I’m one of these strange, rare men that have never been in a fight in their life – well, except for that one time when I was about 6 years old.
I don’t know what it was about, but I just remember that the kid pissed me off. He had it coming. The next thing you know, we’re rolling around on the ground, wrestling like 6 year olds wrestle.
Parents came running from everywhere. The kid was the son of my dad’s boss at work, who stepped forward to try and break us up, but my dad stopped him and said, “Let them work it out themselves.” So the kid’s dad stepped back.
We rolled around some more, with the parents encouraging both of us. I’d like to say bets were placed, but I don’t remember that. I ended up sitting on top of the kid and he started crying. I got up, and he ran away. The parents laughed, my dad was smiling. I don’t remember anything else of that day, but I’ve never forgotten it.
I can imagine my dad must have been proud of me, beating up the boss’s kid like that. Not that it was a beating – it was more like a rolling.
Growing up as a kid and a teenager, I never got into any fights. I just tried avoiding them. Where kids tried antagonising me I’d just shrug and walk away. Fighting never seemed like an appropriate solution.
When I was 15 or 16 I got into martial arts, and studied Rhee Tae Kwon Do. But when one of the black belts got beaten up by a young street punk I realised that the ‘way of the feet and hands’ was great for physical fitness and flexibility, but completley unsuitable for street fighting. And I also realised I wanted to defend myself more than I wanted to be fit, so I quit that martial art.
When I was 18 I joined the Australian Army Reserves (it’s our version of the US National Guard) and learned how to go to war. I became proficient in the use of pistols, assault rifles, heavy machine guns, anti-tank weapons, and landmines. It was an interesting time.
But I never found myself in a situation where I felt the competitive urge of testosterone to beat someone up or to be beaten up by someone. None of that ever happened.
When I was about 19, a friend and I were walking home from a bar late at night. I had no ‘street smarts’ then. I didn’t know that the car that slowly passed us and then did a u-turn to come back around, and then did a u-turn again to come up beside us was full of blacks looking for some chumps. I was being a 19-year old dick, naively walking along about 8 feet behind my friend who was urgently whispering to me to “Get up here with me!” I ignored him, not knowing why he wanted me to walk with him. I had a tree branch in my hand, and was using it like Gandalf’s staff as we were walking along. I was curious about why the car was driving next to us. Unlike my friend, who was staring at the ground as we were walking, I was looking calmly and curiously at the car, unable to see the occupants in the dark interior. That they were black didn’t help me – but I didn’t even realise they were black, I was just curious about why I couldn’t see anyone in there. But they drove off and nothing happened. My friend told me he didn’t know why they didn’t jump out of the car and beat the crap out of us. I remember being surprised that was a possible scenario!
After my 3 years of military service, I was in my early 20’s, and I started doing a different martial art – Ninjutsu. This was an art of ‘covert assassination’, and was much more suited to street fighting because of its focus on causing severe pain to an opponent in as short a time as possible, to avoid a lengthy fight. The longer a fight goes, the more chance there is of you getting hurt – or killed – so I learned about nerve points and crippling strikes and how to end fights fast, as well as how to defend myself against knives and baseball bats (did you know baseball bats and swords are used in similar ways?).
And still, I never got into any fights.
Me and a girl I was dating were leaving a Michael Jackson concert in Sydney in 1995 or ’96. A guy was walking into the grounds as we were leaving the grounds. He was angry. He was shouldering everyone as he walked against the crowd. I was the only one who stopped when he shouldered me as he walked on by. I stopped and turned to watch him, wondering why he was so angry. He realised I’d stopped, and he turned around and started walking back to me. His face was twisted, his mouth was open and snarling, and his hands were bunching into fists and his knuckles were going white. I was still wondering why he was so angry, but my only thought as he approached was, “This is going to be interesting.” I had no fear. I don’t know why. But when he got to about 4 feet away, his face changed. His face went blank. He looked at me, and then turned around and continued walking on, disappearing quickly into the crowd. I looked up, surprised, and said “Thank you,” into the sky.
Some years later I was in my early 30’s and had a part time job selling pizza slices from behind a bain marie out the front of a pizza shop, to drunks and nightclubbers, who were out late at night and into the very early hours of the morning.
The guy that used to work the bain marie before me, who I replaced, used to get into a fight with drunks on a weekly basis. I was warned it could be somewhat dangerous. Someone in the pizza shop offered me a thick rubber hose as a weapon (“Just in case,” he said) but I didn’t take it. I was only selling pizza – how hard could it be?
I worked that bain marie for about 2 years. In that time I never got in a fight, and never had to defend myself. But I also never took any shit from anyone.
I gained a kind of ‘street smarts’, a sixth sense about people, always looking around, always on the alert, always knowing what to say or not to say to the drunks that would be my customers.
A group of drunk guys saw the change I had in my money bag one night (hundreds of dollars by that time of the night) and one of them suggested to his buddies, “We should roll this guy.” I looked up at him, looked him in the eye and said, “Do that and I’ll have to hurt you.” I wasn’t smiling. There were 6 of them. He looked at me and after a few seconds looked down at the ground. I continued counting out the change, gave it to them, and they moved on.
Another time a large Hells Angel biker threatened to kill me because I wouldn’t give him 3 slices of pizza for $2 (they were $2 each). “Dude, I’m a Hell’s Angel biker. Give me my three slices of pizza for $2 or I’ll fucking kill you where you stand.”
I looked at him and said somewhat sternly, “Over a slice of pizza? I don’t fucking think so. It’s six dollars for three slices!” He muttered and walked away, dejected.
I witnessed a lot of fights between other drunks on the street, but was never in one myself.
When I quit that job after doing it for a couple years, the guy who replaced me got in a fight on his first night. And again a week later.
A year later I met one of my regular customers, and during our catchup he told me something that amazed me. I had a reputation as the toughest pizza seller on the street. People didn’t want to mess with me. I just shook my head, amazed. I had a ‘street rep’.
I remember also, maybe a couple years after I quit, I was walking late at night with a friend in Sydney, along a dark path at the top of some cliffs. We were talking and just being friends out late at night for a walk. We’d gone through areas of bushes here and there, but then when we came upon another area of bushes that our path would have to go through, I got a strange feeling. A feeling that continuing on that path would be a bad idea. I told my friend we should go back now.
He shrugged and we turned around and headed back. I looked back and saw a couple dodgy-looking guys come out of the bushes, looking at us, before they moved off in a different direction.
Some years later, when I was living in New Zealand (this incident was probably around ten years ago now), my ‘street smarts’ came in handy again. I was walking along a street with a girlfriend at the time, maybe 11pm on a Saturday night. It was in the centre of town, there were lots of nightclubs, lots of lights, lots of people. It was active, it was ‘happening’. We were talking and enjoying ourselves as we were walking along, going ‘somewhere’. I don’t remember where. But then as we were walking along there was a group of people up ahead, just like lots of other groups, but the ‘vibe’ felt all wrong to me. I took my girlfriend by the arm and we crossed the road. She was asking me why, I was silent. I was watching the group. Suddenly they erupted into a fight and there was mass chaos – across the road from us. We watched it for a few seconds before I moved us on. If we hadn’t crossed the road when we did, we would have been walking right through them when the fight broke out. My girlfriend looked at me oddly but didn’t say anything.
I’m 47 years old now. And the only fight I’ve had in my life has been when I was 6 years old and rolling around on the ground with the son of my dad’s boss, with all those parents looking on and encouraging us to fight.
It amazes me that I’ve managed to avoid conflict and violence in my life journey.
I’m incredibly grateful and thankful for that.
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