Options mean power when fighting or running

Contributing WriterFebruary 17, 2014 


Oh, it’s such joy to be able to say this with the full force of your lungs while doing your forms on the mat or delivering a good roundhouse kick. It is wickedly satisfying to blast out a full-throated “Hayaaaa!” while sparring — especially after smiling or waving at my partner, as if to say “Hello,” and quickly closing in to unleash a volley of kicks, hooks or uppercuts.

The startled looks my sparring partners give after those full-throated blasts are precious.

I love martial arts. I should have done this earlier. I should have been doing this all my life. I should have been a well-trained martial artist in Quito, Ecuador, when, while hailing a taxi, I saw a woman across the street, hunched over, crying loudly to the man in front of her about being in pain.

“Que paso?” What happened? I asked. It’s amazing how a man can shift the menace against his companion and direct it at you just because you uttered two words. It’s also scary – dark night, strange city scary.

I could hear my heart thumping as loudly as the woman was crying. Boom, boom, boom. Luckily, the taxi driver waited for me. Ven aqui. Vamonos! Come here, let’s go! I hollered at the woman.

At that, the man strode over toward me. Seeing that the woman was not going to escape her tormentor, I told the cab driver to screech out of the street. Then I shut the car door, just in time to avoid being grabbed by the man. Boom, boom, boom. I was scared.

Maybe I would not have been as scared had I been trained in martial arts at that time. I would not have fought that man, if I could help it. But had he cornered me as he almost did, I would not have been as scared. I would have had options. And that is power.

I am not a fight freak. I did not go into martial arts because I love to fight. You can get hurt in a fight. I do not fancy the idea of getting hurt, and I am not into hurting people. Oh, you can get hurt even when not in a fight, but that is another story.

I like the idea that, if all talk and negotiations fail and should I be threatened and forced into a corner, I have options; I will not go down without fighting. And with my training, I am pretty confident that I will not go down at all.

I still think that one of the best assets that a martial artist can develop is a good pair of feet, a good pair of running feet. Before you train, run. Before you fight, run. It is a good martial artist who can outrun his or her opponent. When you can run well, you can walk even better.

Walking away from a fight is a better option, despite the way courage and dignity have often been portrayed in Hollywood movies. Running away from a fight may not necessarily be a cool option, but it generally is still the wiser one. Run away from a fight, and your ego might take a hit. Run to a fight, and you will have to take a hit. Or more.

People get hit hard even during supposedly supervised trainings. A friend broke his fingers while doing a jujitsu move, a wrong one for him, apparently. I had partners who gave me a fat lip and a hyper-extended ACL on two separate occasions. Both hurt, naturally.

I went to see a doctor to make sure that I had no issues other than a hyper-extended ACL. Finding that nothing else was wrong with me, he said, “You’re a woman. Why do you study martial arts?”

Unbelievable. The usual answers I give — that I love everything about it, that I enjoy every minute of it — did not come out. I was looking at him, too stunned to tell him any of these. My split-second response shot out before I could bite it in: “Why are you not studying martial arts? You’re Chinese.”

Isabel de la Torre of Parkland, an environmentalist and trained but non-practicing lawyer and journalist, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at tribune@isabeldelatorre.org.

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