I ducked the first swing Moray aimed at my head without much difficulty. Even the second swing, which was a very much low-end version in technique, but had a lot of muscle behind it, fanned the top of my head. If contacted it could have been disastrous.
Then I saw my chance which I took. Moray’s middle was still exposed as he was still recovering from his own wild swing. I aimed my first swing at Moray’s solar plexus at lightning speed. Air whooshed out of his lungs as he bent forward. My second left met his oncoming flat wide nose with all the fury I had which made contact with a smack. I guess, he’d never had experienced such pain in his life.
I heard the crowd go wild.
“Hey, come here everybody, this dude is pumping air!”, someone screamed.
And the crowd thickened.
Then it dawned on me that the kind of boxing/karate punches I used was something completely novel to this school. This was a wild-swing-and-hammer-blow-place not a punch-jab-kick-place. They saw my high speed, short range, piston action punches that travelled in a straight line, like someone pumping a bicycle tyre inflator.
Moray who was nursing a red swollen nose now was furious. He kept on threatening me that he would set his wild big brothers on me on our way back home from school. Others dragged him away. The fight with the woodpecker was postponed till the interval as the bell rang to mark the start of the school session.
In the class Moray was constantly threatening to take the revenge. I saw a great change in other’s faces. No one uttered a word. Some seemed to be secretly amused. Already the ‘theory of intimidation’ was in action.
I think I saw through his façade of nonchalance the woodpecker was somewhat shaken.
Nothing that was taught in the next periods went into my head. Not that I was so much preoccupied with the thoughts of next fight that would change the history of this school and of my own future, my mind started jogging down the memory lane.
Because my father was a government official, I had to change schools continuously. So, I had seen more and heard more than the regular stock. Unfortunately, those weren’t all happy memories.
Bullying is more dangerous and painful than ragging. Ragging is a group activity which you go through as a team. The humiliation and the pain is shared. On the other hand bullying is most probably suffered individually. I don’t know about you dudes, but I have almost always been bullied alone.
Though they say the children are like flowers, you meet the devils first as you arrive at your new school. Not the flowers. It takes time to recognize and isolate the flowers. By the time you do, it’s time to move on with your bags packed, to a new destination with new devils to deal with.
My parents didn’t have the faintest idea that I suffered so much from this constant change of schools, because I never complained. Neither did the teachers. Come to think of it. It still baffles me if the teachers were genuinely unaware of the fate of the new comers to their schools. I believe they should pay more attention to that.
However at the new school I had to fight alone perhaps with a whole class. I generally am a fast learner and remember what I learn. This, they say, is a strange concept to us Sri Lankans. So I was casehardened prematurely. I was hardnosed for my struggle for survival.
When I suffered at the hands of bullies about twice, I invented my method of survival. It was Fighting Terror With Terror. I really did it way before George Bush did. When we left the convent where little boys like me also were admitted for lower grades to the other junior school, we were bullied as a group. I got it most maybe because I had a kinda trouble inviting face.
I got to know the big boy (big in my eyes) who lived in the front house did boxing. I pestered him till he agreed to teach me some of the boxing techniques, to which I added what I learnt from the movies also and made a concoction of my own combat style. It was street fighting to be more precise and mixed martial arts to be politically correct. I practiced on banana trees and gunny rice sacks.
The turning point of all these was replacing the wild swing and the girlish hammerblow with punches and jabs.
The most common clumsy wild swing and hammerblow gathered momentum from the extra distance. It traveled in a semi circular path. In comparison, punches and jabs originating from the front of the chest or waist traveled in a more of a straighter line and had a shorter haul and more speed but needed technique to compensate for the momentum.
The biggest snag of the clumsy wild swing was you had enough time to block or dodge it because of the lag in speed. And the attackers chest and abdomen are exposed most of the time. This didn’t worry the bullies much because it was only rarely that anyone fought back.
It was I who needed protection, because I had a struggle for survival. All the bullies wanted was to protect what they already had, which didn’t involve much as others steered clear of them.
