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A Pimple On A Tough Man's Ass
This article is pretty damned long. You are warned.
This long, windy article has been brewing for a while and was brought on from a comment made by jdinca back in the summer. He said “This website is a marvelous view into the psyche of a few very different generations.” He had no idea how right he is. The stuff I learned over the years certainly seems to have been learned in the style that you Bullies espouse and the current way of martial arts schools seems in direct contrast.
I was asked to write up an article as my report of an appalling visit to an acquaintance’s school that generated a thread. So, what follows is the result of these musings.
Note: Cornwallis was the site for recruit training until a few years ago. Now it is a place for military studies. It makes sense: it’s still full of people who know squat about war.
Note: All names have been changed.
1: A Pimple On A Tough Man’s Ass (martial arts begins)
Cornwallis was never a nice place but it was much worse in late winter.
Back then, if I recall, you had thirteen weeks to quit Basic and get out of your contract with the army and lots of guys did it. I suppose we all thought about it; I know I did and never more than on that morning. We had been living the Basic lifestyle, averaging about an hour of sleep a night for weeks.
0500, with a harsh, wet wind making our PT strip even more of a joke, as Cpl Mathers strutted up and down, his harsh, wet Newfie accent turning my stomach. Those of you who know what I’m talking about, fine. Those who don’t, be glad.
“Which one of you turds thinks he can take me?”
I gritted my teeth and kept silent. We ALL wanted to pound the little cockatrice into a thick goo. It wouldn’t have affected his intelligence or looks any.
“C’mon, byes. This is your chance. No rank, no bullshit.”
Finally, Rodgers snapped his hand up. It took me years to figure out why he went first but you can look up for yourselves why Cape Bretoners and Newfies don’t get along.
They circled for a few seconds before Rodgers grabbed a handful of T-shirt and swung a haymaker with his other hand. Looking back, I see now that Mathers used a pretty basic block before he smacked Rodgers with a throat punch. My squad mate dropped straight down, trying to breathe. Mathers stepped over him without looking and I guess I lost it. I snapped my hand up.
“You, too? Good, I been wanting this.”
I stepped up and went into attention.
“C’mon, bye, have a go.”
“Corporal, I can’t, corporal”
“Why, you scared?”
“Corporal, no, corporal. The corporal’s shoe is untied, corporal.”
It shouldn’t have worked, but, you know, Newfie.
His head went down, just in time to see my foot going into his nads. I grabbed his head and dirtied my knee with his face. He went over and I did the knee drop into his stomach that I learned from my brother. I bent over and whispered into his ear.
“You wouldn’t last long in Toronto . . . corporal.”
Sergeant Williamson cleared his throat behind me.
“There’s an odd thing in my office, recruit. Or there will be when you’re there . . . one minute ago.”
I got the hint.
Sgt Williamson was a very odd choice to be a course warrant for Basic. He never raised his voice. He would calmly explain and demonstrate, once. The second time, there would be extra duties, charges, whatever, all in the same calm, clear voice. He scared the piss out of me.
I waited, back in rigid attention, while he studied a folder. He spoke without looking up.
“Could I ask why?”
All the weeks that I had put up with Mathers must have still been bothering me.
“Because he’s a mouthy little #$%^ and he TOLD me to do it, if I could. He walked right over Rodgers without checking to see if he was ok. Some village in Newfoundland must be missing its idiot.” And more like that, while the guy who held my fate in his hands sat calmly. He finally held up a hand.
“First, if you ever repeat this conversation, I’ll kill you. Yes, he told you to do it. He’s too used to this course, where you recruits are too afraid to actually hit him and he’s too used to having farmers and fishermen who don’t know how to fight. This was supposed to be your opening lesson in hand to hand fighting and the guy who was supposed to be teaching it is laying on the ground with your knee prints in his guts. He wouldn’t make a pimple on a tough man’s ass.” He shook his head.
“You double on back and back into ranks. Dismissed”
We turned blue in ranks for about an hour before Williamson showed up in PT strip. He began without preamble.
“What you just saw was the way NOT to fight. There will be times that you have no weapon or are simply too close and have to use your hands and that is why we are here today. I need a volunteer.”
I knew who that would be and was already on my way as he pointed at me. I still don’t really know what he did but, after thirty years of martial mayhem, I still remember the feeling of that first flight and still marvel that I had time to wonder how much the landing was going to hurt.
It was judo, of course but judo with a good many strikes. We worked and sweated and learned. Williamson went full-on, every time, and you either had your **** together or you were going to wish you had. He didn’t seem happy unless there was at least one wrench or preferably break per class and we all sported bandages and some, casts.
I began to see something I hadn’t seen before; I liked this stuff. I liked to learn and somehow it made the wrenches and bruises and headaches worthwhile.
Graduation came and I never saw Williamson again. If there is any justice, he is still making know-it-all punks like me realize that they can be more. Thanks, sergeant. I owe you.
