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The Smack Heard Round the World


A chapter from my book: "Not Exactly Don Juan...and The Liberated Woman

Chapter Nineteen

The Smack Heard Round the World


    It was cold January night, a Monday after seven o’clock.  Phil’s basement gym was packed.  Rashid whom some of the guys knew from a local high school years before was to spar that night.  In walked Rashid into Phil’s Basement Gym about a month or so back.  Phil made certain that this incredible specimen of an athlete would be given a chance. 

    Rashid, a heavy-weight for certain, had some boxing experience. Yet, it didn’t appear to me that he had much ground game at the time.  It almost seemed like he hit so hard that he didn’t need a ground game. 

    He was fast, agile, and reeked of athletic prowess.  I thought to myself, ‘Maybe this guy is going to be Phil’s breakthrough fighter.’  Funny thing is that Phil never ever spoke that way about fighters, with reference to himself.  He was there solely for the fighters and people interested in helping themselves.

      I knew I had to train that night.  However, I wanted to watch Rashid, and Gregg spar. But, I was sent to the back corner into the boxing ring to work ground with another guy, who weighed 170 pounds. He was close to my age, and he had a good wrestling background.  Phil really wanted me to work more ground that night.  So, I complied. The people he originally wanted to put me with, one came late and one was really, ‘not all there’.

    I’d heard that Gregg was an animal.  I couldn’t wait to meet Gregg.  I’d not ever seen Gregg spar, but heard the stories.  Rashid I’d seen spar very lightly, tonight was the night.  Phil was testing Rashid. 

    Gregg and Rashid were about the same size in weight and in height.  Phil could not be disturbed.  He had to watch these men carefully, coaching them as they went. They were both heavy-hitters and didn’t seem to care about damage, when that’s present, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.  

    The front section of the cage was roped off for Gregg and Rashid.  The next section was roped off for a few guys doing round robin stand up.  And the section after that next to the boxing ring, which then created a kind of ‘L’ shape to the room for fighting had about six guys in it doing ground.

    The gym was really active.  Before Gregg and Rashid began to spar about thirty minutes of the classes’ session had already passed.   Then Gregg and Rashid began to go at it. 

    The 170 pound wrestler type and I had been training already for those thirty minutes.  We were so focused, that we are not distracted by the sparring match of Gregg and Rashid’s, for the most part.   

    In the beginning, we all were busy doing what we came in for.  Then as natural, as a fight breaks out…Gregg and Rashid begin to spar everyone stops what they’re doing and watches.

    Everyone else is doing drills right now, and so everyone is minding their business and training.  The two of us are in the ten foot by ten foot ring.  I’m submitting this guy a lot.  And I have been working ground with him for the better part of the last three months.

    Unknowingly to me at the time, he supposedly had said, and done annoying things to the other guys in the gym. that he had worked with in the past.  I’m so used to that with some guys who walk through Phil’s basement gym cage doors, that I’m barely phased by it.  Others complain, that they won’t work with this guy.  But I’m cool with it.  I actually feel kind of sorry for him.  You see over the past three months that I’ve worked with him, I found out he’s got kids, and he is divorced.  And it’s rather an unpleasant set of circumstances for him.

    Phil always wonders how I get this kind of information out of people.  My husband says, “You always manage to get guys talking and telling you everything.”  Yeah, I do.  I guess I care too much.  I hate to see loneliness.  Why?  Perhaps, I do understand loneliness.  I also understand someone who has struggled in their lives from social awkwardness, and comprehension issues as well.  They are usually smarter than most.

    The first sixty minutes we are grappling (ground fighting), I submit him ten times.  He submits me once.  The class is ninety minutes long.  He’s frustrated.  I can tell by him getting rougher with his takedowns and slams on me.

    Then even worse, he thinks he has a submission.  I tell him he doesn’t.  And there as he stands, and holds my left leg in the air, where he thinks he has a heel hook.  I am on my back on the ground, and I’m not tapping.  It’s not a heel hook, I’m trying to tell him as he twisting my foot, and cranks the lower leg.  In doing so, then I feel a searing pain. I don’t tap.  I’ve snapped my left peroneus longus.  Upon him getting frustrated, I then get out of his hold.  I know I’m damaged but I stand up, and he has no clue.  He’s pissed. 

      Then he says, “Hey let’s go look. The guys are watching Gregg and Rashid.  They’ve stopped using that space over there.  We will have more room.  Let’s wrestle there.” 

     I respond, “Okay.  You want to work there?”

     He responds, “Yeah.  That’s a great space.”

     We move over to outside the ten by ten foot ring, where we have a lot more room.  And no one seems to mind. 

    It now seems like he realizes that doing rough takedowns on me doesn’t seem to phase me.  So, he starts tapping my head to distract me before the takedown attempt.  Only it’s not a tap, it becomes more like a slap.  The slaps increase so much that they become hard smacks upside my head.  He does this I think, because now he can’t get an angle on me. 

    So his tapping to my head, which then become hard smacks to my head, become harder and harder.  By the seventh smack, I get pissed.

    Finally, stopping him, I say real loud, “Hey, you’re smacking me, that’s no tap!  You want a smack.  I’ll give you a smack. Com’on!”

