Life is simpler with a sword in hand
Because the sword is simple
Focused
Tapered
Narrowed.
And when I drive it home
Legion molecules of steel
Forged and forced into ordered
Patterns of interwoven strength
By the heat and the hammer and the heart
Of the blacksmith (with burly arms
And a poet’s eye
Visionary,
A technician’s eye
Critical,
A boy’s eye
Still young enough to believe in heroes)
Drive fiercely behind the
One
Single
Mathematical
Point,
Which is my intention.

Hate has no place in a warrior
Only love can forge a worthy blade.
At such moments my body
Takes on the nature of the sword.
And I imagine my mind too is focused
Simple
Quiet
At peace.

I always come home from the mission,
The deployment,
Or the war,
The office,
The gym,
Or the dojo.
Sweatstained,
Weary,
Bruised,
I eat an apple and shower
And sit next to the crib
To watch my baby breathe
And all of me reaches out to touch her
On the forehead
With one fingertip
Lighter than a butterfly
Moistened with a kiss.

I slide into bed next to my wife
And I reach out to take her hand
And all my body and soul
Reaches
Searches
Touches
And loves with the same totality.
All of me.

famous-quotes-51307-statusmind-comSo much in life revolves around being good at the basics.

In Special Forces we are supposed to be good at a whole bunch of different things, from shooting to speaking foreign languages to doing surgery (for medics, anyway). I think a lot of the time we fall into the trap of thinking that because we are high speed and “special” we only need to work on the high speed and “special” skills. Guys would rather practice surgery than tourniquets. We would rather do live fire room clearing than boring patrolling or dry fire on the flat range. We would rather get jacked and tan in the gym than get cold and hungry in the mountains.

It’s human nature, I suppose. We like variety, and we despise regularity. But the best Special Forces guys I have ever met weren’t the ones with the most high-speed schools, or fancy gear or custom weapon accoutrements. They were the ones who practiced the basics regularly. They say, “We aren’t special because we do advanced techniques. We are special because we do the basic things better than anyone else.”

This is the approach I have tried to embrace more and more as I have gotten older, and (I hope) wiser. I have drawn back from trying constantly to learn new and different skills, and have started to apply myself to refining and deepening the ones I already have.

The key to this is regularity. I did the math, and found that if you do something thirty-three times a day, monday through saturday, for a full year, at the end of that year you will have done that thing 10,000 times. That is not a bad foundation for mastery of that skill, but it requires discipline, and time management. You have to order your day to enable you to practice that thing.

For instance, if you want to master a punch or a kick, then you might hang a punching bag in your garage so that you have to pass it on your way to your car. Then, when you get home from work, before you go inside the house, practice that punch 33 times.

In order for this to work, however, you really have to practice that thing. It is not enough just to go through the motion. Every repetition needs to be intentional, done with the perfect form and utmost intensity that you want to be present if you ever throw that punch for real.

People say, “Practice makes perfect” but fighters are more likely to say, “Practice makes permanent.” Practice simply ingrains synaptic pathways and hence their corresponding motor patterns. Sloppy practice will ingrain sloppy patterns. Efficient practice will ingrain efficient patterns.

This works for far more than just physical skills. Do you want to become better at memorizing poetry? Memorize a line or two of poetry every day.  Do you want to learn a language? Get yourself a quizlet app and study 10 words per day.

Pick something that you want to be good at. Anything. It doesn’t matter what. Break it down into its most basic components, and make it a priority to practice that thing every day, with intention and purpose and the best technical form you can muster.  At the end of the year you will be amazed at how much you have improved.

 

 

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.

*Warning: This story describes an offensive event, and so language and
situations may be offensive to some and are not intended for young
children.

Part I is here. Part II is here.

