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.


“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.


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.