     I lunge at him, and opening my right hand, whole hand connects smacking him as hard as I can upside the left side of his head.  As I do that, I yell totally enraged, “FUUUUUUCK YOOUUUUUUU!”

     And yes, I am ready to beat this guy silly.  By this time, I guess he realizes I’m not afraid of him. As he is running away from what may appear to be rabid wolf, or a wolverine, “I don’t want none of that!” He states, with fear in his voice. 

     Before I know it, Phil is right in front of me, “What happened?”

     I stop immediately, I can’t believe I was so angry, “Sorry Phil.  But I let him slam me a bunch.  Then I let him slap me, then he started smacking me upside the head. Then the smacks got harder.  Seven times Phil, to the right side of the head.  It wasn’t right.  So I figured if he wanted to smack instead of wrestle with me.  I’d dish it back to him.  Sorry Phil.”  I hung my head, “I kind of lost it.”

     Phil said, “Okay.”

    Upon the profanity and sound of the smack I landed, the whole gym stopped.  All activity was halted temporarily.  People were in shock or so it seemed.  Little did I know what was going through everyone’s mind.

    Things seemed to get back to normal.  The smacked guy left.  I stayed.  This all happened near the end of session. 

      Then one of big cops who’d fought came over to me. He said, “I was about to take him and just throw his body outside of the gym.  I can’t stand the guy.”

    I responded, “Really?”  I did not know really why many of the other guys had not worked with him in the past three months.

    He replied, “Oh yeah.  He’s a jerk.”  I breathed a slight sigh of relief.  Soon enough the class session was over and there was only three of us.

    Phil said, “Jody, what we do here.  What happened is normal.  Your response was normal.  And it’s my fault.”

    I responded, “Huh?  But I lost my temper.  I don’t like that, and I’m usually not like that.  It takes a lot for me to lose it like that, Phil.”

     Phil continued, “I put you with him for the last three months because he aggravated everyone.  You were the last holdout.  Peter had a tough time with him.  He insulted guys, and pulled the same stuff on them.  The guys all complained about him.  You. You never complain.  For you to lose your temper.  I know he was taunting you.  It’s my fault.  It’s not you.”

     I responded, “So I’m okay here?”

     Phil replied, “Yes, don’t worry about it.  If he comes back I will explain to him, that he must behave.”

     I say, “You know he’s got kids.  He’s divorced.  I actually feel sorry for him.”

     Phil replied, “Yes, he is a bit socially awkward.  But he is old enough to know better.  It’s not you.  He needs to behave.”

    I respond, “Talk to him.  I think he needs this gym Phil.”

     Phil replied, “I will.”

     The next night, Tuesday, January 5th, the guy comes in when I’m not there.  Phil sits him down, and speaks with him.  The next night I have a private session with Phil, “How did it go?”

     Phil replies, “I explained to him he was ready to get kicked out of the gym after that by a bunch of the guys.  And I was going to kick him out too.  I told him that you did not dislike him.  But that he had to behave.  He said, ‘okay’.  He did seem surprised that I did not kick him out of the gym.”

    I responded, “That’s good he needs this place.  Right now I think he needs to train with others.  So I can cool off.”

    Phil replied, “Yeah, I’m sorry.  I won’t do that to you again.”

     I respond, “No problem.”

     Later that year, this man really became a great teammate.  Phil and I realized this guy’s social awkwardness was not due to him being of bad character.  But rather we felt, and knew we were correct, that he had a undiagnosed set of circumstances that were ignored.  So he was ignored.  He’d come from a big family as well.  The man was our age. 

    Eventually, as time passed his life began to improve.  He regained a relationship with his children, primarily his son.  The man got his I.Q. tested.  Which I hoped would happen for him.   

    A few years later, one night, after he’d had gone through a positive life-altering experience. We were in the cage working ground together, now at Phil’s new big Gym, ‘Asylum Fight Gym’. 

   We were working me passing his guard.  We were drilling it, over and over again.  Finally he says, “I got my I.Q. checked.”

     I respond, “Really?  What was it?”

     He replied, “Ahhhh.  I’m kind of smart.  My son is too.”  He expresses a bashful, ‘awe shucks’ look on his face and body language shows his reluctance.

     I ask, “Com’on.  Tell me.  I bet it is real high.”

     He responds, “Yeah, I guess. It was 157.  My son’s is higher.”  He smiles, as he shakes his head.

     I smile and say, “I knew you were really smart.”

     He asks, “How did you know that?”

     I respond, “Because of the way you acted.  And I could relate to how you feel socially.  You know what I mean?”

     He said, “Really?”

    I reply, “Yeah, I really get it.  It’s tough sometimes.  You know.  And hec.  I’m only 130.  So you’re doing great.  Man, that’s just awesome!  Good for you.  I got to say I’m proud of you.”

     After this time, it’s not all his problems would go away.  Yet, it was that his life had become a little sweeter.  And Phil and I knew, that not everyone could appreciate his way.  But those intelligent enough, and forgiving teammates accepted his oddities.  I can say as much as I miss the old group we had all those basement gym years, I think I miss him the most.---Jody-Lynn Reicher



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