Fight Night

My son got in a fight the other night.  No, it’s okay, he was supposed to; he’s a fighter.  He wanted to play football, but my wife and I thought that was too dangerous, so we pointed him in the direction of getting punched and kicked in the face.

Anyway, he has done karate tournaments for a couple years, but this was way different.  He was kickboxing.  There was an actual ring with ropes and a bell and rounds and someone in his corner coaching him and holding a spit bucket.  It was so cool!  He even got to choose entrance music to come out to (he got pumped up to some Fall Out Boy)!

Being that he’s a minor, I had to fill out the forms for him and I saw that there was a space for his name and then a separate space for his “ring name.”  And that’s when temptation struck…

You can’t give me opportunities like that!  I have an undying struggle between my inner child and my outer adult – do I be a good father or do I giggle as the ring announcer introduces “The Flying Buttress” or “The Rabid Gerbil” or “Ginger McSugarbritches” to the crowd?!!  Eventually, I came to my senses and remembered my wife was with me and I’m afraid of her.  I left his “ring name” blank.

My son has been training for about three years and he has been sparring for the majority of that time as part of his routine.  In the school he attends, the sparring classes include people from all different levels and ages – it is not uncommon to see a 4-year-old training with someone in their 30s.  The adults enjoy teaching the younger ones almost as much as the kids like squaring off against the “old folks.”  My son has learned so much from the teens and adults and they have given him a lot of positive role models to look up to and, in turn, he has started to be that kind of role model for the little ones.  And, through it all, I’ve watched him grow up in this amazing environment with the other proud parents in the waiting room.  But, as was the case with his “ring name,” I have that undying little voice in the back of my head telling me to make bad decisions.  Most people have that little voice and it’s their conscience…mine’s defective.  Most of the parents that I sat with watch their children with pride and some concern about them being safe.  I sat there and kept thinking, I can do that.

My son and his sensei (who has been a friend of mine for many years) and a few other adults from his group who I had befriended over the years, kept trying to talk me into starting classes and I finally broke down and joined them about a year ago.  I haven’t done much sparring.  But, the night before my son’s fight, the ring was set up, I had a bunch of training hours under my belt, so I thought, What the hell?  Let’s do this!

The way these sparring classes work is everyone spars with everyone a few times throughout the 90-minute class.  So I looked around the room- it was a small class that night.  Remember the little kids I talked about? Yeah, they weren’t there.  Remember all those adults I talked about? Yeah, they weren’t there either.  The entire class was made up of six people ranging in age from 11-19…and me.  It was still an all-levels class which was made up of a couple orange belts, a couple getting ready to move up to orange belts, a purple belt, a black belt…and me.

Now, not to toot my own horn, but in the regular classes, I can do some good work on the pads and the heavy bags.  Those stationary targets beg for mercy!  But this sparring thing is totally unfair – did you know that your target is allowed to move AND hit back?!!  How the hell do I compete with that?!!

But at least I didn’t have to worry about the three 2-minute rounds my son had to endure during his fight.  Each sparring bout lasts about a minute.  A minute!  60 little seconds!  How bad could that be?  I can definitely handle a minute.

No.  No I can’t.

I was pretty awesome for a solid ten to fifteen seconds.  Or until I threw my first punch or kick, whichever came first.  After that I was just rotating in the middle of the ring sucking air and trying not to throw up.  The older ones moved lightning fast and I just kept swinging at open air where they were standing a second before.  The young ones just pounced on me like rabid little woodland creatures.  I’ve never laid a hand on a child in anger – but this was survival.  I was flailing at them like one of those funky dancing windsock guys outside a car wash!

And then came the black belt.  I stepped in the ring with him and for the first time in my life, that little voice in the back of my head – the one who thought it would be funny to ask my newly pregnant wife if the baby was mine, the one who thought it was a good idea to demolish the living room, the one that thought Kleenex and fire were friends, the one who said I can do this in the first place – whispered, Screw it!  This was a bad idea!  But that little guy was a wee bit too late because we had already bowed and touched gloves and now it was time to survive.  I tried my hardest (for ten to fifteen seconds) to take the offensive approach – didn’t work.  So I held back a bit (hoping to catch my breath and suppress the strong urge to cry for help) and waited for him to attack.  Then came the epiphany – I remembered all my training: step back, block, counter punch.  That little voice was wrong – this was NOT a bad idea, this is exactly what I’ve been training for, I just needed to trust my instincts.

