Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Caged

Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Caged

Article excerpt

When we touched gloves, I felt the energy of his body. The enigma he had been became human. This was his first weakness, his transformation from a question, a mystery, into nothing more than flesh and blood. I could hurt flesh and blood; I could only punch through the specter of an enigma. The tattoos that covered his body told a story about a boy who wanted to hide behind a skull and cross-bones, a boy afraid of his own fear. But I knew the way the needle bit his skin, the way he clenched his teeth to keep from wincing. I could see the pierced holes in his nose and ears, even his nipples. This was a costume he never wanted to discard; this was the costume I would have to tear from him. As we did the ceremonious glove touch, I realized I had the ability to destroy him. Any weakness he exposed would allow me to end his life with my bare hands, if it weren't for the rules, if it weren't for the referee.

When I was fourteen, my father severed all ties to me. He'd fought for custody, tried everything--alcohol, lies, violence. My body was still frail, just starting its own fight with puberty, when I saw dad hurl my sister into the garage door, when I flew at him and ate a backhand. What are you supposed to do? What's left except to make sure your mom and your sister are safe? I slept each night only after I knew my mother and sister were asleep. I checked the locks repeatedly, got out from the warmth of bed at the slightest stir, and often sat on the porch alone at night, watching, listening to the neighborhood. With my father gone, I was the man of the house. Mom worked sixteen hour days so we could live comfortably, and I desperately longed for a father figure.

At the local movie rental store, like any teenager, I wanted to see what was in the special video section, the one enclosed by thin drywall with the signs "Must be 18 or older to enter." I thought what I wanted was pictures of slick breasts and asses covered in oil. I walked towards it, glancing every few steps over my shoulder toward the clerk. He seemed uninterested in my guilt, preoccupied with actual customers. Before I reached the porn, I saw a video faced out, with a muscular man in black spandex shorts, blood painting his bronzed, squared chest. This wasn't what I came in for, but I had to have it. In bold yellow letters, it said "The Ultimate Fighting Championship." And in the lower right-hand corner it read "Unrated: Contains Violent Material." As such, the clerk called my mother for permission, and I soon had found my new father, "The World's Most Dangerous Man," Ken Shamrock.

I played basketball in junior high, but I couldn't stand the politics. Whoever had parents willing to schmooze the coach played more. Simple as that. Coach always told me to sit beside him, but I purposely sat at the end of the bench, away from coach, away from the team. This space stood for what I wanted; the ability to control my own outcome, to compete when I wanted, to be able to blame myself, and only myself. As a sixth man, I led the team in more categories than any other player, but my mom chose to work shift after shift rather than play the political games of soccer moms. Needless to say, I'm a better person because of it.

I quit basketball, bought Ken Shamrock's book and read about his journey from foster home to foster home. His story was something out of a John Irving novel. I carefully cut out pictures of him and taped them to the ceiling above my bed. I called every martial arts school in the area, but they all focused on the traditional, outdated, and ineffective "flashy" martial arts. Ken often won his fights with submission--a choke or joint-lock--but in Altoona, the small former railroad town I called home, there was not a mixed martial arts school. In MMA all fights begin with the combatants standing, so I decided to take the most basic approach to developing myself as a fighter. I began training at the Altoona Boxing Club. A former barbershop turned boxing gym, the Altoona Boxing Club has several duck-taped heavybags, an unused toilet against the wall, and the smell of sweat and leather. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.