Rust etched and squeaking gates, long before galvanisation became so available.
The same front gate my younger sister stood at throwing rocks at that snot nose piece of shit kid who’d been tormenting me.
Playground gravel so loose you could run and skid with your velcro laced Adidas shoes on.
That’s where I planted those shoes, dug my heels and swung for the fences.
The smell of hair sweat, children’s sun-composting lunch in bins and bottle brush natives.
But all I could smell is his fear as my arms helicoptered past his face.
Gum tree wooden castles enamoured around wise, white oak trees growing out of broken asphalt.
He couldn’t hide behind it for too long as he became the centre of attention of the whole lunch time arena.
Blonde streaked light brown hair with hardened brown eyes, thick pink lips that would turn to smiles as he beat on me.
This time, my fists were landing on them and all he could do was try and step back to save face in front of the crowd that had gathered to see him go down.
That was my first experience with bullying in my life. I was only eight years old, never dreamt of hurting people because I was raised with stories of the ancients, of love, of hardship of longing and despair.
My mother would recite to us stories of Prophets off by heart, magical Arabic folk tales of princes and princesses who found each other and engulfed us in poetic soothing prose until our eye lids were too heavy to hold any more beauty.
That was the last time he touched me. After that year, he wasn’t at that school any more. You never push the quiet ones, they’ll become the loudest ones when they erupt.
I was always reserved and quiet. A part of me enjoyed the inner life but a part of me also longed to be seen. Eventually the former took precedence and I was never the type to be psychologically challenged by it. It is what it is, my introversion has otherwise served me well in retrospect.
My next experience would be in first year high school. It was another area altogether and I was the odd one out. If it weren’t for my name, they wouldn’t have known as I’m odd even to my own cultural background. So I sit in this maybe he is, maybe he isn’t zone.
1990 and the cicadas burn the air with their choir. For some reason the Sex pistols and Dead Kennedys are logos on mustard canvas bags. The two metal buckle kind you took to with a black permanent marker to show what you were into. This kid took it one step further, all thirteen years of him. Razor shaved sides, and a mullet half way down his back with puffy short Led Zepplin top. His teeth were already nicotine stained and his heart already full of hate as he wore his walkman blaring Sepultura to show how dangerous he was.
No sooner had his racist taunts gotten in my face that I had him pinned up on the second story balconies ledge ready to throw him over. The kids all rushed, screaming grabbing me, grabbing him, but my hands were firmly around his Adams apple controlling his every movement, where the head goes the body goes as self preservation kicks in and your spinal cord sends messages back to your brain to go with the flow. I released him when I saw his soul leave him. No, he wasn’t dead, just coughing his ego on to the floor. You never push the quiet ones, they’ll become the loudest ones when they erupt.
I remained who I was, an introvert, quiet, happy in my own world, never wanting to hurt a fly but that was the last year I spent there. They didn’t even know I did anything to the boy but fuck that school, its stories I will tell another time.
Fast forward to 1992 and I have found my haven. A spiritual place to exorcise my demons through the physical. I had always loved martial arts. Mesmerised by the old Kung-Fu classics and the prowess of the philosopher come supreme martial artist, Bruce Lee. He wasn’t just and actor, he was a hope for people like me who saw beauty in words and violence, my choice, Muay Thai.
1995, I had been training for a few years, mostly quietly. Only two or three close friends knew.
Swaying and creaking basketball backboards. The thud, thud of kids trying to jump and hit the board as an attempt to increase their vertical leap, the squeaks of tearing soles on bitumen and smell of sweet gatorade breath of all things alpha.
My bag had gone missing. I was offended to say the least as I took my work seriously. Carefully margined books with four unit calculus and trigonometry equations laid out in perfect sequence. Lines of essays and speeches meticulously written out and reviewed over and over with my teachers to perfect them. Assignment notes on history’s greats and photo copies of information from books that I had spent hours trawling through in the library when there was no such thing as google.
There it was, tangled up into one of the basketball rings, carefully woven into the net holders ten feet above me. What’s worse is he taunted me, told me he did it with a tone of What ya gonna do about it? as he put his face in mine. I don’t know what got into this guy, peer pressure perhaps to pick on the quiet guy but he fell victim to my hands and feet. Two years my elder, I beat the pulp out of him, doing what other kids didn’t do. I kicked his legs until he buckled and punched his face so long as he kept coming. And he kept coming! He wanted to save face after instigating the fight and not being able to finish it.
The cheers were sickening me. A cocktail of testosterone so strong you could squeeze it out of the acne faced kids.
I humiliated him in front of everyone in a fair fight, mono e mono. I humiliated him further by making him untangle my bag as his friend held him on his shoulders with blood streaming down his face and legs too sore for his friend to hold on to as he tried to stabilise him. Never pick on the quiet ones, they’ll become the loudest ones when they erupt.
From that point on, a reputation followed me wherever I went. I don’t know how but people just knew not to fuck with me even years after I left high school. I didn’t feel comfortable with such a preceding reputation but it was what it was.
Perhaps it kept me safe from ever getting into trouble, so in that sense it was beneficial but the first feeling of being bullied has lasted with me thirty years later and I rise to defend people wherever I see them trodden on.
I filled out, grew bigger and stronger. Six foot two, broad shoulders, thick strong tree trunk legs and athleticism, I kept active but I chose sport. I fought professionally because I enjoyed the challenge against myself and against like minded people. People who had to destroy their ego whether they liked it on not to engage in such an arena. It’s impossible to fight with an ego, you get pulverised quick! I don’t know of a single fighter that is a bully.
This is the reason why I teach my sons fighting arts. Intimate grappling to all out punching and kicking, all taught in a balanced and gentlemanly manner. They have surprised me to say the least with their reservation in times of measure.
Their little hearts are empathetic, sensitive and caring and despite their abilities they have never hurt another child.
All children should learn how to fight. All children should be taught in a balanced manner how to inflict pain on another human being as it raises their awareness immediately that there is someone just like them who can inflict damage. Self knowledge is knowledge of others. There can be no understanding of other people and their temperaments if you do not understand yourself.
As mentioned, the feeling has never left me of what it feels like to be bullied, but the confidence to stand in the face of any man has grown and left me able to transfer the confidence into other areas of my life.
From business to family. From dealing with clients, customers, laypeople in the street or aggressors, I don’t fear anything or anyone. I won’t be intimidated by a government body, law enforcement or corporations and I have fought them all and beaten them. I don’t fight them for anything other than standing up for my rights as a human being. I’m nobody’s doormat and will never succumb to intimidation tactics.
Children need to learn how to fight because it is the first and easiest way to develop confidence. You can talk as much as you want, lecture, teach and prattle words until you’re blue in the face, it doesn’t work. Children don’t learn theory effectively until they are eight to ten years of age. You have ten years to prepare them otherwise. The only way is the physical. The only way is to pound their bodies with so much labour, training, exercise or sport until their spirits are alive with conviction that they can defend themselves.