Here’s a question for you: What was your first real fight like?
There are some qualifiers though, to make sure we’re talking about the same thing:
- I’m not talking about a schoolyard scuffle because some kid stepped on your toes and the teacher breaks it up after he pulls your hair. Or when your sister broke one of your toys and you ran at her, screaming “I hate you!!!” Let’s leave this stuff out.
- There was a clear and present danger. Meaning, not fighting was either not an option or the beating you’d take refusing to fight would mean a trip to the hospital or the morgue.
- You were scared. Either before, during or after. But for the first time, you were scared big time because you knew the stakes were higher than ever before.
- You actually fought. You punched, kicked, pulled or pushed the other guy. It didn’t stay at the verbal stage.
I must have been 9 or 10 years old, I’m not sure anymore because it all happened so long ago. There was this kid living in my street and we didn’t get along. He was obnoxious, loud, dirty and in hindsight, missing a few nuts and bolts in his brain. In short, he was the kid your parents didn’t want you to play with.
Anyway, for some reason, we didn’t get along. I also must have done something to piss him off at one time (honestly can’t remember) because one day as I came home, walking down the street, he suddenly stepped in front of me I obviously hadn’t seen him hiding out (hello awareness!) so he was right there in my face, cursing and threatening me. In and of itself, that wasn’t a big deal. Though he was older than me, I was bigger and stronger. The problem was that he had figured that out too and had geared up for the occasion. He was:
- Wearing a wooden helmet.
- Carried a wood and iron, round shield in his left hand.
- Brandished an honest-to-God medieval flail in his right.
I was too young to add colorful adjectives but my thought process went something like “Holy Fuck! If he hits me with that I’m dead!”
At this point, my memory gets hazy. The way I recall it today (which could be wrong. It’s been almost 30 years) is that he threatened me some more and then pulled back the flail to strike. So I stepped forward and drove a straight punch into his stomach, as hard as I could. He dropped to a fetal position on the pavement, tears welling up in his eyes, making a sound that managed to combine retching and trying to breathe in, all at the same time.
I walked home and felt scared for a long time.
I never had a problem with that kid anymore after this fight. I guess dominance had been established and he must have figured that if he couldn’t take me on when he was armed, he couldn’t take me period. I obviously never gave any indication that I considered myself lucky he didn’t bash my skull in so that suited me just fine.
Some lessons you can learn from this tale of my sordid past:
- Awareness is key. I didn’t see him waiting for me and he had the drop on me.
- Strike or don’t strike but don’t threaten. If he had swung the flail without pulling it back, I doubt I could have done anything about it. He was so close, I couldn’t even have turned to run before he could get a shot in.
- Pre-emptive strikes rule! In many cases, hitting first is the easiest solution. It may not always be legal, but it works real well. In this case, I doubt the law would have been against me.
- Real fighting is scary shit. Especially if the other side figures taking along weapons as equalizers for whatever you bring to the dance is a great idea.
Looking back on the whole incident after 30 years, perhaps I could have acted differently. Maybe the kid only wanted to scare me. I didn’t have that impression but maybe he never intended to use the flail at all.
Or maybe he wasn’t pulling it back to strike but just to swing it around a bit in a menacing way. Who knows? The point is, I didn’t know any better and my first experience at a real fight turned out OK in the end. No blood, no foul, as a friend of mine likes to say.
So that’s my story, what was your first real fight like?