This article was originally published on August 2nd, 2006 at americanchronicle.com
I wasn’t a big kid. In fact, I was a pretty small kid. When I was in grade school, as I recall, I was the smallest kid in my class. I was also quite sickly, being afflicted with asthma. I was not very athletic or strong. As a result, I was often teased or picked on.
Before I start to sound like I’m going to cry and moan about what a terrible childhood I had, let me say that it wasn’t that bad. I had a good number of friends and I feel I had a normal and joyous childhood. I did, however, have some experiences in my life when I was bullied. I use these experiences to gain empathy for those who were less fortunate than I. There was at least two other kids in my class who were constantly tormented by the rest of the kids. I always felt sorry for those kids and got along with them quite well, but there was nothing I could do to stop the others from bullying them. I was too small and weak. The couple of fights I did get involved with I lost miserably.
When I got into high school, things changed. My asthma cleared up. I joined the gymnastics team. My short stature was actually a positive in gymnastics. I gained discipline and strength as I practiced and worked out every day five days a week. After I joined the gymnastics team no one picked on me, but I don’t think that was from my new build alone. I think most of us matured a little upon entering high school back then, and mature people tend not to fight.
After high school I needed a way to maintain my physique, so I took karate lessons. It was exciting to know I was going to learn to defend myself. The very first day, the very first lesson, I learned the best way to defend myself.
“The best way to win a fight,” my instructor said, “Is to walk away. If you can walk away from a fight, everyone wins.”
Truer words were never spoken. Even after I learned to defend myself, even after gaining the knowledge and confidence that comes from learning a form of the marshal arts, I remembered those words. I have never let myself be taunted or goaded into a fight, no matter how sure I was I could win, even though some have tried. I’ve even taken a couple of punches from people and not retaliated. Why? Well, partially because I was trained to hit people’s weak spots. I was trained to kill or maim once a fight begins. If you’re going to defend yourself, make sure your opponent is put down and he’s not going to get back up. I find it hard to bring myself to do that to another human being, no matter how big an asshole he may be. Fortunately, I’ve never felt so threatened by another that I felt it necessary to take such drastic action. Also, you never know what your opponent might know or do, especially in desperation. You should never underestimate an opponent. If you get involved in a fight, no matter how weak an opponent might seem, there’s always a chance you could get hurt, and hurt badly. There’s even a chance, no matter how remote, that you could lose the fight, or even wind up dead. Finally, I don’t like bullies and I don’t want to become one.
When you walk away from a fight, everyone wins. It’s a lesson I learned long ago. It’s a lesson of confidence. It’s a lesson of maturity. It’s a lesson that perhaps would be good for a couple of countries to learn.