When I am digging around in the dusty coat closet that my brain can be at times, I stumble across little nuggets of my past that I really want to write about. Them I remember that my mom reads these, and I put them back in that part of my brain that I reserve for campfires and bar stories.
Well, Kiddos, You’re all in for a treat, because I am going to tell one of those stories anyway.
Mom, you might not want to read this one. Love you!
SO, when I was younger and lived in south Texas I had a very good buddy of mine who was more of a brother than a friend. We did everything together, including collaborating a couple of business ventures. Brad was the money guy, and I just went along with his dumbass schemes and pitched in wherever I could. Now before you get a “Breaking Bad” vibe, it was nothing like that. Nothing illegal at all, in fact – unless you count being drunken jackasses on more than a few occasions.
One very unique aspect of our friendship and business partnerships was how we resolved conflict: We Fought. I don’t mean verbal argument, I mean we kicked the shit out of each other.
Keep in mind, I was playing semi-pro football at the time, and Brad was a former force recon Marine.
Now, to be 100% honest here, I very rarely won any of our “Conflict Resolution Sessions”. I don’t know if you have ever heard of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program or “MCMAP”, as he called it. The MCMAP a brutal combination of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing, Savate, Jujutsu, Judo, Sambo, Krav Maga, Isshin Ryu Karate, Aikido, Muay Thai, Eskrima, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, and Kickboxing. I quote, “MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence.” and Brad had been through the course more than a couple of times.
So one night Brad and I are at his parent’s ranch, which is more like its own small country, and we may or may not have had a few after-dinner cocktails. We began heatedly “debating” about something or another – I honestly don’t remember what. We were in a building we called “The Shop” which was just a metal building away from the house where we kept our toys. There were a couple of other guys with us, and they glanced at each other furtively and scooted away from the table as Brad and I quietly stood up and started taking off things like rings, watches, and any articles of clothing we didn’t want to destroy.
Now, that bullshit fighting you see in movies is just that: Bullshit. REAL fighting is quick, dirty, and brutal. REAL fighting doesn’t involve standing back and swinging for the other guy’s head. You ever punched a human skull? Unless you throw the punch accurately, It hurts your hand way more than the skull. REAL fighting involves getting in close, taking out your opponents body, and disabling them. Hard to throw a punch after taking a good shot to the liver.
Anyhoo, Brad and I take a few steps away from the table we were at and absolutely launched ourselves at one another. I’d learned enough from Brad through instruction and experience to know that taking a swing for the chin would result in a counter punch that would probably knock me out. We didn’t dance. We didn’t say a word. We just fought.
Physically, I was bulkier than Brad, and he is taller than me, which makes for an interesting fighting dynamic. I absorbed damage better than he did, but he had the reach. I’d have to take a few shots to get within range to land a blow, but when I got in I could generally land a good shot or two. Imagine a bull and a bullfighter. If I managed to get ahold of him, I did a lot of damage. Unfortunately for me, that was rare…
What usually happened was that I would charge in, Brad would throw some Jedi-level punch from a weird angle, and I would re-group and repeat. The occasions that I did win a fight, it wasn’t because I was a better fighter. It was because Brad simply got tired of kicking my ass.
On this particular evening, we were trading shots, and I could tell that Brad was getting angrier and angrier. For whatever reason, my own rage was becoming a tangible thing, too. Like I said, I don’t remember what it was that we were fighting about, and I don’t think it mattered. This had turned into some weird alpha-male battle of egos, and we both knew that the other was very unlikely to just walk away.
Our exchange turned from the charge-and-counter battle that it had been into a bout of dirty boxing that would have made any pugilist proud. We were less than a foot away from each other, fists covering our faces, elbows tight to our bodies, and trading shots that reverberated the sounds of pounding meat through the small metal building. I managed to land a good 3 punch combination, and I guess that was about all Brad felt like enduring because he somehow spun out of my grasp and landed a kidney punch that tore apart enough muscle tissue that it still aches to this day when the weather gets cold.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been punched in an organ before, but it does weird things to your body. In my case, it made me arch my back backward, my hands drop, and my chin to stick out like a glorified off-switch. Brad flipped that switch with an overhand right hand that came from somewhere in New Mexico. My vision went pure white like I was staring into an arc welder and I crumpled to the floor.
Somehow, quite miraculously, hitting the floor woke me up. As I started to stumble to my feet Brad looked at me and said “Stay down, Gammill.” Now whether or not I was seriously animate about whatever dispute we were solving, or that punch had successfully reverted my brain power to that of a large ocean floor-dwelling crustacean, I don’t know. I do know that I damn sure made it a point to stand up.
Brad just looked at me with a glare somewhere between indifference and annoyance. I spit a mouthful of blood on the floor, and charged again, completely missing him and taking a parting shot to my other kidney that had me on my knees again. “Stay down, Gammill, ” Brad said again. “I heard you the first time, ” I managed to say through teeth that were gritted together hard enough to bite through the leather boot that he delivered to my sternum as I got to my feet.
I’m pretty sure that the weather patterns shifted from the explosion of air that came from my lungs. Sprawled on my back, Brad walked over to me, stood over me, and said again, “Stay down, Gammill.” That’s when I did one of the stupidest things I’d ever done: I successfully swept his legs with mine, and brought him to the ground with me. If he wasn’t pissed before, he was now. Not only had I made him fall hard on his ass, I’d violated our “above the waist” policy.
Imagine poking an alligator in a cage with a stick until it is good and pissed off…and then jumping in the cage.
He had me in a choke hold so fast that I was actually confused about what was happening. I tugged at the forearm under my throat, but I might as well have been tugging on a suspension bridge cable. So, I did what any man would do in that situation. I went the fuck to sleep.
I woke up some time later and managed to make it to the guest room in the shop where I bled through a set of sheets, and nursed my wounds for a day. Brad came in that morning, took one look at me, and said: “Why?”
“Why, what?” I answered.
“Why didn’t you stay down? You were beat.” He said.
“Would you have?” I asked, and with a laugh and a shake of his head we embraced like brothers.
So, some 1371 words later, we get to our point: What I learned from the greatest ass beating of my life…
I learned that you always get up. No matter how bad the ensuing beating may be, you get off of the gritty concrete floor of life, and you charge back into the fight.
I also learned that semi-regularly fighting a Marine is really fucking stupid.