myself onto them. Much as, I expect, they project the softer parts of themselves onto me.
Talking to Miz T - my ears pricked up when she mentioned that she'd always thought defensively. Woman, generally, are taught that. And I think it's a shame. But then, to me, there's little worse than feeling helpless.

herhimnbryn said...

The heel of the hand huh? Mmmm, how I look at mine differently now.

Yes, I have always thought defensively. You're right though, it's a shame we females are more often than not raised to eschew defending ourselves physically.

Jess said...

I've had a self-defense class or two, years ago, and never really got into it. But I've always felt strongly that if I were attacked on the street, all the wrath of past malevolence toward me (and I've chosen that word carefully, insert i just left of center as needed) would turn me into a right deadly bitch. I think I've always believed what your Scorpio said: "If you meant to win, your opponent would see it and back up."

As for the other, I just keep chanting this week's freeing mantra: this is not a review, this is not a review... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Heh, I've been in a few scraps.

It's true, knowing that your rage is NOT impotent is key. I hate few things worse than feeling helpless.

When I was in grade seven or so, this bully knocked the hell out of me a few times. I was a seriously skinny kid, and more smart than savvy. One day, he took one of those godawful "psych-punches" at me in the hall (you know, where they just try to make you jump, keep you scared), and I grabbed his fist and pulled backwards, extending his arm and twisting it palm-up. A well placed kick with and army boot snapped his elbow like a stick of chalk.

I was suspended for a month, and put into mandatory councilling, but it was a defining moment. Breaking some meathead's arm isn't walking across India to make salt, but for me, there were far-reaching implications. I learned how to deal with bullies, and know this, the world is chock-fecking-full of them. Later, we had a rematch, and he knocked the hell out of me again, though this time is was a Pyrric victory. After that, no one messed with me.

People are confused when they ask me about my stance on fighting, and I tell them that my attitude is somewhere in the vicinity of "so be it". I'm no fan of hatred, but pacifists have this terrible habit of winding up in mass graves.

L, check out the Hagakure. And yeah, while you won't win them all, if you're prepared to go down thrashing and biting, you can't lose completely.

-marko

LJ said...

Marko -"So be it" might be the battle cry of all Scorpios (not that I'm type-casting you honey, not me).As Liz Greene says, you don't find gangs of Scorpios roaming around looking for people to sting. But if you happen to step on one - well, that's your bad luck. I loved "breaking some meathead's arm isn't walking across India to make salt."
Hagakure, huh? Prisoners have a saying about surviving inside that's a little like that..."You don't have to stand out. You just have to stand up."
And PS? I'll have to keep blogging just to see you write, will I?

Jess - I'm taking you along in the event I have to go somewhere scary.

phlegmfatale said...

wow. what a great analogy of life. I'm a fighter, too.

LJ said...

It always goes like this - I think I've crossed some line into territory that is a. politically incorrect or b. highly uncomfortable for people and I am usually c. wrong.