Posted by Elwoodan (945 posts) -

I have only been in one major physical altercation in my life. Sure I've wrestled around a bit, and my brother and I have traded our fair share of blows but I’m talking about a I-really-want-to-hurt-this-guy fight. Throughout school I had all the traits of a bullied kid, I was slightly overweight, had glasses, was always buried in scifi and fantasy novels, bragged about my Pokemon cards and Nintendo games; somehow I was lucky, sure I had my share of bullies over the years, but I also knew people just like me who had it significantly worse. As such, I had never discovered if I could, when push came to shove, fight back. By high school I had developed the proper social defense mechanisms, I had an agreeable personality, I kept the nerd talk to a minimum, I joined the school's lacrosse team as a goalie. Partway into my freshman year, I was sticking my practice gear in the locker room when I heard a player from the football team, another freshman, bragging about messing around with the lacrosse stuff (someone had thrown our equipment into a trash can a few days earlier); I approached him later, when we were relatively alone, angry and ready to call him out, probably hoping I would look ‘cool’ to my new teammates or something. After a heated exchange he grabbed me by the collar and pinned me to a wall, and I froze.

I had always assumed, if push came to shove, I would be pretty capable in a fight; I was under no delusions that I would go full Jason Bourne, simultaneously disarming and knocking unconscious multiple attackers, but, you know, I could go punch for punch, at least hurt them as much as they hurt me. Books, television, video games, movies, these only reinforced my belief, if Ed Norton in Fight Club could take a punch, if the kid from A Christmas Story could beat up his bully, hell, if Gordon Freeman could take on an entire alien species, I could hold my own. What I actually should have been thinking is that, in reality, a scrawny nerd who just discovered an aptitude for lacrosse probably shouldn't step to a 250+ lbs. monster who had been trained in physical violence since peewee league.

So I froze, realized I didn't know how to make a good fist, didn't know the 5 point exploding heart technique or even where you were supposed to hit someone in a fight. I decided then to, at the minimum, get my ass kicked with a little dignity and figure out a way to explain the black eye to my mom, because (and I love her very, very much) she would have gone straight to the administration of the school and taken whatever shred of pride I had left down with the kid who hit me. Knowing all this, I limply grabbed the front of his shirt in an approximation of the way he grabbed me and stared him in the eye. I waited for the blow to land and… nothing came, he just kinda stared back for a few seconds while we stretched the collars on each others shirts, let go, pushed me hard, and walked out of the room. I’d like to think that, in the moment, he also didn't know how to fight; he was no more Ivan Drago than I was Rocky Balboa. What probably happened was that he didn't want an accidental manslaughter on his permanent record so he decided to spare me, or maybe he worried hurting a weird, quiet kid would come back to bite him… anyway I got away without a scratch, though I didn't quite feel like the hero in my personal revenge of the nerds story.

an accurate depiction of our 'fight', if you replace Stallone with a scrawny, twitchy nerd

Also unlike the average school revenge narrative I didn't suddenly become king of the school, me and the bully never became friends, and I didn't even get to kiss his girlfriend in front of him as we drove off into the credits. What did happen was that we awkwardly avoided each other for the rest of the year, and he transferred over the summer to go play at bigger, better school.

So anyway, plenty of films, books, video games, etc. skip the training and preparation of their characters for entirely practical reasons; watching a spy sit through hours of lock-picking school would ruin the pace of a film, and sucking at hand to hand combat or aiming and firing your weapon is hardly conducive to the power fantasies promised by video games, but this has given rise to misconceptions about skills and abilities that take an amazing amount of time and dedication to master. We are required to suspend a certain amount of disbelief when exploring fictional stories, and while there is nothing especially wrong with that it leads to situations where we forget to ‘reanimate belief’ when looking at the real world. My solution? since my failed attempt at honorable combat I have explored all manner of skills, determined to never take my ability to act in any situation for granted; I have boxed, taken a swing dancing class, learned basic Russian, designed a board game, fired guns, made some (TERRIBLE) paintings, prepped a go-bag and read up on basic survival skills, and even had a friend in the local society for creative anachronism teach me how to wield a long sword and short bow.

Some of this might sound crazy, and overreaction to some almost-incident that happened to me in high school, but I've found that the desire to never again get caught so completely unprepared has lead me to some really amazing people and situations that I would otherwise have never encountered. My current forays include writing (of which this is a small part!) and building a game in unity.

