FIGHTING BACK

I have some mad respect for this dude.  Seriously!  This post rips me up… it also increased my determination to be more aware of those around me.

Not every kid has an adult in their life who loves them.

 Let that sink in. 

 I read the stories and I watch the horror of headline news and yet… it is hard to truly grasp what is going on. What’s going on is there are kids that are LEFT to survive completely alone.

This is one of my favorite posts and I hope you share it every chance you get.  I hope you see the surviving spirit Byron has, but I also hope you see the moments where other people made a difference.  All too often, we are afraid to get involved so we program ourselves to be oblivious.  I believe being an oblivious community is creating a bigger problem.  Bullying is only the beginning of worse adult behavior.


 

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FIGHTING BACK by Byron Hamel

When I was a kid, I used to get beat up a lot at school, or at home by my older brother.  Or by my mother and her boyfriends.

People were always beating me, or threatening my life growing up.  Big adult men pummelling me with fists the size of my eight-year-old head.  Kids at school ganging up on me, 3 or more at a time…  I lost every fight I was in before high school, but I never backed down.

Maybe I should have done more to stay out of trouble.  But I absolutely hated the injustice of it all.  I hated the idea of standing there quietly while I was being stabbed and burned and ridiculed for simply existing.  9 times out of 10, it was the other kid who started the fight.  But 8 times out of 10 it was me who threw the first punch.  I fought and fought and fought because I never accepted the bullshit.

I fought my brother.  I fought his friends.  I even fought my abusive parents.  I fought my mother.  I fought her boyfriends.  I even tried to fight Augustine, the one who tried to kill me, a couple times.  I was scared as hell, but I tried.  I could do nothing to him, but I did my best.

I was so full of fear.  I lived in fear.  Every day was fear.  So much that I didn’t feel it anymore.  It left the realm of feelings, and became a part of my behavior.  I remember one time standing there silently as he stared down at me, naked in the shower, 9 years old.  He reached down and turned the hot water up.  It burned my skin, but I stayed there.  I stood, petrified and narrow focused, until the water ran freezing cold.  And then I stood there still, shivering in pain, and staring right the fuck back.

One time I buried myself under junk in the closet so that he wouldn’t see me there.  He had spent that afternoon pinching my cheeks until they bled, slapping my head, and threatening me with cigarette burns.  My swollen face stung under the salt of my tears.  He was stumbling around laughing his head off.  That’s how I’d managed to get away from him and hide.

He was going to kill me that time too.  I knew it.  He never said much to me, but I could feel it.  In the closet, I saw the handle of our push broom.  I took the plastic cap off of its metal handle, remembering that I’d cut myself on the sharp edge once.  I could jab him with that, hard in the face, maybe take out his eye.  I quietly pulled it toward me and held it tight to my chest.

Augustine opened the closet.  I would never be able to do it, I thought.  He was so much stronger.  I felt how flimsy and weak the thin metal of the push broom handle was.  I thought about how easily it bent that one time I used it to pick up dirt under the kitchen table.  That dent was still there.  I remember knowing my weakness.  For the first time, knowing that I was truly powerless.  I would fail.  But I would try.  And I would kill him if I could.  I would not run from him.  Not this time.

It felt like hours.  He stood there with the closet door open, not even looking in.  I could only see the profile of his face and body.  He was calling me.  “Here kitty kitty” is what I remember him saying.  And some things in Spanish: “Stupid little fucker”, “Fat little faggot”.  I thought of him dead on the floor.  I thought of jamming the handle into his throat when he was down.  But mostly I thought about how hitting him would just make him angry, how he would just take the initial hits and then break my neck.

Eventually he got quiet.  It was dark in the closet.  I could see him, but he couldn’t see me.  I needed to strike him.  He was right there.  But I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to die.  So I waited for him to come to me.  I would only strike if I had to.  Time passed.  I think he looked for me in a couple different places.  I heard him pretend to leave, and stay quiet for a long time.  I heard him pretend to snore.  I stayed where I was.  I stayed until well into the night when he actually left our roach infested apartment.  He must have gotten bored, or came down off of whatever he was on.

