Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Boys will be boys

Someone posed the question at the new Convocation Forum whether any members have ever had to use their martial arts skills. I figured I’d answer that one here.
The only real bad altercation I’ve been in was in college. This was after I’d done several years of TKD and karate, but before I got into judo and aikido. A group of us had gone to a concert in Birmingham Alabama and were returning home just after midnight. We wanted to get something to eat and stopped in Bessemer Alabama. Everybody we’ve told about this since then has said “Well, that’s stupid. Why the hell would you stop in Bessemer?” Apparently the proper protocol for navigating Bessemer is lock the doors and drive faster than the speed limit. We didn’t know…
We actually avoided the McDonalds because there were a lot of seedy looking characters hanging around, so we stopped at Krystal’s. The place was deserted except for a group of four teens huddled in the corner. We ordered, got our food, and went to sit down. My roommate, who got his food first, sat us in a corner table and one of the teens was talking to him and he went back to his buddies as the rest of our group came up.
Looking back, with greater training and experience, I can see now that the four teens were working themselves up to get into a fight with us. They were feeding off each other and escalating. Finally one of them pointed at my roommate and yelled, “Hey, that fat guy called me ‘boy’!” Well, that perceived racist comment pulled the trigger on the teens and one in a green hoodie ran over, pushed my girlfriend’s face into the table, leaned over her, and slapped my roommate. The others jumped on my friends across the table from me and my roommate.
We were in shock and the rest of the fight is sketchy. I was standing in shock doing nothing and I remember my girlfriend shaking my arm and shouting at me, “Do something, do something, DO SOMETHING…” My roomie and I turned the table over to get out of the corner and the melee was general.
I faced off with green hoodie guy and said something cool like, “You’d better take your friends and get out of here!” Not appropriate at all since my friends were already getting their asses kicked. So Green Hoodie responded the only way he could, “Or else what?” I retorted by front kicking him so hard in the nards that he came off the ground.
Hey, that’s a pretty good start for things, I thought to myself as he landed on his feet and proceeded to jump on me. I managed to duck aside and caught him over a shoulder and he started biting me on the back. CHEWING on my lats! That wasn’t part of my TKD training! I punched him in the nards enough times that he let go of my back and I rammed his head into a plate glass window (it didn’t break). He ran away.
By the time I was through screwing around with my guy, the fight was breaking up and the other guys were running after Green Hoodie. But we probably took the worst of it. Discussing the fight afterwards, we figured out what each of the others were doing. One of my friends had grabbed two of them in rear chokes and just lay down, using them as shields and keeping them out of the fight. Probably the most sensible group tactic executed that day.
Someone told me that I’d had a chair broken over me (and these were no wimpy chairs). I never knew. Someone had picked up a piece of that chair and clubbed my friend who was choking the two guys. My roommate (the fat guy) had been STABBED in the chest and back and neck seven times and had done virtually nothing to defend himself (still in shock). My girlfriend accidentally got in Knife Guy’s way on his way out and he stabbed her in the side of the chest in passing.
Cops arrived moments after the other guys fled. We filed our reports. The cops’ response was, “You know, boys will be boys.” Krystals employees wanted us to pay damages. “Hell no,” was our response. We went to the ER and the doctor insisted that we spend the night. “Hell no,” We didn’t want to stay at the hospital. The ER doctor (the most noble and kind experience of the night) even offered to pay for us a hotel room so we wouldn’t have to drive back to Starkville that night. “Hell no,” we weren’t about to spend the night near Bessemer.
For a couple of years after that I would wake up shaking and sweating and fists clenched dreaming about Green Hoodie. I imagined things I could have done to Green Hoodie. Worried over things I should have done to Green Hoodie. For a long time I puked at random times during car rides. I didn’t realize till later it was PTSD. It took me a long time after that night to forgive Green Hoodie so he would finally stop chewing on my back and my gut and my heart. I hope Green Hoodie and his friends have made something positive of their lives and I sure hope that he and his friends have forgiven us for the things we did and said to them all those years ago.
Six take away lessons:
  • Drive through Bessemer faster than the speed limit with the doors locked.
  • Don’t get in fights – there is no positive outcome.
  • Don’t sit around with a burger in your mouth while folks are escalating nearby.
  • When attacked, do SOMETHING instead of nothing.
  • Front kick to the nards is not a fight ender.
  • The only real fight ender is forgiveness.

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  1. Awesome personal history. The scope of years has definitely given you some deep perpective on the actions that occurred.

    I keep thinking about the moves we learn as fight stoppers and realized that I love "runaway" the most.

  2. Before either IH-20/59 or IH-459 opened we had to travel US-11 through B'ham, Fairfield and Bessemer to get to more southerly points. They were seedy then and worse now. If one were to give the earth an enema, that's where the syringe would be inserted.

  3. I've been in a group fight too, but nothing as serious. And you're right, the real fight ends much later, when you forgive them and you forgive yourself.

    I never realized that I had to deal with the aftermath as seriously as the situation itself till years later.

    I actually went back and there were tears in my eyes. I'd keep thinking about what happened and get so angry replaying 'what if's.

    I think it affected all of us in the group differently. I hope none too negatively.


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