Budo 101, Continued:
Jack was left sitting in his chair, staring at the principle’s desk, trying not to make eye contact. So that was her dad? No wonder she went berserk. Shit! That’s a dude who means business!
Mr. Merckle, sat in silence for about thirty seconds. Then he looked up at Jack. “Go back out in the office and wait for your parent to get here. Ms. Hagg has your suspension letter.”
Ashley and her dad were still out there. Dan was talking with Ms. Hagg, who was smiling at him like a middle-aged fan girl. “Yeah, I think I probably did enjoy that a little too much, but you know, it’s just wrong, and something needs to be done. I’m not sure what, but Sharon and I are going to think about it.”
Ashley noticed Jack and looked away from him. Whatever, bitch. It was just a joke. Just wait until I see Deek again, Jack thought. I’m going to… But he knew he was going to do nothing. He was going to play it off as no big deal and go right back to being Deek’s minion just like he always did.
Dan turned and saw him. Oh shit! Jack slouched into his chair and whipped out his phone.
“Ashley, here are the keys, I’m parked out by Evergreen Street. I’ll be along in a minute.”
“Okay, dad. I’ve got to grab my stuff from my locker.”
“Okay, baby.”
Dan walked over and sat down in a chair one seat over from Jack.
When he didn’t say anything, Jack glanced up at him. He was just sitting there, scratching his five-o-clock shadow, staring at him with a musing expression.
“Look,” Jack said, “If you’re going to give me the speech about ‘stay away from my daughter or else,’ save it. I swear I’m not interested in her at all. It was just a stupid joke.”
“Oh I know,” Dan said. “I know it was a joke, and I believe that it wasn’t your idea.”
“My buddy dared me. He wouldn’t let up until I did it.”
“Sounds like a great friend,” Dan said with unconcealed irony.
Screw you, man, Jack thought. What do you know about high school? Back when you went it was a one-roomed schoolhouse probably.
“So are you tired of it?” Dan asked.
“Tired of what?”
“Being a punk.”
Jack stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. “I’m not a punk.” Why was this guy even talking to him?
“Well, I don’t know what else to call you. I don’t think you’re a bad kid, and I sure as hell know you’re not a good man, because a good man knows when to tell his ‘friend’ to go to hell. A good man doesn’t grope teenage girls. You’re not bad, you’re just a punk. I know. I was a punk when I was your age.”
“Gah!” Jack rolled his eyes. “What do you want from me? I’m just a kid! I won’t do it again, okay, can you just leave me alone?”
“Oh believe me, I know you won’t do it again. Everyone in this school knows that you have wandering hands, and you got beat by a girl.”
“She didn’t beat me,” Jack yelled. He stood up and punched the wall. Dan’s expression did not even flicker. “She got lucky, she surprised me, and I don’t hit girls.”
“I know that. Dude, I know she wouldn’t beat you in a fair fight, and she knows it too. She fought like I taught her to, just hard enough and long enough to get away without getting decisively engaged. She did the right thing. You could too, you know.”
Dan stood up. Up close and personal Jack saw that he was not quite as tall as he looked from a distance, he just stood like he towered over everyone, so people thought he did.
“I want to give you this,” Dan handed him a business card. On one side was the name, “Five Senseis’ Shotokan Karate” and an address. On the other side was a picture of a fist covered by an open hand and the words, “Admit one for Budo 101.”
