**AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although this article is being published on a subsequent day, the incidents described herein occurred on June 25th, 2013. This article/essay is written from the perspective of it still being that day.**
I was attacked today by two idiots. After they cut me off in their pickup truck they followed me into the parking lot of a retail store and proceeded to attack me physically – the first with words and then hands, the second with a baseball bat.
By law if I am in a position which I feel will escalate to physical violence I am obligated to inform the other party or parties that I am a martial artist – every Black Belt is given the same type of instructions when he or she earns or is training for his or her belt. I did exactly that, but that neither impressed nor deterred these individuals. After all, it is possible for someone to lie about this to try to save themselves from an attack.
As you likely know I am a very large person… both height (6’2” or so) and unfortunately girth (much larger than I care to acknowledge publicly). So while my height and breadth may have discouraged a smart attacker, it is easy to assume that a fat man will be slow and untrained and an easy mark, so while it must seem silly to those who know me that anyone would attack me, it is easy to understand why someone who thinks I am just a fat man might be lulled into doing so. Besides, when they decided to attack me all I was to them was a white Ford rental car that honked at them.
The first thing the verbal attacker said to me was ‘What the $%^&* is your problem?’ to which I replied honestly – my immediate problem was that he was very much in my face, but my immediate past problem was that he had cut me off, and were it not for quick braking we would have been in an accident. He asked me a question, I answered him… quite honestly, and in a way that was neither loud nor overly confrontational.
It is easy to think after reading the three preceding paragraphs that one or all of these is the reason that I refer to them in the first paragraph as idiots. That is not the case. I call them idiots because road rage is stupid; machismo is ridiculous, and needing to prove (physically) to a stranger, your friend, or yourself that you are more of a man because the stranger honked his horn is absolutely moronic. To follow someone’s car into a parking lot and confront them with violence because of an F Sharp blast that lasted less than a second is… well… idiotic… more so in a state where a lot of people carry loaded handguns, but it would be just as dumb in Reykjavik.
I love visiting the United States, and am always amused when my wife and I are driving and she says ‘don’t honk… the other guy might have a gun.’ My wife is American and has probably heard horror stories from the ganglands of Detroit and Compton, but the vast majority of people who are honked at either do not react, react with words (seldom heard behind the two layers of car windows that separate them from their intended target, or in some cases will even reply with a digital aviary salute (colloquially referred to sometimes as ‘flipping someone the bird.’ However I have driven tens of thousands of miles in the US, and have probably sounded my horn several hundred times throughout those miles, and yet it took until today for anyone to actually get out of their car (pickup truck) and confront me with a weapon (as much as a baseball bat may not be a handgun, it is still a weapon).
For the record this incident did not occur in Los Angeles or Detroit or Harlem or Washington or Miami or Atlanta. I was in Renton, Washington – a stone’s throw from Seattle – which is considered by most to be a reasonably safe city in the Pacific North West. It happened in the parking lot of a store where I have been often enough that I do not need my GPS to get there. I guess that goes to show that it can happen anywhere.
My question then is why did it happen? Why would anyone (they appeared to be in their late teens to early twenties, but might have been anywhere from 17-25) feel the need to, or even want to attack someone physically? Unfortunately there are several reasons, and I have in the past been guilty of many of them. It is hard to imagine that once upon a time I was the type to start fights, and I will bet there are a lot of people who are glad I didn’t get myself into a lot more trouble (or killed) over.
Violence is stupid, period. There is no everyday situation where violence is preferable to non-violence, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. I am not saying that there is no need to fight – sometimes you do not have a choice. I am reasonably confident that I did everything right today – I tried to defuse the situation, I tried to talk the other guy down, but they were itching for a fight and there was no talking them out of it. My Master agreed, the police agreed, and I will sleep just fine tonight.
Instigating a fight for no reason is a bad idea, if for no other reason than you never know if the other guy is stronger, faster, smarter, or better trained than you are. Gone are (or should be) the days when the mettle of a man is based on physical superiority; those competitions are best saved for the field of sport, including the martial arts.
In most martial arts one of the most important lessons we learn is that we train to fight so that we will not have to fight. It is a difficult lesson to understand, but it is true. More often than not the way we carry ourselves – and martial artists, soldiers just walk differently than most people – is enough to dissuade people from attacking us. However that is probably one of the reasons why we are required by law to inform a potential attacker that we are trained… just in case the walking thing isn’t enough. We do not want to fight, but if we are left with no choice then we will do so… and well.
After the incident I immediately called my Master, who questioned me, counseled me, and advised me to return to the scene of the attack. He asked me about the details of the incident – not only the progression, but the moves that I used. This was likely so that when questioned by the police I would remember the steps, and if there was a conflicting story my training would ensure that what I said would be consistent with their injuries and the damage to their truck. Going over it within minutes helped me keep the details clear in my mind, and was certainly a good idea.
I did return to the scene, but the assailants were gone by then. When I got to the police station to report the attack (and to make sure I was not a wanted felon) they did indeed ask me for the blow-by-blow details. They told me that no attack had been reported and there was no mention of my license plate in relation to any incident. Frankly I would not be surprised if the assailants were telling people that they were attacked from behind by a gang of people… it has to be difficult to admit that you and your armed friend picked a fight with a fat white Jewish Canadian guy and got your clocks cleaned.
Now here’s the part that people have to understand as they pat me on the back and say things like ‘Wow, they messed with the wrong guy!’ I was terrified. The other guys had a choice and didn’t know what they were getting themselves into, and they paid the price. I did not have a choice, but I also didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I am trained to fight, but the best rule to always remember is simple: There is always someone else out there who is stronger, faster, smarter, or better trained than you are. I had no way of knowing when I got out of my car whether the two assailants were or not. I knew their sizes and their attitudes but not their training, and frankly while I saw that one of them had a baseball bat I had no idea if either one of them had a gun. I didn’t know if they had friends in the area who were going to join them. You never know what you are getting into, and that is one of the best reasons to not fight.
I got out alive and uninjured, and that is the second best result I could have hoped for. The best? I wish that I wouldn’t have had to fight, and that the other guys had gotten out uninjured too. That is why I will keep training, so that next time maybe I will be able to prevent the fight completely. I will continue to train my students so that they too will be better able to prevent the fight, but also to fight back if there is no choice. Hopefully they will always have a choice…