A few years later, after Augustine had been arrested for something, and our family had time to relocate to Hesperia California, mom had a new boyfriend.  A really great guy this time.  His name is Ron, and he loved me.  He believed in me.  Later, he became my adopted dad.  And let me tell you, I was not an easy kid.  He didn’t have to do that.  He just chose to.  Just out of goodness and liking me for whatever reasons he had.  He was a dad to me.  An amazing guy, who tried his absolute best to give me a refuge and a home.

In Hesperia, we had a neighbor whose son was a couple years older, and about a foot and a half taller, than me.  He saw me coming home with black eyes and bloody noses from school, and he asked me if I wanted to start boxing with him.  It’s only now that I realize he was doing his part, trying to look after me.  At the time, I thought he just wanted a punching bag (well there IS some truth to that Martin, you fucker!), but I was excited to learn how to box.

I was terrible at boxing, and I got hit a lot.  I gave up so much at the beginning.  “We’ll try again tomorrow then” said Martin, laughing, as I cried my way into my house and slammed the front door.  I hated getting hit in the face.  The stars, the blood, the breathlessness… I’d rage every time, forget everything I’d learned, and charge!  And lose.

Me taking the famous elbow of David “The Crow” Loiseau, a man once told he would never walk again, who became famous for winning fights in the UFC with his flying knees.  A world-class fighter.  Also a world-class gentleman.

This went on, day after day.  I never went into his house.  He never came into mine.  We didn’t have a ring.  We just boxed, at least every other day, in my driveway.  If you fell there, you fell on pavement, and then you got up, shut up, and fought again.  If we didn’t box, we played basketball.  Martin won every time.  “Take the ball from me,” he’d say laughing at me, but he’d never let me get it.  He was improving my reaction time, and my agility.

I remember the first time I got hit in the diaphragm.  Getting punched hard in the involuntary muscle which inflates your lungs can stun that muscle, temporarily disabling your breathing.  I was so afraid I was going to die. “Keep your hands up” ridiculed my neighbor with the infinite reach.  So I learned to keep my hands up, to protect my face and body.  Then came the hooks from the side to the temple.  The temporary blindness and shock.  Yelling “I can’t see!” “Move out of the way idiot,” my boxing coach shouted, trying to build a sparring partner who lived next door and could last more than three minutes.  So then I learned to dodge.

Over time, I didn’t get hit as much.  And when I did get hit, it didn’t hurt as much.  I didn’t need to give up as much.  And then I learned how to throw my own punches.  How to knock out the other guy, using weak points and his own exertion against him.  I learned that when the other guy misses a punch, he uses more energy than if he lands it.  I learned that simply moving out of the way can put the other guy’s shoulder out.  I learned how to use my whole body to punch.  I practiced how to gauge the distance between me and my opponent, even though I’m visually impaired.

I took more punches, stumbled more, fell more, failed more, until one day I didn’t need to give up at all.  I learned many valuable life lessons from getting hit. Break me, I’ll heal stronger. Knock me out, I’ll be better at moving out of the way next time. Take my breath away, I’ll let you do it on an exhale and catch you on the chin.  And if you land it, I’ll wait it out and keep my head in the game.  Like a wise fisher waits for rough sea.

I spent a day with George Chuvalo, the legendary boxer who went the distance with Muhammad Ali.  We got along really well until I told him to prove he still had fight in him.

Boxing was good for me, but I never really understood how until much later in life.  I never understood the personal power one can develop from fighting until, at the age of 30, I took up grappling.  Learning Judo has given me so much.  The applications to my daily life and philosophy couldn’t be more clear to me, especially in the ground game.

