On a bloggy note, about half of what I plan to write doesn’t get written or completed. Today’s post is such a deviation, because today, I’m thinking about disciplines and organizations that taught me simple tenets I’ve never forgotten:
(From piano lessons) Hold back
(From Girl Scouts) Be prepared
(From the Army) Stay alert to stay alive
(From boxing) Keep your hands up and your chin down
Years ago, this young boxing-gym guy (18? 19?) I didn’t know very well refreshed me on all of these lessons together in one second. Our coaches had us sparring, so our mission was to try to hit each other while avoiding getting hit. One of his punches landed through a weakness in my defense. It was a solid right hand. The hardest hit I ever took was from him, and it was my fault, not his.
No one who’s seriously training in combat sports faces their sparring partner thinking, “This person isn’t really going to hit me.” Regardless of who your opponent is to you – friend, gym comrade, etc. – you expect them to try to hit you, and they expect you to try to hit them, and you both think about this as you mentally prepare your respective defense games… and that’s the whole point of the sport. The rules in a combat sports ring (ring, cage, dohyo, whatever) are clear-cut.
Unfortunately, the most treacherous ring of all is the world, itself. When you enter a combat sports ring, you know you’re going to get hit if you drop your guard or make poor strategic decisions. You know that the other person is there to destroy you, and that the only one you can trust to come to your defense is yourself.
In the ring of the world, we don’t know who’s going to do what, or if, or when. The hits we take in real life come in all forms. Every day brings news reports about crimes committed by people known and often loved by the victims, but still, you don’t go around thinking in defense mode around friends and loved ones. You trust that they won’t hurt you, because you have a relationship with an undercurrent of that trust serving as the foundation of your bond.
Trust is scary because it’s easily betrayed. Fortunately, we’re inherently armed. Whether I remember to use it or not, I know that I have one weapon to hold my trust in check: my intuition.
My intuition is a weapon of self-defense that I got for free because I was born with it. Humans are equipped with inner alarms critical to survival, yet it’s so easy to disregard them. Deception or bodily harm. Strangers or people you know. A “bad feeling” that changes your mind about going somewhere you’d planned to go, and then a fatal multi-car crash happens at the time you would’ve been there. Intuition is a partnership of gut and brain, and we all have it built inside of us.
It’s hard to always hear and heed intuition when there’s this other part of the brain that wants to override it for one reason or another.
It’s easy and even natural to drop guard, to read about a murder and say, that can’t happen to me.
Thinking about intuition always brings me back to those tenets I was taught in piano lessons, Girl Scouts, the Army, and combat sports training: Hold back. Be prepared. Stay alert to stay alive. Keep your hands up and your chin down.
And listen. That’s the most important lesson of all. Our parents usually teach us that one.