“What is it?”
“It’s an invitation.”
“To your karate school?”
“Well it technically isn’t my dojo. My friend Tanner Sensei owns it, I just help teach some evenings and weekends.”
“So you want me to learn karate?”
“No, this is a special class. Budo 101 is a special six-month program that I developed with Tanner Sensei, for teenage guys such as yourself. It is invitation only, or judge’s order.”
“Judge’s order?”
“We have an arrangement with the county courthouse. It is an option for first time juvenile offenders who are given probation.”
“Do I look like a fucking juvie?” he threw the card on the ground.
Dan very mildly crouched down, without taking his eyes off of Jack, and picked it up. “No, you’re not a juvie. And I want to keep it that way. Only about half of our students are juvies, the rest are referred by school counselors, parents, pastors, that sort of thing. I think you would benefit by it, so I am inviting you, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” He handed the card back.
Jack thought about not taking it, but something about the older man’s straightforward demeanor made him stretch out his hand. Dan was not yelling at him or cussing him out. He didn’t even seem mad anymore. Jack looked the card over again. “How much does it cost?”
“It’s free.”
“Yeah right.”
“No, seriously. I am a dentist and my wife is a child psychologist. We don’t need the money. But free does not mean that it is cheap. It is invitation only, but it takes a serious commitment. You show up six nights a week for six months. If you miss a night you apologize to the entire class and make it up on Saturday. If you miss two, you are done.”
Jack scoffed. “And if I come? You’ll teach me, what? How to fight?”
“Among other things, yes. You will learn how to treat people with respect, for starters, how to be somewhere on time, and in the right uniform. How to let a boss know if something comes up and you can’t make it. You will push yourself mentally and physically. If you make it to the end you will learn how to relate to women in a way that is based on real life and not on porn videos. You’ll learn how to pick friends, how to stand up to your friends, and yes, a basic level of how to defend yourself or others against physical attack.”
“Basic level?”
Dan smiled and shook his head. “If you make it all the way through, you get a green belt in Shotokan karate and are eligible to join the intermediate class if you want, but there is no obligation. Some stay, and some kids who get through Budo 101 are glad to be done with us.”
“So green belt is…”
“It usually takes students a year and a half to two years as a white belt to earn their green belt, but that’s because most only come once or twice a week.”
Jack was silent. This was crazy. This guy had just called him a sexual predator and now he was offering to teach him freakin’ karate. “What’s in it for you.”
Dan shrugged. “Well, I’d tell you not a damn thing, but you wouldn’t believe me. Think it over. When you get tired of being pushed around by your ‘friends’ and taking it out on teenage girls who have been trained not to stand up for themselves, give us a call or drop by. The class is continuous, so you can start at any time.”
He offered his hand, slender but veined and muscular.
Jack didn’t take it.
“Well, you have a nice day, then,” Dan said. He walked out of the office.
Jack sat down and put the card in his pocket.
He looked at the clock, which barely read 3:30 P.M.
I hate my life, he thought.

