Once again, my martial arts training saved me from harm. It’s happened a few times in my life since I chose to learn how to defend myself in the early 80s. I was a small kid growing up and got tired of being picked on, so when I was 12, I begged and chided my mom into getting me into martial arts. I started with Kung Fu and followed that path for a good 10 years, throwing in a few other bits of training here and there.
When I was a kid, I never ended up having to fight anyone. My mouth and the knowledge that I was “training” was enough to keep the bullies moving on to someone else. The most memorable instance of my training helping me out was in an ex-girlfriend’s house. It was probably seven or eight years after I had started training, I was at the top of my game martial-arts wise. I was helping her move and opened a closet only to find a fully-packed large suitcase unleashed upon me from the top of the closet shelves. A quick high block saved me from easily 50 lbs crashing down on my head. I saved myself at least a few stitches that day.
Now, I haven’t practiced martial arts since I was 25 when I got my first real job. There may be a link there, I’m not sure. To be honest, it got costly, and the only way for me to augment the cost was to teach, and that required a lot more time than I had to commit. So here I am, 24 years later, and while I’m no longer out of shape, I have not practiced in 20+ years. Maybe a spar here and there, and I’ve trained my sons to block quite well so they can keep themselves alive if their mouth gets them into trouble. But as for real practice to keep my skills sharp, I have not done a single thing.
This week, while out playing with the asshole husky that we rescued, I had another “incident.” We have to have a 40-foot lead on the husky because they have the highest prey drive of any dog. So if he sees another dog, deer, squirrel, etc. he will dart off after it, and no amount of training is going to hold him back at that point. The long lead he drags around gives me enough time to catch the lead should he tear-ass off into the woods after some unknown prey.
Earlier this week, while he was supposed to be playing, and I was supposed to be closely watching him, I got distracted with weeds around the HVAC condenser, and he went over to an area that I don’t want him in because there’s a feral cat who likes to hang out there. So I went over and grabbed his lead at about 10 feet from him, and as I proceeded to pull on him, he darted off at full speed in a direction I didn’t plan for, and I could see that the lead was going to end up around my neck if I didn’t act fast. I pushed my hand up high, and held the lead firmly in my right hand, keeping it far away from my neck. When the lead pulled tight, I was jerked clean off my feet.
I forgot that I have lost 40-50 pounds and with my hand up over my head, leverage was in full effect. I have never been pulled clean off my feet before. I was headed, ass over tea kettle, to the ground. My reactions took over, and I tucked and rolled right out of the fall, the momentum of the initial jerk rotating me all the way over and back onto my feet.
I spent literally years learning how to fall correctly in Kung Fu and later, Aikido. I stood there, not only unharmed but not even with a grass stain to show for it. I was pissed and laughing at the same time. Pissed that the asshole husky is going to be the death of me. Laughing because years and years of training had paid off in another unexpected way. I called my one martial arts trained friend and told him. We laughed, he’s had similar situations.
I went inside and told my wife something to the effect of, “I still got it,” or “I got skills.” She just shook her head and told me I was just lucky, and that I needed to be more careful. She’s definitely right.
But that masculine part of me is still proud of myself. If I were attacked today by multiple pieces of luggage at the same time, I am confident that I would be victorious. What was amazing to me was that the instincts were still there, making sure I did the move correctly. All joking aside, without that, I would have had at least a broken arm, ankle, or tailbone. Being jerked off your feet is a surreal feeling. My body gave no resistance. It was like an over-acted movie scene. I couldn’t believe a 40-lb dog could generate so much pulling force. But then I remembered, “sled dog.” Yeah, I can see that.
I might even start training again, just for the physical fitness part. I was never in better shape. I know I’ve tried doing just my warm-up stretching that I did back when I was 20, and that part alone kicks my ass.
The funniest part of this, which I’m sure you’ve picked up on by now, is that I’ve never had to use the training against a person that wasn’t in a tournament. The more you get training, the more you realize that there are other ways to get out of fights, and I also think that there’s a confidence that trained people project that keeps other people from just messing with you.
I’ve had a lot of those moments in my life, that’s for sure. I don’t regret all the training for anything, except that it was one of the reasons I wasn’t a big reader in high school, I was into sports. It wasn’t until I was almost done with college that I started to really change from jock to real student. There were a few years there late in my second college career where I did both at the same time, but by then, I had already crossed the chasm with martial arts and was looking for more in my life. It just took me 24 more years to find it.
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