I Miss Fighting

Second heat of the 2008 combatives tournament, winning my Pankrates fight by TKO.
Second heat of the 2009 Fort Riley combatives tournament, winning my Pankrates fight by TKO.

I sometimes think that fighting is really one of those things that either you get it, or you don’t. Most people don’t. Some people just love fighting. They are mostly people with a high inborn level of badassitude, for whom a physical struggle is actually fun. It is more than fun, it is deeply fulfilling. They feel alive and energized and on fire.

Most people aren’t like that. Most people hate fighting.

I will let you in an a secret. So do I.

Fighting is hard. Physically it is exhausting to an unbelievable extent. In fact, the only thing I have done more physically draining is rock climbing, for the simple reason that I am more afraid of heights than I am of fighting, and therefore I clench harder.

But yeah, I am afraid of fighting. I always have been. The last scene from the Korean movie “Fighter in the Wind” has always resonated with me. I am afraid of losing. I am afraid of not knowing what to do. I am afraid of freezing under the stress and looking like an idiot. I am even a little afraid of getting my head pounded in, (although that actually doesn’t really hurt while it’s happening).

Looking back at all the martial arts training I have done I realize that it is kind of a microcosm of my entire adult life. It is a bit… neurotic, almost?… How much of my life I have spent doing things that I hated doing and was terrified of. I humped out of airplanes, literally forcing myself one step at a time towards the door, visualizing a swimming pool outside the aircraft door (which doesn’t actually work, by the way, I still see the ground). I force myself out knowing that even after that sickening drop, and the catch of the opening shock, and that initial, “Whoosh” moment, I still have the even worse fear of landing.

I climb rocks, even though I could almost puke from fear the entire way up. That fear actually goes away after a while, leaving behind a pleasant exhilaration. I was terrified of the sleep deprivation and starvation and physical hardship of the Q course, and yet I forced myself through that. I was afraid of the competition, the endless peer and cadre evaluations, the constant judgment from everyone asking “Do you measure up? We assume that you don’t. Prove us wrong.”

You have no idea how stressful that can be.
You have no idea how stressful that can be.

The urban assault course was miserable. An entire month of high stress shooting from flat range to room clearing, firing live rounds inside closed rooms with my buddies. Constantly being watched, being judged every second of every day. Worrying that I won’t pick up the skills fast enough, that I will make a mistake and be out of position and get the air horn called (no one wants to be that guy), or worse that I will turn the wrong way or make the wrong split-second decision and shoot a non-threat target. Or another guy on the team. That was a miserable month.

Heck, I am afraid every time I go to the gym and I know that I have a gut-wrenching workout ahead of me (Wednesdays are the worst). When I set myself a goal for that workout, simultaneously I feel that sinking feeling of, “Oh hell, this is going to suck.” That never changes. I feel it every. single. time.

And yet I go to the gym. I went through the Q course. I passed the mountain course. I passed Airborne school, I passed the company’s Urban Assault course. I trained at Martial Arts and I fought in tournaments.

I am the guy throwing the kick. I lost this fight to split decision after three rounds.
I am the guy throwing the kick. I lost this fight to split decision after three rounds.

Why did I do that?

I don’t know. Just to see if I could? Maybe because I was more afraid of being afraid than of any of the particular things I am afraid of? I have always had this feeling that to be afraid of something is to be weak. That fear is a weakness which must be faced and beaten. Because otherwise the commies win, if that makes sense?

To live in fear is to live a diminished life, and that seems to me worse than dying, or falling from a cliff, or getting beaten up, or even making a mistake and shooting the wrong person. I cannot agree with those who think that it is better to be safe than sorry, the more because that is my natural inclination. I naturally want to stay at home, eat pizza, play video games and never take the risk of failing. But, thanks be to God, I was taught early on to recognize that that is actually a fate worse than death, because it is a sort of living death. So I said, “Screw it, I guess we’re doing it live,” and I went.

Not only that, but I actually miss it. Life is too easy when I am not forcing myself through the suck on a regular basis. Life without fear is boring. Preferring entertainment and rest to action and growth is boring. Kathleen will tell you, if life gets too easy for more than a day, I become a very cranky person.

I think my next challenge is going to be fulfilling a childhood dream of mine, and learning to fight with the German Longsword.

Hopefully that and the ongoing spiritual warfare will tide me over until I have my PA license and can start looking for an interesting job.

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