As a kid, I wish I could say that I was self-assured, well-muscled, and, if not feared, respected around the neighborhood. Not at all. I was skinny, frightened of my shadow, and picked on. A primary goal of my life was getting the idiots who were picking on me to layoff.
Judo turned out to be the art that turned things around. My senseis were young Japanese Judoka, some of whom had been all-star representatives of their art. Over my first six months at the dojo, my teachers came to realize that the bruises on my arms were not from our open sparring sessions. Eventually, one of my teachers sat me down for a talk. In a friendly but firm way, he extracted from me how Roddy and Julio were intimidating me. After carefully listening, he pointed out that I was acceding to their bullying by neither fighting nor walking away. I chose to do nothing because I was afraid, and fear was my actual problem. Then he sent me back to practice and to think about what he said.
It took a while for me to absorb things, but the next time I was cornered by the duo of Roddy and Julio, a part of me watched from the side as the episode unwound. First, there was the verbal intimidation, then there was the cornering so I couldn’t escape, and finally, Julio was pounding one fist into the palm of the other. Gradually he made a production of raising his fist to his cheek and rearing far back. Then there was a wind up to punch me. In the words of my teachers, this was a sort of Jo-Ha-Kyu ( slow, faster, fastest). It was showboating to get the maximum fear out of me in this case. But, for once, I acted rather than thought. As Julio completed his wind-up, I stepped into him and pushed him off balance. Then, turning, I grabbed the laughing Roddy with two fingers on the tip of the nose. Squeezing painfully, I found that as my sensei had told me, where the nose goes, the rest of the body must follow. In Roddy’s case, it was onto his knees. Then I walked calmly away.
Of course, I wasn’t calm. I was scared, almost witless. But it wasn’t till I got around the corner that I started panting and shaking.
After a bit, I realized that while Roddy and Julio weren’t precisely just rascals, they weren’t hardened gang types either. My counter intimidation worked fine because they were simple bullies. I didn’t let it go to my head.
Next week, I was back at the dojo working harder; I might not be so lucky next time.