If there's one thing we've all been taught, is that the tenacious little guy can muster up the wherewithal to defeat a much larger opponent. I came across this scenario at a young age. When I was ten, my dad enrolled me in a judo tournament. Admittedly, this particular Eastern discipline commands as much respect as Jazzercise. But back in 1982, it was easily a solid 6 per cent cooler.
My ranking: white belt -- a title more function than form. Meaning the belt was less about representing my accrued martial arts skills than it was about about ensuring my robe remained closed. That said, I had been taught three flips, and had the ability to pull off two of them on occasion. And not to brag, but I'm a Scorpio, a majestic zodiac sign that makes me intuitive, powerful, and best of all, mysterious. Ideal skills to completely psych out any opponent placed in front of me. Eye of the tiger, baby. Eye of the tiger.
One obstacle on my path to victory: a few days before the tournament, I was tipping the scales at 101 lbs. This put me at the bottom end of the 100 to 120-lb weight class. The advice from my sensei: bring my girth down to 99 lbs. by Sunday, as doing so would perch me at the very top of the 80 to 100-lb weight class. Put another way, starve myself like a supermodel and walk away with a huge-ass trophy. A noble life lesson if there ever was one.
Of course, losing two pounds when you're a kid is like attempting internet banking when you're over 60: you have no freakin' clue how to go about it. I ran around the block a few times, skipped dessert, and whipped off six or seven feeble sit-ups. "That should do it!" I thought to myself, expressing the kind of confidence reserved for the completely delusional.
Fast-forward to Sunday's weigh-in. Drum roll... 101 lbs. And with cause and effect being what it is, this two-pound discrepancy automatically shifted my title from 'Biggest of the Small Kids' to 'Smallest of the Big Kids.' Yes, I couldn't be Goliath. But as the bible (read: weird, religious cartoons on TV) had taught me, Goliath was put on Earth to be wicked owned by weakling David.
My first judo opponent was quite the Goliath indeed. And, despite centuries of biblical prophecy on my side, he beat the living sauce out of me. Swiftly, with extreme prejudice. In 15 seconds I was out of the tournament and skulking home like John Travolta hangdoggedly returning to a B-level television career.
The moral here? Defeating opponents by trying to shrink your body mass is like coming up with a heavy handed analogy to wrap up a childhood anecdote. If only you weren't such a lazy S.O.B., maybe you'd have a chance of pulling it off.
Okay, here's a stab at a better moral. Getting my arse handed to me by a much bigger kid taught me a thing or two about life's arbitrary nature. With two fewer pounds on my frame, I'd have likely won my weight class that day. Which in turn would have granted me the confidence to continue my judo training and become a martial arts expert. Instead, the humiliating defeat prompted me to quit judo entirely and rethink everything I knew about simplistic bible parables. (Which admittedly wasn't much.)
But on the plus side, I've learned to be far more prepared when life pits me against intimidating opponents. This has served me well over the years, in various circumstances, and I have that ill-fated tournament to thank. A silver lining indeed.
Okay, not exactly an inspiring Karate Kid ending here, but whatever, man -- I'll take it.
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