He quickly slid toward me (step back).  He sent a kick toward my chest (block).  I saw a space on his torso where he wasn’t protecting (counter…) – FWAM!

For the life of me, I still have no idea how the same leg I had just blocked from my chest circled around and clocked me in the back of the head!  I was just about to ask him (yes, the thought crossed my mind, during the match, to ask him how he did that) when his fists started drumming on my forehead.

So I was definitely not an inspirational story like Karate Kid (more like the first half of Kung Fu Panda) but my opponent did manage to knock that little voice out cold for a while.

“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.” ~ Muhammad Ali 

With Friends Like These…

We all have that one group of friends who have been with you since you were a kid.  The ones who have stuck with you through everything.  The ones who you have grown up with for so long that you don’t remember a time when they weren’t a part of your life.  The ones that, when you’re with them, always did something stupid.

There were three guys I always hung out with throughout high school and we were always coming up with ideas to keep us entertained and if we didn’t…we just beat the hell out of each other.  Like typical teenage boys, we watched professional wrestling religiously!  We watched a couple different shows every week, we called each other when something cool happened, we ordered all the Pay-Per-Views and watched them together, and, of course, we beat the hell out of each other whenever we got together.  We challenged each other to see if we could escape some painful submission move or to see if we could pin each other down for the three count. One of my friends had a finished basement and another had a bedroom over his garage – these two were the best places for our shenanigans because it was harder for parents to hear the debauchery ensuing under their roofs.  My house didn’t have a lot of battle space.  Not that we didn’t engage in a bout…or fifty…at my place, we just did so and freaked my parents out more (both of my parents have high blood pressure now, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a coincidence).  I remember one epic evening when we had ordered a Pay-Per-View special event in which there was to be a main event where the two be-mulleted, speedo-ed gladiators were to face each other in battle for a solid hour; whoever had the most pins or got their opponent to submit the most within that hour would be declared the winner. Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong with the broadcast and it was blacked out.  Well, when life gives you lemons…beat your friends with them!  We moved Mom’s coffee table and decided we would have a four-man, 60-minute battle!  I remember hearing my mother say (a few times), “Be careful.  I don’t want anyone getting hurt!”

That woman is a prophet.

I don’t remember who was the champion (although one of the guys was a head taller and fifty pounds heavier than the rest of us and had a granite physique from swimming a couple miles a day – so I think my money is on him) but I know we all ended up in pretty bad shape.  Lots of bumps, bruises, brush burns, and fat lips.  My mom was not too pleased when she went to the grocery store (where, of course, all four of us worked) and saw one of my friends in the produce department and realized, he no longer had the ability to move his head (he pulled a muscle out of his neck and his head was cocked to the side for a couple days – Mom wasn’t amused – we thought it was freaking hilarious).

We didn’t always battle each other, though.  We also had an affinity for making movies with my parents’ camcorder.  But we didn’t want to make boring stuff, so we began to worry my parents by falling down the stairs, kicking open doors, and once jumping fully clothed into the lake.  I think it was around the time my father came home and found one of my friends dressed in my mother’s clothes that they decided to stop complaining when we busied ourselves by beating each other up.

Now the years have passed.  We’re all married.  We have eight children between us with two more on the way.  We have gained a lot of weight and lost a lot of hair.  But some things never change…

After I had my health scare that sent me to the hospital for a few days, I started paying more attention to my health.  I lost a lot of weight and I decided I wanted to take up a physical activity to keep building up my strength so I started going to karate with my older son.  He left his kid’s class and joined his dojo’s all-ages, all-levels class with me.  After I had been doing it for about 9 months, I got a call from one of my friends.  He wanted to get back in shape too and wanted to know if he should join the class with me…

So here we are.  Almost a quarter of a century later.  Flipping each other onto the ground. Slapping on a chokehold.  Trying to get each other to tap out from a shoulder or leg lock. We’re grunting, groaning, sweating, and taking a lot longer to stand back up than we used to, but we’re still laughing the whole time because, deep down, we’re still those stupid boys who just need to satisfy that insatiable yearning to open up a can of Whoop-Ass on their friends.

