I’m a big fan of martial arts.
It’s a fantastic complement to weight training. It teaches you to channel the strength and power you’ve developed in the gym while moving freely through space.
And if you’re sparring, the fight or flight stress hormones surge through your veins, making your breathing shallow and your heart race — a feeling of panic and terror that everyone should experience in a safe environment.
Some of the most intense martial arts training I’ve experienced was while I lived in New York City, at a high-level Krav Maga school. But I’ll spare you the contrived “war stories” because this post isn’t about fighting or even training.
It’s about my friend Charlie.
Despite being the most “jacked” guy in class I was usually the second worst fighter, especially when the black belts would show up to brush up on fundamentals and perhaps whoop the meathead’s ass.
Last place though, well, that always went to Charlie.
Charlie was in his 50s, not strong, definitely not athletic, and easily frustrated.
Still, he showed up. And while he’d curse and vent and throw up his hands, he NEVER left the mat until class was done.
So I grew to admire him, long before I ever met him. His awkward punches, his off balance kicks, the many missed blocks, the growing frustration from him and the instructors.
I finally struck up a conversation — it seemed only fitting that the two worst guys should be friends — though what I really wanted to figure out was why was he here? Why was he putting himself through this? Why not do something less demanding?
Turns out he was having trouble.
He’s a finance guy but had been off work for years. Ever since that warm September morning when for some reason he left his desk in the North tower of the World Trade Center to go for a walk. Right before the first plane struck and changed his life, and many others, forever.
Charlie said since that day he hadn’t been able to work much, certainly not in a downtown office environment. Not good when you’re in finance.
So he does what he can from home. Or does odd jobs. Or just spends time with his family.
And he fights, the best he can. Kicking and flailing at an opponent who sucker punched him 18 years ago and hasn’t let up.
The worst fighter in class stuck in the fight of his life, every single day. But hanging in, year after year.
Right now it’s too close to call.
But I’m pulling for Charlie.