Other vital factors were the speed and agility which helped to block or dodge and hit back on the momentarily exposed vital areas. Footwork and proper balance, with your weight equally balanced on both feet at all the possible times. The bullies actually involuntarily helped me to practice this. When I was standing they used to creep up from behind and kick me behind the knees, to make me bend the knees and collapse to the ground. Just because of this, I was always balanced on both the legs at any given time and waiting for trouble. And they were quite surprise to see me still standing when kicked behind the knees. They never found out how.
The other factor was ending the fight with a dramatic bloody finale. When the bullies targeted the stomach or cheek, I opted the nose and the mouth with soft tissue blood. A bleeding mouth can send both the opponent and audience into a shock, kicking morale in the ass.
This is where the ‘theory of intimidation’ comes into play. Ever heard of it? It goes like this. Say that there is a leading thug in the class. Below him there is thug number 2 and on the rung below him there is thug number 3.. In the other classes also it’s the same. Like a federal state. Likewise, there is one leading thug like the central government who overrules everyone. Even he has his deputy and there goes the pecking order. The whole school is governed unofficially on the fact who is afraid of who.
“Are you afraid of him?”, “Are you afraid of me?” are common questions.
Just imagine if I beat the thug number 2 of this class in a duel. Then according to the theory of intimidation, I needn’t fight thug number 3 or anyone below him. They automatically surrendered without a fight, because I beat up the dude they were afraid of. Still according to the same theory, I’m still afraid of the thug number one until I beat him in another duel.
I recognized how this theory worked early. Before that I had wasted my energy on some unnecessary and unimportant fights that didn’t matter much.
The fighting culture varied from school to school. In some schools, they don’t gang up and beat one. They fight one after the other. Unfortunately, in some schools a whole class would beat up one newcomer. In some schools they won’t touch you when you are down, while in some there are beasts who would kick the fallen one as a gang.
I had enough bad luck to go to a school of the second category next. They didn’t like me from the beginning for a number of reasons. My fluency in English and my father dropping me and my sister off at the school gate in the morning are just a few.
At the beginning I managed to steer well clear of them. Later they used to get hold of me near the toilet. While two held me from two sides or someone had a headlock on me others will come in a line and punch my belly, or slap me. On the corridors, they would push one of them onto me and would ask, “Why are you knocking on me? Are you a thug, Huh?” and would give me a few beatings.
In the class they would throw paper balls, pieces of chalk at me. Outside they would throw water bags or hand signboards like “HIT ME”, “I’m Stupid” or a similar message.
Very soon I learnt who their leader and the deputy was.
That day when they were about to beat me up, I said,
“You are cowards and jerks.”
So surprised by my remark, they for a moment loosened their grip on me.
“If you are really cool, come one by one and try to beat me. Hey how about that, let’s challenge and fight?”
Even though this “challenge and fight” is a brand new concept for this school everyone seemed to agree to that. Especially that thug leader couldn’t walk away from that as even he was challenged by that.
So we arranged a morning for that before the school started. As I expected the first to fight me was not the Thug leader “Woodpecker”, but the deputy “Moray”, Woodpecker is a lightweight swift dude. Moray, on the other hand, is somewhat heavily built with a burn scar near his eye. All their reputation was actually dependent on their big mouths. The ones at the bottom of the pecking order were actually there according to the theory of intimidation, not ever by fighting them.
And the heavy defeat Moray suffered at the fight shook the very foundation of the theory of intimidation, and everyone. ‘Pumping air’ seemed to have earned a new reputation as a practical and effective method beyond doubt.
Ting… a… ling… ling…!
The bell marking the beginning of the interval brought me back to the harsh reality with brutal force.
Round 2 started after I read out the rules one more time. The crowd had swollen as more and more wanted to see the newly arrived dude ‘pumping air’. This seemed to have made the woodpecker nervous. He had none of his old show off by shooting off with the mouth. So much was riding on this fight for him. Though he had his reputation to save, I had nothing to lose, only to gain.
Woodpecker had a speed that Moray or anybody else had. He was the 100m champion. And, his favorite shot was actually a slap.