*Warning: This story describes an offensive event, and so language and
situations may be offensive to some and are not intended for young
children.
Part I is here.
Budo 101, Continued:
Mr. Merckle looked up from his
computer with a ponderous sigh, his face red before he even said a word. His
lower chin wobbled as he pushed himself back as far into his chair as he would
go. “What is it now?”
“Fighting in the hall,” Mr. Sink, the
English teacher, delivered up his captives.
Mr. Merckle sighed again and shook
his head, causing fluid waves in the loose flesh under his jaw. Jack watched
the ripples with amusement. How hard would he have to shake his head to get a
ripple to go all the way around his neck and come back on the other side?
“Names?”
“John Snyder and Ashley Tildford.”
Mr. Merckle made a note. “You both
understand that we don’t tolerate fighting in this school?”
“I wasn’t fight…”
“He grabbed…”
“Quiet, both of you!” The principle
had a way of booming his voice and leaning his head forward with little eyes
glaring out over cherry red cheeks. It worked every time, and had been known to
stop cafeteria food fights dead in their tracks.  The two teenagers in the tiny office were no
match for it. Even Mr. Sink jumped.
Jack subsided into his resentful
thoughts.
“I am too busy to deal with you two
at the moment. Ms. Hagg will telephone your parents and we will discuss what is
to be done with you later. In the meantime, both of you will sit out in the office
and Ms. Hagg will keep an eye on you until your parents get her. You may work
on homework if you like. Dave, let Ms. Hagg know on your way out, would you?”
He thrust himself forward to his
computer again. Clearly they were dismissed.
Damn it, Jack thought. They’re
calling dad.
He didn’t think his dad would care
too much about him fighting at school, but he would never hear the end of
getting beaten by a girl. Well shit, how was he supposed to know she was into
freakin’ karate or kung fu or whatever? And she didn’t beat him, he just wasn’t
expecting it. She just surprised him that’s all.
And anyway, what was her problem?
It was just a joke. It was just a little boob grab. He knew guys like Deek who
did that all the time. Walk down the halls, grab an ass, feel a girl up. Those
chicks always giggled and maybe shoved back a little, in a playful way. They
didn’t go berserk and turn into vengeful teenage warrior goddesses.
Ashley, that was what Mr. Sink had called
her. She was curled up in a chair on the far side of the office, as far away
from him as she could get, almost with her back to him. A cell phone chimed
some synthesized classical music, and she fished a flip phone out of her butt
pocket.
She did have a nice ass, Jack
thought.
A fast, shrill buzz sounded on the
other end of the line.
“Hey Mom.”
Buzz buzz buzz.
“No, I’m okay. I know. No. I’ll see
you tonight. No, Mom, I’m okay.” She gave a short, nervous laugh. “I beat the
snot out of him.”
“Bitch!” Jack muttered, “You just
got lucky. I wasn’t trying to fight cause I don’t hit girls.”
She ignored him.
“I know. I’m fine. Love you too.
See you tonight. Bye.”
She snapped the phone shut and put
it away, turning even further away from him. He pulled out his phone and
started playing “Angry Birds.”
Five minutes later he heard a Bruce
Lee kung-fu yell coming from her pocket. It was her cellphone again. She
answered, “Hey Dad,” without checking the number.
This buzz was deeper and slower.
The girl hugged herself and sank even more deeply into her chair. Jack, for his
part, lounged even more emphatically, stretching himself further out into the
office. Phone calls from two parents? What a momma’s girl!
“Yeah. I’m okay,” but she sniffed
back a tear.
The phone buzzed a question.
“He…” she swallowed. “He grabbed
me.”
Buzz.
“Around my chest.”
Silence.
“But it’s okay, Dad.”
Emphatic buzzing.
“No, I know, but I got him good.
Then the jerk tried to come after me again. I hip tossed him really hard.”
Buzz Buzz.
“Me too.” Her voice got lower and quieter.
“I wish you were here, Dad. I need a hug.”
The buzz was deep and soothing.