There is peace and meditation in a tight clinch.  Holding that other person, squeezing the air out, bending a limb to the breaking point… It counter-intuitively quiets my soul.  Brings my being together as a whole.  Connection.  That quiet back and forth between two souls helping each other become better at something through courage, drive, tenacity, and humility.  There is beauty in the precision of nailing a move.  Wisdom in compromising, improvising, waiting it out, using the least energy to achieve the maximum result.  Self-improvement through learning, practicing, and knowing when to abandon external form in order to express your own reality.

The experience is uniquely physical. But it never stops there. The mind, the muscle, the heart and spirit… The entire self follows the improvement of any one facet, and in its own way, matches it.

Thanks to my neighbor Martin, and all of my martial arts teachers and sparring partners through the years, I fought my way out of extreme abuse and injustice.  I fought my way out of being a victim.  I’m no longer afraid to be myself.  I’m not hiding and bleeding in a closet.  I stand my ground when I’m under attack.  I allow my attacker to injure himself (and perhaps facilitate a little).  I try to teach him there’s a better way.  And more importantly, I am willing and able to protect those in need.

These days, I’ve found I’m resting more.  Picking my battles.  Choosing more wisely.  My communication is better.  My victorious nature is clear and obvious to people who encounter me.  I hold my quiet power closer, keep it under wraps until I need it.  I smile and love more.  I do more to fight without fighting.  To end it before it begins.

I do spend a good deal of time in my corner, studying my opponents.  And sometimes I still get beaten.  But now I make it damn hard.

 


BH Compliment Fisher
Byron Hamel is a writer, musician, and award-winning journalist living in Manitoba, Canada.  He sings in the bands “Person” and “Ticklish Brother”, and has a series of dark poetry based on cheesy films called “Movie Poetry”.  Visit moviepoetry.com and download it for FREE!  He also blogs at Trauma Dad.
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25 thoughts on “FIGHTING BACK

  1. Pingback: FIGHTING BACK | My BlogThe Philosopher's blog.

      • my pleasure. Sadly, the more “civilized” we get, the crueler and more barbaric we seem to drift as a world. Anyone that denies the existence of an Evil influence, needs to really look at history and live in just a few of the places I’ve lived in around this imperfect planet. You have to be a little” crazy” to survive nowadays, so mental illness comes in handy on occasion. (at least for this old Marine, a four legged cane and the homeless bearded Grizzly Adams look a like, only shorter). I was a runt in school, but red head and hair trigger temper kept most bullies at bay. (having a Dad whose arms looked like electric poles also greatly reduced the numbers of “suicidal bullies”) I survived Vietnam purely on instinct and street training. And having great distance vision, bred into me through years of putting meat on the table for many mouths and only a single shot 22 caliber rifle. I remember when I discovered hollow points. I understand bullies, I have no patience, tolerance, nor sympathy. Everyone makes choices and must learn choices have consequences. I’m not a counselor nor priest, not qualified for either, but sometimes I am the consequence and I can live with that.

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        • Read you loud and clear brother, and I thank you for your service. I respect that. People get a little silly about that kind of goodness, but I’m a firm believer that sometimes the right thing to do is to prevent evil from taking hold at any cost. If that means fighting fire with fire, then so be it. It is absolutely essential to exercise great judgement in these matters, and be able to separate situations where violence is necessary and good from situations where violence is more harmful. I’m sure you learned that level of respobsibility as a Marine. Caring for others is important and careful business. Much love.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Raising 6 Sisters, and later my own Clan of Kids, bio and adopted, aided me in making the best decisions at the times. When I was a young recruit, I would second guess myself until an old Marine told me that was a total waste of time and oxygen. Survival was choosing the means for me to take care of my family for another day, week, month, years and so on. As long as I made my decisions not out of hate or greed, suck it up and live with it. In five minutes in a war zone, they’ll be another one to make, no time to look back or worry, LIVE and survive.

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  2. *punches the air* This is AWESOME. And what I want to learn – to have the power and ability to fight, but the clear head to diffuse situations and to not need to, rather than dropping straight off the edge into rage and lashing out. I’ll keep trying.

    GREAT writing. Thanks.

