Written 12/31 When my brother and I were children, my father taught him and me to box. He was more focused on my brother learning, but occasionally he would form my hands into fists, position me so that my face was protected, and taught me how to launch a fist. I would also, on occasion, watch my brother learning and practice the lessons in my room alone.
By 8, I had a handle on how to fight, on how to break a jaw and live. By then, my brother was also taking karate classes with my mom. Protecting ourselves was an important skill that my parents wanted to make sure that we had. In addition to physical action, I also learned the important skill in Philly of being able to find and exploit personal weaknesses verbally. I could make someone cry within a minute of knowing them. I suppose that comes from being the daughter of an empathic person and being a good reader of folks myself. I don’t use that one much these days, but every now and then, being able to verbally unsettle folks has been enough to get me out of hairy situations, which I was able to accurately see as dangerous before I became trapped.
Some of that may have come from the early training in boxing, too; we learned how to read how someone would move and, as in our early study of chess, think about strategy. A fight wasn’t about getting emotional and responding from an unsteady place. It was about logic and survival.
When my partner and I were first thinking about the parents we want to be, I noted that I would insist that our children take dance lessons and a martial art/boxing, no matter what their gender. Dance to help with collaboration, spatial awareness, balance, and coordination and a martial art/boxing for focus, strategy, and survival skills. I think back to a story years ago of the son of my brother’s martial arts instructor, how he was jumped by something like 5 boys one day, but managed to get out, because he was already a brown belt, with just a black eye and cracked ribs. If he had not been trained, they might have killed him. I think on my father, too, who had many stories of squaring up against others and getting out because of the skills his own father had passed on to him. I think of how I have protected my own life and the lives of my people.
Our children will learn to box and to dance and to feel and to see and to push aside emotion when needed and think logically. I hope they never have to use these skills to survive, and that they can thrive without turmoil. I am not naive in the world, though.
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