Jack found himself wishing he could hear what it was saying, in spite of
himself.
“Really?” Ashley said. He could
hear the smile in her voice. “When? Okay. I will see you when you get here.
Thanks, Dad. Love you too.” She closed the phone with a smile.
About an hour later a tall man in
his mid-forties walked into the office. Jack didn’t like the look of him. He
was wearing khakis, button up shirt and tie, but he didn’t look like someone
you messed with. He looked like he was over six feet tall, with wide shoulders
and long arms. His hands were slender, but looked strong. He carried himself
like an athlete with upright head, alert eyes, moving from his hips like the
guys on the wrestling team. Not the kind of guy Jack really wanted to have
pissed off at him.
But Mr. Tildford did not even look
at him or at Ms. Hagg. He walked straight towards Ashley’s chair like a man on
a mission. She didn’t hear him coming until he was almost there, but when she
turned and saw him she leapt up and jumped into his arms in a flying hug. He
caught her and hugged her back, holding her face against his chest and
smoothing her hair. “Hey Ash,” he said. “It’s okay. I’m here.”
How long were they going to hug,
Jack thought. Was she crying? What a
baby! He rolled his eyes and looked away with burning cheeks.
“You okay?” Mr. Tildford said.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She nodded and
brushed her hair back behind her ear.
“What are we waiting for?”
“Mr. Merckle said we had to sit
here until he was ready to deal with us.”
“Oh, really? The message I got was
you were suspended.”
“What!?!?” Her jaw dropped and she clasped
her hands to her cheeks. “Suspended? I didn’t do anything. He didn’t even give
me a chance to explain.”
Jack sighed and dropped his head in
his hands. Suspended. Now his dad was really going to blow a gasket.
“Right. Well, I think we should have
a talk with him, shall we.” Mr. Tildford stepped over to Ms. Hagg’s desk.
“Could you let Mr. Merckle know that Dan Tildford is here to see him.”
“Certainly Mr. Tildford.” She
relayed the message into her phone.
“Send him in,” boomed back, cracked
and staticky but clearly audible.
“You may go in, right through that
door, Sir,” Ms. Hagg pointed with her pen.
“Thank you. Come on Ashley.”
Jack watched them go in and lounged
as far back as he could in his chair.  His
butt was hanging off the seat and his legs were stretched out into the aisle. Back
to the Angry Birds, then. He didn’t expect his dad to be around any time soon.
He didn’t get off shift until 4:00.
About ten minutes later, Ms. Hagg
got a call. She looked up and called Jack’s name. “Please go into Mr. Merckle’s
office. He wants to talk to you.”
What did they want with him? Jack
slouched to his feet.
“Mr. Snyder, come in, sit down.”
Mr. Merckle pointed him to a chair. “Mr. Tildford thinks you should be here for
this. Now, continue Mr. Tildford.”
“Call me Dan.”
“Dan.”
“All I’m saying is, I really think
you should listen to what these two have to say before suspending them.”
The principle shook his head and
smiled condescendingly. “Dan, do you know how many troubled students come
through this office on a weekly basis? Do you know how much time it would take
for me to listen to every single one? Our policies are very clear, fighting is
not tolerated. The penalty is suspension. I really am not interested in what
they have to say. They will be given a letter explaining the policy and terms
of the penalty.”
“So you are not interested in, say,
who started it?”
Mr. Merckle sat up stiffly and
frowned. I guess he’s not used to being argued with, Jack thought. “Excuse me,
but I don’t think it matters who started it.”
“Oh excuse me, but yes it
absolutely does.” Dan scooted his chair forward a couple of inches closer to the
desk. “If my daughter is attacking random people and abusing her karate skills
then I need to know so I can ground her and remove her from karate class. If,
on the other hand, she is defending herself or someone else from bullying or
sexual harassment…”
“Really, Mr. Tildford…”
“As I said, if she is defending
herself or someone else as I have taught her to do, then we are going on a