As soon as the fight started, he aimed a couple of light swift slaps that landed on my face stinging my face leaving a burning sensation. Then I saw the moment I’ve been waiting for. My first punch on the woodpecker’s mouth made full contact, drawing blood originated either from split lips of loosened teeth, I didn’t know which. The dude who wasn’t expecting this was thrown back against the wall.
Just because of his agility the woodpecker was instantly back on his sprightly feet. He jumped forward and made a wild swing at me, which I didn’t dodge. I simply blocked it and rammed my knee against his crotch. The woodpecker automatically doubled over meeting my double punch aimed at his middle head on, doubling the force of impact. That was the end of the fight, which changed the fighting history of the school and my future at the same time.
The woodpecker grabbed his crotch with one hand and middle with the other and lowered to the ground, writhing in pain. He sucked short shallow breaths making a choking noise at the throat. A sudden wave of fear, “What would happen if the dude dies on me” swept over me. The others dragged him to his feet and helped him away.
And I was so much relieved to see the woodpecker limping back to the class after the bell without anyone supporting him.
Even though officially I was the entitled to the top thug I never wore it. And for the rest of the year I was at that school, no one challenged me.
I heard through the grapevine that it was said with great relish that the woodpecker had barked up the wrong tree at last. Woodpecker and I never spoke to each other after that fight. The next year I was at a new school. And even after several decades the woodpecker still pretends that he hadn’t recognized me even if we run into each other briefly, which is extremely rare.
I see Moray more often and though he avoided me at the beginning, now calls me ‘sir’ when he meets me maybe because he is a driver at a private company and I’m a teacher. I just call him ‘machan’.
I doubt if this story is an exemplary one, as stories in real life rarely are.
Anyway you’d better keep an eye on your child. Don’t ignore the unexplained scars, torn clothes, dirt stains and loose buttons. And be aware of the sudden change in behavior. Sudden dislike to go to schools.
I got to know my own daughter was being bullied at the private girls’ school in Colombo. It was some kids from another class, who broke the news to me. My kid being two years younger than her classmates was smaller and compact. When I inquired, I got to know that it was true. It was some bigger bullies from another class that beat her up.
I followed the correct procedure by complaining to the class teacher, the sectional head and the principal several times. And as I expected to no avail as my complaints fell into deaf ears and the bullying continued.
I had to resort back to my own time tested ‘blogwalker method of Fighting terror With Terror’. I must admit that I had misgivings about this as my kid was a girl and smaller in size.
Anyway I taught her the basic taekwondo kicks and punches. She learnt fast and practices using my abs as the punching bag to give her the live target feeling. I was on my knees most of the time in the beginning. Later she learnt to kick higher and I kept standing. I warned her not to tackle the bullies until I give her the okay.
Gradually, what started like hesitant and weak childish kicks and punches, developed into painful well aimed ones with a purpose, which made my abs sore. Time passed. Deepa was watching this with doubt.
That day when I went to her school to pick her up as usual. She said I was supposed to meet the principal before going home that day. As I walked in the door I knew she had been anxiously waiting to meet me.
“See Mr. Blogwalker what your daughter has done! Today we got a complaint that she has assaulted some children with her fists and feet and on top of that she has hit them with her helmet, too. We advised her. And you too Mr. Blogwalker, please talk to her about this,” I could barely conceal my grin.
See how fast the law has come into effect! Later as we were riding back through the city traffic, she sitting on the fuel tank of the bike gave me the summary. And when we picked up Deepa also she sat sandwiched between us and related the full story. I asked her to use what she learnt only in self defense. As far as I know the bullying ended as the bullies gave her a wide berth.
Maybe there is no moral behind this story. And I don’t recommend this method for you. I have only narrated these events as it happened. Maybe what I did is not suitable to be done by a father. Maybe what I did is something a teacher who took Child and Educational Psychology, shouldn’t even dream of.
But I know one thing. If I didn’t do that, my kid could have been bullied throughout her school life, would start to hate school, ruin her personality, her education and ultimately ruin her whole life.
Nothing of that sort happened.
Let’s see what she has to say about this today.