Our wives are so proud.

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Bum Knee is Better Than a Kneed Bum

I am hurting today!  I had a really awesome karate class yesterday with hip tosses and flipping your opponent.  SO COOL!  But, today I am paying the price.  My knees are killing me!  Of course, I have earned every bit of this knee pain over the years through gross amounts of stupidity.

It all started back in high school; back when I started having a life outside of my normal activities with my family.  Before I left the house my father’s famous advice for me was, “Don’t get stupid.”  Most nights I would come back in time for curfew and I could walk by my father with my head held high, confident that I had a stupidity-free night.  Other nights, though, I went and got stupid.

One night in particular I got stupid enough to experience a whole new world of pain.  It was at a dance and, incidentally, a first date (boy, would I impress her).  First of all, I cannot dance.  Furthermore, I do not like to dance.  Not my thing.  I mean, I can slow dance decently, but anything upbeat that takes any sort of rhythm – no thanks.  But, this was a high school dance in the 90’s and we had a DJ who had a thing for the Spice Girls and the Macarena and Cotton Eyed Joe and the dances were pretty upbeat most of the time.  Yippee.  Now, just like any high school kid, I had a circle of friends and this circle of friends brought the dumb out of each other.  One of the less-than-wise things we frequently did was to jump up into each other’s arms (like a groom carrying his bride across the threshold).  I don’t know why!  It seemed pretty harmless at the time, but I soon learned that this was an example of what my father warned me about.  My friend jumped and I caught him, then something went wrong.  Allow me to illustrate with letters: my left leg should have been like an “I” when I caught him, but for some reason it was pointed out like a “/” and when both of our full weights landed on it, it made my knee look like “>” and I said, “*&$#!”  I knew right away that my knee was dislocated.

It popped back in before the doctors at the hospital could see it.  So they braced me up, gave me some ibuprofen, patted me on the head, and sent me home (okay, so there were no head pats, but wouldn’t it be nice if that was part of the treatment?) to rest my leg for a while.  The real bummer was, from time to time, that knee would randomly pop out of place and I would be braced up again.  It was still giving me problems in college – it popped out once and I had to drive myself to the medical center (it was a real hoot trying to drive a stick shift with one leg that wasn’t entirely attached the way it should have been) where the campus doctor/nurse/shaman squeezed it (ouch), told me it was dislocated, gave me Tylenol, patted me on the head, and sent me back to my dorm.

Over the years, I learned how to put it back in place myself – yeah, I know, I know, another example of “getting stupid.”  But, in my defense, the first stupid is what wrecked my knee, the second stupid fixed it.  Therefore, two stupids make a smart.  It wasn’t a frequent problem though; it slipped a bit occasionally, but nothing too concerning.

And then came my wedding day…

As stated above, I don’t dance.  I dislike it.  Not my thing.  But it is my wife’s thing and it was our wedding and I was determined to make the most out of every second of that special day (tune in tomorrow for the rest of that tale) and if my wife wanted to dance then, by golly, I would dance.  And I danced with my wife to our song, and I danced with my mom, and I danced with tons of guests for the dollar dance, and, yes, I even danced to the fast stuff and our DJ played all the typical wedding stuff.  For a while, I was actually starting to forget how much I disliked dancing as I busted out my best ChaCha Slide moves…in treadless tuxedo shoes…on a hardwood floor.  The good news is I only slipped with one leg, the bad news is the leg that stayed in place looked like a “<” and the worst news of all…it was the other leg.

That’s it.  No more dancing.  Karate and bodyslams, sure.  But, dancing?  No.  My dad told me not to “get stupid!”