father-daughter date this weekend, wherever she wants.”
Jack almost snorted but silenced it.
It wasn’t that he was afraid of Dan, but he didn’t feel like drawing attention
to himself.
“Mr. Tildford,” the principle
shifted and glanced at the clock on the wall. “I understand that teenagers can
sometimes be insecure about some peer interactions in school. We have school
counselors who are trained to assess and intervene in situations like that.
However, we do not believe in using violence to solve our problems.”
“Who is ‘We?’” Dan looked
irritated. He was leaning back in his chair with his hands folded in front of
him, tapping his index fingers together, and the muscle in his jaw was bulging.
Why the hell do I need to be here
to listen to this, Jack thought.
“Pardon?”
“Who is ‘we?’” Dan repeated. “You
said ‘we’ don’t believe in violence. Do you mean the people in this room? Or
maybe us as a society? Or are you just using the royal we?”
“Mr. Tildford! If you are not going
to discuss this in a reasonable fashion I will have to ask you to leave. My
time is extremely valuable.” He was using his food-fight stopping voice.
“So is mine,” Dan shot back, not
the least bit phased, “I had to reschedule two patients this afternoon to be
here and you will damn sure do us the courtesy of listening to both sides of
this story before you pass judgment on my daughter.”
Jack raised his eyebrows and
allowed himself a little smirk of satisfaction. It was good to see someone put
the principle in his place for once.
Mr. Merckle swallowed a shocked
expression. “All right, fine. What do you two have to say for yourself?”
Dan looked at Jack. “Go ahead, son.
What happened?”
I’m not your freakin’ son, Jack
thought. “It was just a joke!”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing. I just, like, touched her
a little.”
“How did you touch my daughter?”
Jack shut his mouth. Something in
the tall man’s eyes made him extremely reluctant to answer that question.
“Ashley?”
“He grabbed my… breasts. From
behind.” Her face was scarlet.
“Is that true?” Dan turned a
clenched jaw towards Jack.
“It was just a joke. She didn’t
have to freak out about it.”
“No? And why didn’t she have to
freak out about it?”
“Shit, that stuff happens all the
time. Everybody does it.”
“Who is everybody?” The questions
came at him almost before he could finish his replies.
“All the guys. It’s just, like, I
don’t know, flirting.”
“Hell no, it is not flirting! Do
you know what that’s called in the workplace? Or anywhere else in the real
world outside this school? That’s called sexual assault, and it’s a crime. It
results in fines, jail time and potentially being labeled a sexual predator for
the rest of your life.”
“Come on!” Jack’s voice cracked. He
suddenly remembered horror stories he had heard about guys getting put on watch
lists for silly things like peeping in windows and stuff. Sweat was breaking
out all over his back. “Come on, I’m not a predator! It was a dare. I didn’t even
want to. A friend made me do it.”
“Do you think that will hold up in
court in the real world,” Dan’s voice wasn’t loud, but it was hard as ice, and
his eyes were blazing.
The principle broke in. “Mr.
Tildford, aren’t you being a little severe? You cannot threaten this boy with
being labeled as a sexual predator, ruining his life forever, because of a
harmless prank.”
“Mr. Merckle, I am not planning on
ruining anything or labeling anyone. We have no intention of seeking legal
action. I am doing this kid a favor by reminding him that outside the narrow
walls of this school, actions like that have consequences.” Dan was leaning
forward, stabbing his finger into the top of the principle’s desk to emphasize
his point.  “He had better wise up before
that real world catches up with him.” He sat back again and turned to Ashley.
“What happened, Ash?”
“He grabbed my breasts from behind.
I elbowed him and knocked him back with a mae giri. I yelled, ‘back off creep,’
like you taught us. He tried to grab me again so I knocked him back again. But
then he tried to grab me again with both hands, so I took him down and dropped
