Hoping for a Broken Bone

Dear Will:

My right thumb is swelled up like an Italian sausage and I have a welt on my arm that makes it appear that I went out and got a budget tattoo of Saskatchewan on my left biceps. There’s also a mustard-yellow bruise on my sternum, and my ears are sore (I didn’t even know that was possible). All of which confirms that I have been doing something inappropriate for my 44-year-old body.

That something is jiu-jitsu.

What in the world would compel an otherwise rational, middle-aged bald guy to take up a glorified form of street fighting? That part’s simple: Luke, my occasionally rational, 14-year-old manchild, has done his research and decided that this would be the coolest of all martial arts to learn. Since it’s a half-hour round-trip to the studio where he trains, it quickly became obvious to me that either I should sign up with him or resign myself to sitting in the parking lot with a good book.

Which of course begs the question: Why in the world would an otherwise rational, middle-aged bald guy not welcome the excuse to read a good book? I look down at Saskatchewan and wonder the same thing myself.

Luke, on the other hand, is thrilled. He’s learning a very manly art and gets the chance three times a week to beat up on his old man. What occasionally rational, 14-year-old manchild wouldn’t welcome that? I’m sure, in fact, that the possibility of pummeling and humiliating his dad will keep Luke attending these classes for many months to come. At least, that’s my fear.

Every session we learn some new moves and then “grapple.” It’s little more than a glorified wrestling match at this point, with lots of sweat and grunting and very little that resembles anything that one might consider “martial arts.” And because I sit at a desk all day, my conditioning might best be classified as “abysmal.” So I can go about two minutes before my grunting turns to gasping and I find myself stretched out on the mat hoping for a broken bone or seizure to end my misery.

When I was 14, I played basketball and ran track and  spent long hours visiting the elderly and reading to the blind. (Hey, it’s my story; I’ll tell it the way I want.) Why couldn’t my son take up basketball instead? I could stand under the hoop rebounding for him and not once wonder about the details of my HMO formulary. I could even hold my own in H-O-R-S-E with a distinct competitive advantage in the early going. And while I might still run the risk of bruising from time to time, I guarantee you the welts would look more like Rhode Island than some obscure Canadian province. I would also have the glory of an occasional good shot and even maybe a victory from time to time.

But no—my son wants to be a street fighter, which virtually guarantees that I will return home after each session a beaten man with only the vaguest notion of what to do next time I get jumped in a dark alley. My real fear, of course, is that the guy jumping me in the alley will be Luke, who will already know the only two jiu-jitsu maneuvers I’ve learned and will be able to execute them better besides.  (Note to self: no more dark alleys.)

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I need to find someone else to give my son a ride to class. Interested? Think of it as a way to see Saskatchewan without ever leaving Orange County.


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