“The Rolling Stones set the bar to where I look to as a band.  But I don’t envision myself touring in the way they do.  My knees won’t hold out.” ~ Jon Bon Jovi

Feel the Burn

I’m not fat.  I can’t be.  All my life I’ve been told that, so it must be true.  Oh sure, I’m something, but it’s not fat.  When I went shopping for school clothes as a child, Mom took me into the “husky boys” section. That went well in school; when other kids (who were wicked jealous of my pleated pants) called me “fat,” I quickly fired back, “I’m not fat, I’m husky.”  That promptly earned me a husky lip.

So, I’m not fat!  I’m husky, or overweight, or plump, or big boned, or extra-healthy, or horizontally tall – I’m anything but fat!  I am dedicating a lot more time and effort to my health lately – not too long ago I had quite the health scare.  I’d tell you about it now, but I could probably stretch that into a couple more blog posts, so you’ll have to wait.  I’m eating much healthier and I recently began working on my black belt in karate; true I’m a white belt, but technically I’m working on my black belt (journey of a thousand miles and whatnot).  However, up until my near death experience (see how I keep making that future blog post sound more enticing?  I’m keeping y’all hooked!) my dietary regiments were pretty much all the same – I’ll live off of Triscuits and air for about a day and half, hit the treadmill once for an obscene amount of time, then treat myself to a carton of Crisco and my favorite spoon.

There was one time in my life when I was in awesome shape – my freshman year of college – right after my super-powered high school metabolism was still engaged and I got in beastly shape to portray a very physical role on stage.  I was eating protein like I had a personal vendetta against all farm animals and I was hitting the gym daily.  I was well on my way to defined abs (not a six-pack, but I had that super sweet line cut down the middle…a two-pack?) and my legs were made of iron; I even won a bet with my buddies when I put up 800 pounds on the leg press…sure I screamed like a 3-year-old girl being chased by a shark and I couldn’t walk for 2 days, but I got twenty bucks so who’s laughing now?!  BOOYAH!

Fast forward to my college graduation and my two-pack turned notoriously B.I.G. (see what I did there?) after my metabolism and I started a relationship akin to that of the Miley Cyrus and virginity.  If there was one thing I learned from being husky, to being in shape, then to being not-fat again is this: Mother Nature is the best friend you can have – if she’s not with you, getting is shape is going to suck!  You hear all these fit folks telling people how important it is to be healthy – “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” – shut up!  I just fell off the treadmill and I’m a second away from eating you!  The first dude who won “Biggest Loser” dropped over a hundred pounds and then he springboarded right back to where he started!  You know why?  Because just about EVERYTHING tastes better than rice cakes!  He WAS thinner, so he knows how good it feels, and he probably would tell you that nothing tastes good enough to replace that feeling except HIS MOUTH IS FULL!  I’m sure being thin feels great, but getting there sucks like a Hoover vacuum factory!  Health food tastes horrible and exercise does not feel good.  Eating and comfort = bad and gagging and pain = good?  What kind of messed up math is that?!!  And the math is only one-third of the problem with fitness.

Besides the food and the exercise, the math of non-fatness makes no sense at all.  If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less.  But if you eat too much less your body will rebel and you will actually gain weight.  Wait, what?  My body is rejecting being healthy?  It doesn’t WANT me to do this?  I’m mutinying MYSELF?  If you want to lose weight make sure you don’t gain too much muscle because that weighs more than fat.  So if I want to weigh less I need to be more fatty and less muscular?  Isn’t that what I was trying to do originally? “I can’t lose the last 5, 10, 20 pounds because my body has plateaued.  It just got used to what I was doing so I need to push harder.” Hold the phone!  You spent 30 years conforming to your couch and shoveling chips into your head and after 6 months of eating right and working out, your body has gotten used to it?!!  And now you have to eat healthierER and work out moreER?  So your original healthy eating and exercise is your body’s new unhealthy norm?  How busted are you?  Why am I working so hard to go against what my body wants to do naturally?  Everything that the experts say to do gets answered, in one way or another by my body with an, “Oh yeah?  That’s what you think!”  Just because your scale is weeping less every time you step on it does not mean you are looking any better.  Back to the “Biggest Loser” folks – check out those big dudes who are dropping 15-20 pounds a week!  Yeah, sure, their hearts are getting stronger and their blood work will earn them an “Atta boy” from their doctor and a Muppets bandaid on the way out the door.  But their body looks like it’s melting!  Their fat kept everything in place and now their nipples are tucked in their pockets!  How is THAT better?  With their ta-tas hanging down to their stomachs and their navel stretching out, their torso is resembling the mask the killer wore in Scream and their gut looks just as awestruck as the rest of us staring at the Michelin Man doing an end zone dance and crying in his wheat germ because he’s back to using the factory installed holes on his belt!