a knee on him. Then I got away. That’s what you taught, right?”
“Yep,” Dan’s face seemed to smile
in spite of him. “You did good.”
“Mr. Tildford, I repeat that this
school cannot condone fighting. There are other ways of settling our
conflicts.”
“No offense, Mr. Merckle, but that
is the dumbest thing I ever heard. You just heard this boy confess to sexually
assaulting a girl half his size, and not only that, but he boasted that this is
a normal occurrence in this school. It ‘happens all the time.’”
The principle’s face was glowing
red and a vein was pulsing on his forehead. “Don’t you think ‘sexual assault’
is a harsh description for a teenage prank?”
“Not at all. I think that is the
technical legal description. I am a fourth degree black belt in Shotokan
Karate, and I teach a self-defense course for women and minors every week.
Placing your hands upon another person against their will is technically
considered assault and battery, under law. Doing so for the purpose of sexual
gratification is sexual assault. That is what he would be charged with if he
did that in a military unit, or an office, or on the street somewhere.”
“This is not a military unit, an
office, or the street. This is highschool…”
“A highschool that is failing
royally in not preparing this boy for the real world.” He turned to Jack. “How
old are you, son?”
“Fifteen,” Jack muttered, “And I’m
not your freakin’ son.”
“I am sorry. Fifteen? You look
older. I would have guessed 16 or 17,” Dan turned back to the principle. “In
three years, he is going to be a legal majority and something like this will
get him put in prison for a long, long time.” He stabbed his finger into the
desk with every word, and then paused to let that thought sink in. “Not to
mention it will ruin his life afterwards, being put on a sexual predator watch
list. ‘Harmless pranks’ like this have a way of sticking with you.”
“Your opinion is duly noted,” Mr.
Merckle snapped. “Did he do wrong? Yes. That does not justify the use of
violence.”
“There we will have to agree to
disagree. What you are telling me is that sexual harassment and abuse is
rampant in this school, that the young girls here are powerless to protect
themselves, and that the school faculty does absolutely nothing to protect them
or put a stop to it.”
Mr. Merckle was silent.
“Can you understand why this is
frustrating to me? As a father of a teenage daughter?”
“I understand that this is
emotionally disturbing for you…” the principle began.
“Don’t give me that. Emotionally
disturbing? Hell yeah it is emotionally disturbing!” He sighed and rested his
chin in his hand, propped up on the arm of his chair. “I am not going to change
your mind, am I? I think we’re done here. I’ve made my case and you have
confirmed my opinion of this school. What is your decision?”
Jack was watching the exchange,
almost holding his breath. And this dude was a black belt in karate? Shit! I
hope I never piss him off. Wait, I already have. Way to go, me!
Mr. Merckle shrugged and held out
his palms, helplessly. “The policies of this school. We cannot tolerate
violence.”
“So you are suspending these two?”
“I have no alternative. I cannot
make exceptions for one student that I will not make for another.”
Dan sighed. “For how long.”
“Our policy for first time
offenders is three days.”
“Well, Ash, looks like you’ll just
have to go help Tanner Sensei at the dojo for the next three days, after your
homework is done, of course.”
“Bummer,” Ashley said, trying not
to smile.
“You have a nice day, Mr. Merckle,”
Dan shot straight up to his feet and strode out the door, followed by his
daughter. He stuck his head back in. “Oh, and one more thing. My brother in law
is editor of the Summersville Dispatch. If I ever hear that my daughter was
sexually harassed in this school again, you can bet he will be hearing about
it. And that goes not just for my daughter but any other girl in this school.
And you can also expect to hear about this at the next school board meeting. I
suggest you come up with a plan to do something about it.” The office shook as
he slammed the door.