2: What’s Old Is New Again (fun, eh?)
Another course, another sergeant.
“Space out, staggered ranks! Good, at ease, stand easy. Today, we are going to begin hand to hand training, so you always have your weapons with you, heh heh. Any of you have previous hand to hand experience?”
I reluctantly raise my hand, knowing that any kind of NCO has already scanned his candidate’s jackets. About half of us have made the same decision, I see. Sgt. Perkins nodded sharply.
“Good, good. You, come on up here.”
Hambly, the single largest human being I have ever seen, trots up and stands to attention. Perkins nods again.
“You’re a big one, candidate. What kind of hand to hand training do you have?”
“Good stuff. Ok, take your stance and attack me.”
Hambly lowered down into a side-on horse stance, holding his forward hand rigid over his leg. Perkins nodded at him and he cross stepped and fired a side kick. The sergeant pivoted slightly, caught Hambly’s heel and pulled the big man into the splits while he dug his fingers into Hambly’s eye sockets. Hambly hit the concrete hard and whacked the back of his head. Sgt. Perkins immediately changed gears, barking at one of his corporals to get the medics. I don’t know about anyone else but I relaxed right then. Perkins was ok by me. Hambly got hauled off to MIR and Perkins gestured to me.
“You’re a pretty good size, too, candidate. What is your background?”
“Sergeant, judo, sergeant.”
“Good stuff. Ok, get ready and attack me. Oh, and you’re not in basic anymore. One sergeant will do.”
Like I said, ok by me. I fired a palm heel, figuring to get in close enough to reap him. What I got was my hand trapped under his armpit and my ears popped before I could move forward. He caught me on my way down.
“Just peachy, sergeant.”
“Good, back in ranks. No, I don’t recognize sarcasm.”
“Course, these two guys know their stuff. The reason it didn’t work is because they were taught oriental things that don’t work with western bodies. What we are going to learn is the first Canadian unarmed combat since the Iroquois ass buster.”
(This, I learned, is supposedly a leap up off the ground and ass-first into a horse rider’s face. Yeah, we tried it. I don’t recommend it.)
“A man named Bill Underwood taught this at Camp X in WW II. It is very good stuff, easy to learn and you can see it works.”
That was my introduction to Combato/Defendo, also known as jujitsu by some folks. I found out that Perkins was quick to call the medics because he was quick to need them called:
I throw the “Underwood flick” at him, followed right up by two fingers at his throat. He twists and I find my arm bent backwards over his.
“Does that hurt?”
He drops to one knee. The sound my shoulder made coming out stopped the whole damned place.
“How about now?”
“ARRRGH. I mean, yes, sergeant.”
“Ok, hold still, you big baby.”
When the medics came, he got them to hold me still while he gave my arm a pull and a twist. The sound it made going back in was drowned out by a word I won’t repeat here. He grinned down at me.
3: What The @#$% Was That
When the Canadian Armed Forces transferred from tracked to wheeled APCs, we all needed to upgrade our 404’s. Fair enough. Why we needed unarmed combat during a driver’s course was beyond me but hey, it beat hell out of floor hockey.
We were ranked up for evening PT and Master Corporal Thompson walked out, wearing a gi with a black belt. I made side eye contact with one of my guys from unit and we both sighed.
“We are going to begin a regular series of classes for evening PT. The unarmed combat curriculum has changed and we might as well learn it along with the new Grizzlies.” (the wheeled APC).
“I want someone who has unarmed combat experience to volunteer.”
Jackson nudged me and I was just beginning to raise my hand when a tall guy at the end raised his. Thompson nodded.
“Fall in up here, Black. You have some hand to hand?”
“Yes, Master Corporal.”
“Ok, let’s dance.”
They squared off and Thompson nodded. Black took a half step forward, Thompson dropped his hands for a block and then Black’s foot turned into a blur. There were two audible !smack!s and Thompson dropped. Black helped him up and Thompson blinked stupidly at him.
“What the @#$% was THAT?”
Black explained he had thrown a basic double kick from tae kwon do. I caught Jackson’s eye and we nodded at the same time. After dismissal, we caught up with the tall corporal.
That began a very long term relationship with wtf tkd. From those first lessons together on gritty sand, to his first gym when he became a reservist, to a series of gyms and bouts and testing visits to Korea. I have been sprained, dislocated, bruised and broken but the only bout I ever lost was when I tried point fighting instead of full contact.
Things end, as things always do. I don’t know where he is now but, in spite of the way it ended, he has a place in my heart. Thank you, sabumnim.
4: Careful, He’s A Ninja
Life has a way of catching up with you. Years went by and I found myself with a real education, a real job and sort of real hobbies. I went to the reserves and worked with them until real life took over. I opened and closed a few gyms, finding out repeatedly that people were about getting the rank, not training until they were rank . . .
