There comes a time in a man’s life – particularly a man raised in the relative safety of a modern American suburb – when he has to ask himself: What would I do if I had to fight?
Having spent my youth avoiding fights and my adulthood watching them broadcast from inside cages on pay-per-view television, I finally decided last April that it was my time to answer than question. Faced with the prospect of getting hit in the face, would I curl into a ball, run for the hills, laugh like a loon, cry like a baby, go crazy in retaliation? Would I stand and fight, run and hide, freeze and die inside? I had to know. Because a person can only spend so many years wondering what he or she is up for.
And so I came to Fit and Fearless. Because it seemed like the best place to find the answer to that enormous, pressing, lingering question: What would I do?
Eighteen months later and I have the beginnings of an answer. Eighteen months of punches, knees, elbows, kicks — both administered and received, both blocked and very much not blocked — of chokes from the front and the side and the back, of arm bars and wrist locks, of bloody noses, sore throats, broken fingers, and lost contact lenses, have led me to three realizations: 1) I’m made of tougher stuff than I previously believed; 2) I really, really, really enjoy throwing punches and kicks; and 3) (most surprising of all) I actually kind of enjoy taking punches and kicks. There’s a thrill that comes from getting hit in the face and shaking it off that is very different from the thrill of hitting someone else in the face. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is yet, but I imagine Freud would say it’s related in some way to the Death Instinct, or at least the Will to Lunacy.
Which is to say that there’s something not entirely right in the head about us Krav students. Or maybe there’s something very, very right about us and the rest of the world is off its head. I don’t know. All I know is that the more I do Krav Maga, the less I can understand why someone wouldn’t.
That said – and with my love of Krav Maga established to the satisfaction, I hope, of all seven of my readers – Krav Maga is about survival, not fighting. In Krav we learn how to address a dangerous situation, deal with it as swiftly and brutally as we can, and get away safely. But these days, 18 months into my unsentimental education, 18 months removed from the paralyzing and embarrassing fear of physical confrontation, I find myself less interested in getting away that I am in sticking around and seeing where things go, and in finding out what I’ll do when they get there.
As if sensing this ridiculous curiosity, Fit and Fearless recently started its first-ever Fit to Fight series. Fit to Fight, which, until recently, was only available as individual classes on Saturday mornings (in which I’ve learned that the best cure for a hangover is being dragged around by your neck by a sweaty stranger schooled earlier that morning in the mysterious and deadly art of the Thai clinch), is the school’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) class. It’s the class where you can learn the techniques you see in the UFC – from boxing combinations and footwork to Greco-Roman wrestling to Thai kickboxing to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to (joy of my life) sparring. It’s where we learn how to fight against somebody who knows how to fight back, not for the sake of saving our skins and living to tell the tale (a noble cause if ever there was one) but for the sake of testing ourselves against someone else simply because that’s what has to happen sometimes.
Fit to Fight is for people who want to experience the thrill of hand-to-hand combat, a thrill based largely on staring fear in the face, ignoring our instincts toward self-preservation, and learning to love pain. It’s a class, in other words, for idiots.
Over the next two months, I’ll be keeping a diary of my experiences in Fit to Fight. Hopefully I can provide a passable firsthand account of life in the newest class on the Fit and Fearless curriculum and maybe even illuminate in some small way this strange desire to square off with another human being for no other reason than to move beyond our own physical and psychological limitations, to transcend our own fears, and to see just where we stand in the grand scheme of things.
Stay tuned. I promise to keep things clean.