*Warning: This story describes an offensive event, and so language and situations may be offensive to some and are not intended for young children.

Budo 101

“What do you think of that one?”
Jack followed the upward lift of
chin and eyebrows down the hall to an open locker on the other side. A group of
girls was standing around it, chatting, while one of them seemed temporarily stalled
in the act of putting something into the locker, or perhaps taking it out.
“Which one?”
Deek Davidson tossed his thick
blond curls and gestured with his chin again. He was too important to be
bothered to point. “The brunette in the red tank top.”
“Nice,” Jack agreed automatically.
“I’d tap that.”
“You’d tap anything that spread its
legs for you,” Deek bumped him off balance with a shoulder. “Don’t lie. You’d
do any one of them if you got the chance. You’d do fat-ass Maria ‘Pig’linski if
you could find the right fold.”
Jack tried hard not to turn red. He
laughed derisively and retorted, “Oh if only you knew!” What else could he say?
He couldn’t deny that he was still a virgin, or Deek would have demanded details,
a name, place, date, time, etc. details that he would have been unable to
supply.
“But seriously, what do you think
about the brunette?”
“Meh, she’s cute enough,” he
adopted a tolerant, superior attitude. Oh yeah, she was fine. She was okay, if
that was the best you could do. If you weren’t a 15-year-old sex god like he
was.
“Yeah? Which one would you do?”
Actually, he secretly knew the
brunette in the red tank top was the cutest of the bunch, but he felt
rebellious. Why should Deek be right all the time? Which one was the next
cutest? Not the little blond who looked like she was barely out of a training
bra, and not the Asian chick who looked like a dude. Black girls? Hell no.
“I’d go with blue t-shirt.”
“Bullshit!”
“I’d do her all night long.”
“She’s got no boobs!”
“She’s got great boobs. Nice little
handfuls. And look at that ass!”
“She looks like a track chick, and
those bitches be crazy.”
“She’s hot.” Okay, “hot” was
stretching it. She was tall but petite, toned and athletic looking. He could
see divisions in the muscles of her upper arms when she brushed a strand of
hair away from her face. She wore jeans and a blue t-shirt, and her bra strap
showed nicely through the back, but otherwise her outfit was not super revealing.
“Bullshit.” Deek snorted.
“Whatever, man.”
“Prove it.”
“What?”
“Prove it! Go up and talk to her.
Better yet, go up and grab her ass.”
“That’s retarded.”
“Do it or you don’t have a hair on
your balls. Pussy!”
“Come on, man. I gotta get to
class.”
“Don’t try to chicken out! You said
her boobs were nice little handfuls, right? Go right up behind her and grab
them. Chicks like that. They pretend they don’t but they really do. Why else
would they dress like that?”
“No, man, this is stupid. I’m not
doing it.”
“Chicken! Buck-buck-ba-buck!
Pussy!”
Each syllable hit him like a
sledgehammer across the head, beating him into submission. As Deek continued,
getting louder and louder, Jack could feel eyes around the crowded hall turning
to look at him.
“Screw you, man,” he said. His body
turned in a rush. Quickly now, he had to get it over with before he thought it
through. Make it seem like an accident. Or a joke. Laugh and walk away….
He was right behind her. An
agonizing pause. This was dumb, just forget the whole thing, but he heard a
soft hiss behind him, “Pussy!”
He stepped forward, reached around
her from both sides and grabbed.
A thrill of triumph shot through
him. Nevermind that he had missed with his right hand, and had mostly a handful
of ribs, he had done it. His heart was in his mouth, and he was seeing the
world through a red haze of victory, while his pulse pounded in his temples
like a marching band and a thousand cheerleaders.
“KIAI!!!!” The back of an elbow
connected with his temple and he saw stars. Backing off with his head in his
hands and a knot of deprecating excuses tangling his tongue, he saw the girl
pivot to face him with her right knee raised to the level of her ear, it
seemed. Then POW! Her sneaker shot straight out like a hydraulic piston, like King
Leonidas’ sandal, and plowed into his sternum.
“Back off, creep!”  she yelled as he staggered back about six
feet.
There she stood, eyes flashing,
face burning with shame and anger, hands shaking and knotted in fists at her
side. One leg was poised slightly behind the other, lightly on her toes, as if
she was daring him to try again.
“What the hell is your problem?”
she yelled.
“Hey, come on, chill bitch, it was
just a joke,” he said reaching out to grab her. Why was he doing that?
He never got a hand on her. One
hard little fist pummeled the inside of his forearm, batting it away, and she
lunged forward with the other in a stiff arm to his chest, knocking him back
again.
“I said, back off!” her voice was
quieter now and she was unmistakably crouched in a martial arts stance.
“Come on, Jack, are you going to
take that? Show that little bitch who’s boss,” Deek gave him a push from
behind.
Jack reached out to grab her head
with both hands but she was not there. She was behind him. A foot stomped on
the back of his knee and it buckled. He threw his hands behind to catch
himself, but she wrapped both of her arms around his head and twisted him
around her hip. He spiraled face down on the ground and she dropped a hard,
pointy knee into his back as he hit. He tried to roll over and grab her ankles
but she bounced away.
“What the hell is your problem,
dude?” The girl’s friends were surrounding her and a crowd had gathered,
cellphones out like paparazzi cameras.
A pair of khakis pushed through the
swarm of lenses. “What’s going on here?”
“Bitch went crazy!” The words tumbled
out of Jack’s mouth.
“He grabbed me,” the girl retorted.
He couldn’t tell if she was frightened or angry or both.
“That’s it! You, pick yourself up.
Both of you follow me. Principle’s office, right now.”
Jack picked himself up and eyed the
surrounding crowd. Cell-phones were still out snapping pictures right and left.
He could practically hear the videos whirring. Perfect. This was probably going
to be on youtube in five minutes. He didn’t know any of these kids.
Deek was nowhere to be seen.