I kind of drifted, in a life and martial sense. I wound up working all over the world and took the advantage of trying new (to me) martial stuff. It wasn’t bad but I looked up one day to find years gone by and martial ennui holding me hard.
A girl I was seeing took me to a get-together. Now, I’m actually quite shy and usually do the wallflower thing. I’m also easily bored. I found myself out in the yard, trying to stretch some feeling back into my brain when a guy from the party started talking to me. He introduced himself as Bill and said Jenny had mentioned I was into martial arts. We fell to talking and he asked if I would do some stuff with him, try out some moves. Jenny came out about then and caught my arm as we were going to the back.
“Careful”, she whispered. “He’s a ninja.”
And so he was. I wasn’t exactly helpless but he sure had some slick moves. Our party clothes got awfully sweated up that day and we started training in earnest the next week and I found myself actually interested in learning again.
Bill was interested in learning and finding. We trained with weapons, on grass, on concrete, in still water, moving water, in alleys and forests. To be sure, I learned plenty but he was always interested in learning what lessons I had from so’jering.
It went wrong on occasion and we got some scars and we spent more than one night in emergency but we trained hard and there were no complaints. We were a pretty tight band and it felt good. Did I mention that all things end?
5: Martial Pillows (things change)
I took a vacation in Europe a few years back, only my third time back since being stationed there. Being the suave and macho guy I am, I rented a BMW 650 in Frankfurt and started touring, down to Italy, out to Spain, all over. It was fun. Well, except for that little incident with the Swiss cop but I’m sure he’s over it by now.
Germans are very quick to tell you what good drivers they are, how they carefully monitor the progress of new drivers, blah blah blah. However, if you check with ADAC, their version of the AAA, you will find out that fully a quarter of Germans are involved in a serious collision, every year. I should have maybe read up on that stat.
When the car hit me, he did it from such an impossible angle I didn’t process it and that only made the crash worse. Usually, sliding crashes are either an “out from under” or a “high side”. The first is where the wheels, usually started by the front, slide sideways and then down on their sides and the “high side” is where the bike wobbles and then pivots over the tread without sliding, tossing the rider kind of like one of those tennis ball throwers for dogs. I got both.
He hit me just behind the front axle at about 75 mph and the front wheel started sliding out and down. I started to get into the bailout position as the back wheel joined in and we lowered to the pavement. Something grabbed traction and the bike pivoted hard, going right over into a high side and taking me with it. The pain was stupendous, although not at first. Of all the things that happened that day, the one that did the most to my life was the least painful (or treatable).
The lower leg ends as the lower part of the knee. It has a little ridge, called a prominence, apparently. That prevents the knee from collapsing laterally. That snapped off in the crash. It has taken a lot of work and a couple of surgeries to get my leg to where the muscles support that knee enough that I can do basic stuff.
One day, while doing some other stuff, I ran across a friend who was having coffee with a buddy of his. I grabbed a coffee with them and told Dan about the latest round of physio and how taekwondo for sure was done.
The other guy mentioned that he taught aikido, if I was interested. I said, sure, what do I have to lose except this growing girth.
I got asked one day why I do dangerous stuff, when I have been hurt a lot and that I should do pillow fighting. My reply at the time was and remains: “aikido is the closest thing to martial pillows.”
6: It’s Been Useful and Good ( A Conclusion)
Martial arts have been my companion for three decades. They made me realize I liked to learn. God only knows what I would have turned out like, otherwise. They have calmed me down. I grew up scrapping and was very used to settling problems with immediate violence before I joined the army.
Have they saved my bacon? Well, yes, but not always (or even often) in a Chuck Norris fashion. The nice thing about some of this stuff is that you can demonstrate quite nicely that the in-duh-vidual bothering you wouldn’t have much happiness afterwards without you having to clean his clock.
The single most important time I needed martial arts? I did some pretty slick ukemi when a grumpy elephant threw me into a wall. She looked kind of surprised when I got back up. Do you know how to knock out an elephant? No? Me either but she sure thought I knew because she backed right off.
A couple of months ago, I thought I would try ninjutsu again and so I went to a school run by a guy I knew “back then”. It made me very unhappy and generated the thread in YMAS called “A Public and Abject Apology”.
A Public and Abject Apology - No BS Martial Arts
My conclusion, reached after a lot of tooth gnashing, is that people don’t train like that anymore. My “friend”, instead of moving from technique to technique, to sparring, does one thing, talks about it endlessly, has his students applaud for crying out loud and then they get to try it. Not a sweaty gi in the place, let alone a bruised face or, God forbid, blood.
Maybe it’s for the best. Some of the stuff that’s happened to me rears up, old aches and the like. For those of you who have read my threads, you know it doesn’t matter in my case.
The world has changed. I couldn’t change any more, even if I was going to be around to do it.
Last edited by Arctos1964; 10/22/2008 5:07pm at .