Thanks for taking the time to read my weird thing, I hope you found it interesting

-Dylan Bartholomew A.K.A Elwoodan

#1 Posted by believer258 (12979 posts) -

I did find it interesting, actually. Short, to the point, entertaining to read, etc.

I felt good about finally picking up my guitar earlier today and now you're making me feel unaccomplished :(.

What the movies don't usually tell you is that punching somebody the wrong way can hurt your hand, too. Not only do you have to have the courage to hit back, you have to be willing to walk away with a sore hand, too. Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Departed gets a cast because he kept hitting somebody. (I need to watch The Departed again). For the record, no, I have not ever been in a fight and likely wouldn't do all that well in one.

#2 Posted by Elwoodan (945 posts) -

@believer258: Thanks!

And it's the same thing with swords, I could feel the impact of hitting/blocking in my hands and wrists for several days afterwards, and that was with padded gloves, I'm sure it would have been worse barehanded.

#3 Posted by dudeglove (9478 posts) -

....You learned basic Russian?

#4 Posted by Fattony12000 (7970 posts) -

I kicked a guy in the shin one time during a fight.

#5 Posted by Bollard (6542 posts) -

This is one of the few blogs I have actually been really engaged by. Nice piece.

#6 Edited by Splodge (2286 posts) -

One thing I learned from going to a pretty rough school when I was a kid, is that very few people enjoy fighting. Even the big dudes who get in fights all the time, it is mostly bravado. Everyone gets that sinking feeling, their knees start to shake, and all of a sudden you sweat more in ten seconds than you have in your entire life. If given the option in a fair fight, both will usually back down. It is harder for that to happen in a peer pressure situation, IE if the fight is happening in front of a big bunch of people, or if it was organised in some way.

Also, real fights are NOTHING like they are in media. They are usually sloppy, messy affairs with lots of rolling around on the ground and tugging of jackets. It's incredibly difficult to keep your cool when your fight response has kicked in and you have a metric shit-ton of adrenaline in your system. You can quickly lose the run of whats happening, and any awareness of your surroundings. That's why if there is more than one assailant, the risk of death jumps hugely. Receiving a sneaky kick to the head when you are on the ground can be the end of you.

Hopefully you never get into a situation where your life is being threatened and is genuinely at stake, but if you do, don't hold anything back. If you can't run, do whatever you can to disable the person long enough so you can run.

EDITE - Also, getting punched in the face really fucking hurts. Especially the nose. Avoid that if you can. And try not to punch someone with a balled up fist if you can avoid it. That also really hurts and can disable you for a crucial few moments if you are not expecting the pain.

#7 Posted by Tebbit (4575 posts) -

I kicked a guy in the shin one time during a fight.


#8 Edited by Splodge (2286 posts) -

@tebbit said:

@fattony12000 said:

I kicked a guy in the shin one time during a fight.


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#9 Edited by Elwoodan (945 posts) -

@dudeglove: Yup, it was my last year of college and I didn't have a full course load so I took Russian 101. I can totally ask for the bathroom and read the Cyrillic alphabet.

My goal is to be 'survival fluent' in a bunch of languages, i.e. be able to ask for medical help, directions, food/water. I don't need to be able to hold a conversation, just get my point across.

#10 Posted by TheHT (12578 posts) -

Good read!

I remember having a similar feeling last year when I was at the CNE (a fair in Toronto), looking at people zipline across the exhibition place. Later that night I was thinking about how many times I'd done that in a game, and figured I should probably try it in real life some time, just to see what it's actually like.

I've also wanted to try my hand at archery. Back in high school my physics teacher brought in his bow and it looked pretty serious. There's a course (not a credited course) in my uni that teaches it, but it was too early for me, and I was already leaning towards jiu jitsu. Still, I've wanted to try it since I was a kid, ever since I tried one of those Nerf bows and was SEVERELY disappointed.

It's nice to see you've taken from a sobering experience and turned it into a lot of new skills and interests though!

#11 Posted by dudeglove (9478 posts) -

@splodge said:

@tebbit said:

@fattony12000 said:

I kicked a guy in the shin one time during a fight.


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dunno why people give this scene so much grief, it's probably a fair approximation of how most people would fight. Miserable flailing, pointless grunting and grappling, throwing objects and then running away.