Mixed-Drink Martial Arts

I was on a job that involved a stopover in a nice little college town, and went to a local bar to watch the Rousey-Correia fight, have a couple of highballs, and maybe pick up some college chick with a daddy complex. I was keeping to myself at the bar, since I don’t normally like to be seen while out doing work.

As you all know, it was over in just a little over half a minute. Everyone is just going crazy. I’m cracking up and talking to the bartender, when this guy comes up to me with a couple of his friends and kind of hits me on the shoulder and says, “Bet you feel stupid!”

“What the fuc7?!?” I ask, since it took all over my well-trained hand-eye-brain-alcohol coordination to keep from losing any gin.

“You know. Correia is going to take it?” and then he back-hand slaps his friend in the stomach to remind him to laugh. The stooges laugh on cue.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, turning back to my drink. I don’t normally make it a practice to turn my back on potential enemies, but there was a big mirror behind the bar and I spent the time well, sizing them up, ready to drive a highball glass into a face as necessary. They struck me as middle-class college kids, and based on their shirts, mixed martial artists of some ilk.

“The fuc7 you don’t, dumbass! You were running your mouth about Correia all night. Not much of a fan, talking her up then dropping her when she loses.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I repeated.

“You calling me a liar?” taking on a menacing tone. People were starting to look over, and his girlfriend came running up and grabbed his arm, “Tyler! Stop this! Let’s go!” He shook off her hand. The bartender starting easing over towards the cash register. Probably kept a gun or baseball bat there.

I set down my drink and swiveled around on the stool, staying seated, keeping my tone even, “No, I’m saying you’re mistaken,” then gesturing around at the underage crowd with no apparent irony, “There are probably tons of 50 year old guys here.” The two flunkies, both on his left, swiveled their heads around to look for these imaginary old guys, while the instigator kept his unsteady gaze on me. Odds were looking in my favor. Two guys who weren’t in on it, and one guy made brave by drink and the presence of two friends. I wasn’t really ready to fight three guys anymore, but one I could handle.

“So,” I continued, remaining seated and speaking steadily, “I would appreciate it if you would leave me in peace.” I gave them a disarming smile, waiting to see what would happen, maintaining eye contact with the instigator.

Not getting the response he wanted, he stepped forward towards me, grabbing at my shirtsleeve with his left hand, “Look, you…”

Just then I lunged right, chopping the flunkie standing on the right side in the throat with the web between my left thumb and index finger. Not enough to really hurt him, just enough to take him down. It also took me out range of instigator’s right. I pivoted hard around, sweeping the feet out from the second flunkie, who had been in the middle. It was rather comical how he went up, kind of like he had just slipped on a banana peel, and then came down between us, his head making a satisfying sound on the floor, like someone dropping a coconut.

Instigator stepped over his buddy, coming in a fighter’s crouch. I had meant to do an ankle pick on him as he approached, but he was on me too fast. Fast young reflexes over old guy habits, I suppose.

Well, this guy packed a good punch. He was quick, and had a nice, compact fighting style. I just did a gunt and covered up, letting him rain blow after blow on my arms and shoulders, keeping my head and stomach protected. He also landed a few kicks. I just kept backing up slowly, letting him spend his energy. He nailed me with a rabbit punch. Not too strong, but enough that my head went down a bit. He stepped in for what he supposed was the kill, but at that point I was low, and executed my ankle pick, jerking his left foot up quickly, and crashing him down on top of his head.

He rolled away, indicating a good bit of training, and looked like he was coming back up. At that point, I figured he might do some damage, so I grabbed a chair from a table and just ran at him with it, driving him back quickly across the room as people screamed and glasses were dropped on the floor. He stumbled backwards as his foot caught something, and he went down unceremoniously, bouncing his head on the floor. Years ago, I might have then either smashed the chair on his ribs or stomped on his face, but I’ve mellowed with age. Nor do I need an out-of-state charge of assault with a deadly weapon or assault with grievous bodily harm. Plus, as mentioned, I was on a business trip and really should have been keeping a low profile.

So instead I kneeled on his arms, put my face up to his, and pressed on his eye with my thumb. He squealed, but lay very still. I leaned in and told him confidentially, “If you bother me again, I will tear out your eyeball, put it in a martini like an olive, and toast your girlfriend’s health before taking her home to fuc7 her in every hole. Capisce?” He nodded, whimpering, and I let off the pressure.

I walked back towards the bar, my breaths slowing down, and asked the bartender how much I owed him.

He shook his head quickly, “No man, just get out of here! I bet half these kids rang 9-1-1 already.”

I thanked him quickly, glad I had done my usual park-job, around a corner and out of sight so they couldn’t easily get my license plate number. I took off in the opposite direction at a firm yet unsuspicious clip, and doubled back as the wailing of sirens approached in the distance.

On the drive back to the room I was staying in, I pondered this whole MMA thing. These guys are tough, and they have fighting skills honed through work in the gym. It’s a great mix of boxing, Asian martial arts, wrestling, judo. And I bet any one of those three could have taken me apart in a match by their rules, even with my time in the ring. Ripped my arm off and rammed it up my ass. They have the best move for every situation. As long as it’s in the ring. And I suppose these guys probably do just fine fighting other middle-class kids in college bars.

What these guys are missing is that fights in real life aren’t like they are in the ring. There isn’t some coach in the corner calling out audible suggestions, just a bunch of people yelling and screaming. There isn’t a nicely laid out regulation ring, with no obstacles and a predictable amount of traction. You’re probably not wearing all the right gear. Weights and sobriety are mismatched. There isn’t a ref watching the match or someone ringing a bell to signal the beginning or end of the round.  It starts when it starts, and it ends when it’s over.  There is the fear and adrenaline that only comes when you face an actual possibility of being maimed or killed.  And there probably isn’t a ring-side doctor.

So I’m just throwing it out there. Here are these finely trained athletes, putting in hours in the gym, and getting dropped by a guy who could be their grandfather if they had grown up in the right (or wrong) part of Youngstown. And my formal training was mostly boxing and wrestling over 30 years ago, honed with lots of practical application in bar fights and some illegal cage matches during some particularly dark years. Defending yourself is a good thing, and a natural instinct. But if you think you want to pick a fight, don’t, unless it’s really going to be worth it, no matter how it comes out.

Sincerely,

Finnegan