    And thanks Hasty, for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I had to watch Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon” many times before I learned what he called “the art of fighting without fighting”. It works in real life. You can utterly destroy the entire essence of an enemy with a kind act, or you can trap them in their own ignorance while you make for the hills. You can change them with love and also education. In some cases, this is all impossible, and there is only one way to diffuse the situation in order to protect a person or oneself. But for the most, it is best to choose a path achieving the maximum result using minimum effort.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I need to learn that kind of thing. I don’t really watch movies, but I got invited to maybe join the territorial army today, so we’ll see how that goes. And my boxing gym want me to train to be an instructor, so that’s pretty cool, too 🙂

        Think there’s something more ‘inner calm’ about judo though. I’ve never tried it.

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        • That’s awesome about both the territorial army and the boxing. We had some great women in my last dojo who I really enjoyed fighting. There was of course restraint, as there always is when practicing with sparring partners, but sometimes I don’t think that would have mattered, and I’d have my ass handed to me regardless of my “rip people in half” strength, which is never used in a dojo.

          Judo, the “gentle way”, is a wonderful way to practice falling on your own terms, to come to understand the instinct of not being caught by an opponent, and also how to use an attack against itself. It was developed as a sport for the Olympics, so there is also very little chance of getting injured during practice, provided you condition and maintain your instincts surrounding falling when thrown. I highly recommend it, or Aikido might be better for you, as you have some military interests, and it doesn’t shy away from some of the more dangerous moves, as the sport of Judo does.

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          • I’ve heard of Akikido before and I can keep a look out. A lot of my problem is that I’m very inflexible, and I don’t know if that’s something which could change. I suppose it would just take a LOT more effort than I’m currently putting in.

            My instincts could do with curbing, though. If I get frustrated or angry I have a nasty tendency to go from 0-attack mode pretty quickly. And I could relate to your stubbornness, where you said you stood in the scalding hot shower until it ran cold, and just glared. I get that.

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            • Absolutely you can change flexibility! Slow and steady over time and in small ways. The one big thing to know if you’re tight in the groin (haha that probably sounds super personal to non-fighters), is that you need to increase your flexibility front to back, rather than side to side. So work your stretching forward and back with the groin more than out to the sides. The sides will follow later, and they’re important, because the inner thigh is a huge weak point. Yoga is super good too, and is in fact incorporated now in a lot of dojos during warm-up. When I taught kids, I did the basic movements, and followed with very minor yogic stretching before moving into cardio.

              Once we know technique, it’s fairly useless unless we get back to instinct. Going from zero to attack mode is wonderful. I mean, I live with complex PTSD, so it’s not always great, but one of the great things about it is my amazing reflexes. I see you like to find the bright side. Well there’s one of mine! More about that here of your interested: http://traumadad.blogspot.ca/2014/02/reflex.html

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  3. Thank you so much! I had to watch Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon” many times before I learned what he called “the art of fighting without fighting”. It works in real life. You can utterly destroy the entire essence of an enemy with a kind act, or you can trap them in their own ignorance while you make for the hills. You can change them with love and also education. In some cases, this is all impossible, and there is only one way to diffuse the situation in order to protect a person or oneself. But for the most, it is best to choose a path achieving the maximum result using minimum effort.

    Like

  4. This is beautiful: “Connection. That quiet back and forth between two souls helping each other become better at something through courage, drive, tenacity, and humility.” There is indeed something very poetic about that shared rhythm, that mutual push toward something better. Makes me miss my own martial arts days. And this: “I smile and love more. I do more to fight without fighting. To end it before it begins.” Just YES to all of that. That is the payoff of all the blood, sweat, and tears. I wish you peace and strength, friend.

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    • Wow Lisa. Thank you for really getting it. You made me feel the writing more than I actually have before. It’s amazing what our writing can teach back to us. You have a gift for clarity. I wish peace and strength to you as well. 🙂

      Like

  5. Pingback: I AM A KILLER | hastywords

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