But Dad, He Was *Weaker* Than Me… (Fight without Fighting)

Today, a quickie.

I was talking to a friend today, a fellow FMA fighter who also teaches tennis. Being a Filipino, our conversation quickly turned to our sons–as our sons happen to be our most prized accomplishments. And being Filipino, we had a contest of one-upmanship.

You see, my kid is so awesome, he…. And I can’t make him stop.

Just the other day, he… Surprised the hell out of me, because I didn’t know he was that good.

You know, that kind of stuff. 😉

Being a martial artist, he recalled a time that his son beat up the bully. My son has done a lot of sparring and since we lived in “the hood”, is a little street smart for a 13 year old boy. But he is also a thicker boy, plays football, boxed, practiced my martial arts, fenced… He doesn’t get bullied, so I didn’t have a story to top my friends.

Oh, but wait. There was one, and our sparring match became a lecture from senior Guro to older-but-junior-Guro.

My son’s school called to tell me that he had been in a fight and that they were planning to suspend him. Angry because we already had issues because my daughter was the only hijabi (girl who wears hijab) in the entire school–she had been teased for it and had a few fights of her own–I ran down to the school ready to chew my son’s head off. When I arrived, I was met by a few parents and staff who assured me that my son is a good boy so not to be too angry at him. My son had a few scratches on his face and was red with anger so I asked for a few minutes with the principal before talking to him.

Here’s the gist:  My son has a weird sense of humor and likes to tease. He unwittingly teased a boy who is known to be a trouble maker and they engaged in a contest of insults and wisecracks. My son, being very articulate and sharp got the most laughs, and the other boy hit him. My son only dodged and blocked while laughing and the boy grew more angry. When my son realized that the boy would not calm down, he executed a take down… Fight over. The only punches thrown was by the other boy. That was the official story, and all sides agreed. Then I interviewed my son.

My son admitted that he did not know the other boy would get so angry, and the punches he threw did not alarm him. But when the punching kept going, the other boy was cussing, my son did not know how to make him stop without punching him back, so he performed a hip throw.

My question, why didn’t you fight back? His answer? Because Dad, he was weaker than me. I knew he was mad for a good reason, but I needed for him to stop and he wouldn’t. It was the only way I could stop him without beating on him. Such wisdom in a 12 year old (it was last year)!

I refused to accept the suspension, even writing letters and arguing with the dean and the principal. In my mind, my son was not wrong, and the other boy was lucky my son chose not to put that boy on his ass the way I taught him. So my lecture to the principal was the same as the one I gave my friend, and the same one I give my stronger students:

When you have real strength advantages over your opponent, you eliminate the need to hurt him. If you, a grown man and trained warrior, were attacked by a 10 year old boy, how would you defend yourself? The same way you would an armed mugger? No. You would do so as safely as possible because there was no threat. But you could only do this if you had true superiority over the opponent and had to look out for the well-being of the weaker opponent and the rules of chivalry and decency. If you, a strongman, attacked a 12 year old boy it would show what a coward and horrible bully you were, and that your Master’s teaching was a waste of time. I trained my son to use his skill on equals, on a superior fighter or attacker(s), if he was in danger. I did not train this child to beat up on kids who have no idea how to break a jaw or dislocate a shoulder. My son knows how to do both. And because he can do both, there is almost no need to use this knowledge. Fortunately for me and my son’s future, he had the wisdom to know this and the confidence not to use it.

So, my friend loses the “my son’s so great” contest with Mustafa Gatdula, and he learned something that he could apply to his own teaching arsenal:  Train your students to absolute superiority, so that no opponent is a threat any more than a 12 year old boy.

If you find yourself constantly reaching for your knife or thinking about dislocating some man’s joints, I would say that your skill has not arrived to the level where you no longer need them. Live in fear of no man, and know that your skills really are on reserve for when it matters, not when you’re scared.

Food for thought.

Thanks for visiting my blog.