To the Editor:
I was walking back to my place recently from my martial arts class, down Canyon Street. As I neared my apartment downtown, I saw two young men, one displaying anger and violent intentions at the other, who was trying to walk away. I saw the pushing and shoving as they neared me and I took out my headphones to listen. They passed me, and the violent one gave me a look meant to intimidate as I put my headphones away and looked down to show I meant not to confront him. When I turned and followed them I was unnoticed as I was already out of his mind.
Through the cursing and threats I gathered money was owed and the much larger violent man was going to beat it out of the other. When the first punch was thrown, I interrupted the impending beating with a “Hey!” This larger, muscled guy turned on me and his victim turned and ran with the opportunity. My job was done.
I was told to mind my business and keep walking. I responded with a simple agreement to keep walking, right toward him. He was right-handed, so I moved toward his left shoulder to make him turn and have an opening for the side of my head. I looked at his face and let my body soften as I took my hands out of my jacket pockets and walked. Without any violence, he let me walk past him and comment how I don’t like seeing bullies. He stepped back to his right and into the puddle behind him. His wet foot and puzzled look were enough for me as I passed and continued home.
Sometimes I simply cannot mind my own business, but I realize that it is who I am. I made a promise to my teacher to help people in trouble if I could, and my true self cannot sit by and not do it. I had no desire to fight or teach him a lesson physically. But I was happy I was able to use my martial arts to help someone.
Looking down at first took me away as a threat, giving him false security and making him forget about me. Taking out my earphones allowed me to hear and decide what was going on, and if anyone was with him as backup. Interrupting him after he became physical changed his attention and timing, and allowed the other man to run. Pointing my intent at his left shoulder made him turn away from me and back up, making it only possible for his right hand to attack and his foot to step into the water, distracting him (and giving me pleasure). Looking at his face and eyes let him see my lack of fear and hands coming out of my pockets as an intimidation tactic. Softening my body allowed me to use my skills if I had to and conveyed predatory intent, as did my words.
It’s so much more than kicking and punching. It sometimes comes to that, but there are so many opportunities to help others with what we learn and teach without violence. What annoys me most was that number of people on the street watching and trying to ignore the conflict. I understand not having the same skills to deal with it yourself, but do something: call the police, call for help. Don’t just stand there. If you stand by and do nothing, eventually when you need help, others will do the same.