Wheat germ?  Sounds like something that gives farmers the flu!  Why do the fitness folks tell us, “Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce” but then give us choices of foods we’ve never heard of before?  Have you ever eaten a slice of Ezekiel bread?  I have – although eaten is a misnomer because it gives you the impression that the bread has made it down my throat – and let me tell you, it was an experience.  If I made a sandwich with white bread, I would be consuming multidextrose.  A) I can pronounce MUL-TI-DEX-TROSE and B) being a literate person, I can break the word down and engage my prior knowledge to know that the “trose” has something to do with sugar.  However, Ezekiel bread contains Organically Sprouted Millets.  WHAT THE HELL IS A MILLET?!!  Is that like a small mullet?  It also contains “fresh yeast” – well that’s a relief.  Because you know what happens when yeast becomes NOT fresh, right?  IT MAKES BREAD!  My breakfast included Ezekiel’s multigrain formula, but it also comes in a HEMP variety!  Like WEED!  Like gives you the munchies and causes you to eat more bread!  What a racket.  Every time I hear the name Ezekiel, I automatically think about Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction quoting the Bible verse.  Which is fitting because I kept hoping he would walking in and “lay his vengeance upon me” and bust a cap in me to save me from consuming any more bread!  This Ezekiel bread company has done just about as much good for the Bible as the Westboro Baptist Church.  No kind and loving God had a hand in creating this bread – this is the work of the Devil if I’ve ever seen it!  Charlie Daniels needs to update his song:

The Devil went down to Georgia
And he was looking to make some bread
It’s gonna look real old and taste like mold
And be heavier than lead.
[fiddle solo]

That brings us to exercise.  The only people who enjoy exercise are pathological liars.  People enjoy the RESULTS of exercise, sure…but the process?  My friend put it best, “I have come to this realization – Working out is stupid. It doesn’t make you feel better (just the opposite), and very unlike other things that are enjoyable, I want the session to be over the second I start. You know what feels good, workout freaks? Doughnuts – Preferably from Tim Horton’s, still warm, and covered in chocolate goodness.”  I agree!  Exercise ALWAYS seems like a great idea UNTIL you actually start doing it!  I’m all gung-ho to hit the treadmill for a solid hour until I’ve been walking for about a minute and a half.  I’ve learned that I hate sweating.  I’ve learned no amount of prayer can bend time and make the treadmill clock move faster.  I’ve learned that having blisters would have made Cary Elwes’ character’s decision to hack off his own foot in Saw much easier.  I’ve learned that no matter how much it feels otherwise, I don’t think my heart will actually explode, it will just make me keep wishing for a visit from Samuel L. Jackson.  I’ve learned that exercising until a man’s body is attractive to women will back fire once they approach and find out the top half now smells much like the bottom half.  Most of all, I’ve learned that all of the people who are older than me who say, “back in the day” no one needed to exercise because they HAD to walk everywhere are full of it.  That doesn’t make you profound, it makes you old!  Telling me that “back in the day” people spent more time outside instead of rotting behind their computers typing about nothing important doesn’t…okay, you might have something there.  I’m off to hit the gym, cry in the shower, and then order some Buffalo wings.

“I tried every diet in the book.  I tried some that weren’t in the book.  I tried eating the book.  It tasted better than most of the diets.” ~ Dolly Parton