I’m training a new fighter. A chick. Em. 22 years old. Natural jab. Pivots her hips into her hooks. Hits hard. Really hard. Not just hard for a chick hard. But hard hard. She also has Down Syndrome. Which makes seeing her tear up the bag even more delightful. Makes her one of the most wonderful women in the world to watch. And I’ve watched a few.
But this one really rocks my world.
I’m holding a 70 lbs. heavy bag, and she is literally rocking my world. When she lays one in, the bag swings me. I can’t believe what I’m experiencing here. Obviously her disability didn’t disable to her ability to kick some serious ass. I’m hanging on for life, partly because she’s clocking me through the bag, and partly because I’m laughing so hard.
Just busting up thinking about the what the idiot who bothered her enough to warrant a beating would be experiencing right then.
Stiff jab, two rights, then torquing in a left body hook…deep. Backing up and dropping to deliver the hammer groin strike I taught her. She whips it up to a backhand to the head. Then throws a knee back into the groin. I wince at the thought. She keeps beating them out. This. That. That, again but harder.
I’ve turned her into some kind of M.M.A. monster, a one-woman pain train. A raging bull.
How did I get so lucky?
I was working with her dad, her brother, and her cousin. Just putting them through a physical regime I concocted–something based on the p.t. program of Sparta. Hell, they’re all ex-drinkers. They know how to take a beating and keep their whimpering internal. Always a pleasure to train. Good lads, not afraid to vomit and push on.
We’d be working out at the park, and Em would come by while walking her dog. She’d stop and chat. I found her to be very charming and lovely. More importantly, our senses of humor clicked. We got each other. And when that happens you can relax. You’re family.
So I was psyched to hear that Em and her mom also wanted to train with me. They wanted to get their buff on and were ready to suffer. Excellent. More victims. This should be fun.
I had no idea just how much.
Right off the bat, Em explained to me that she had Down Syndrome, but that she was high-functioning. Okay. High-functioning anything is good. I wish I could be a high-functioning whatever model of disability I am. My problem is that there are so many of them, I can never choose which one I should master. Shit, I never even got to be a functional alcoholic. So yeah, life isn’t fair.
Well, it turns out she was being modest. Her personal achievements really turn the tables on who is actually “disabled.” Let’s see. She’s acted in films and on television. (She has a SAG card) And when she’s not acting, she writes stories and song lyrics. Sings. Dances. Enjoys cooking and art. Has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and film facts. Plays multiple sports. Lifts weights. Goes to college. Doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. Volunteers. Takes care of animals and helps other special needs kids. Oh, and has been invited to the White House, and asked to speak before Congress.
High-functioning, my ass.
That’s living better than most people I know.
Hey now. What’s the deal here? I mean, I think I could still take her in a fight. She’s giving up a lot to reach and weight advantage. (It’s my wonky left shoulder that might get me in trouble. I can’t jab for shit anymore) But other than that? There’s nothing. She’s better at everything else.
Doesn’t leave much to hang my hat on.
Yeah. High-functioning. Good for you. Now beat it, kid. You’re making me look bad.
Anyway, I started Em and her mom off with some basic stuff. Running with the medicine ball over their heads. Burpees with push-ups. Jump rope. Crunches. Dumb-bell shoulder presses off one leg, on a balance disk. Crawling under pretend Normandy barbed-wire. One-legged butt-blasters. (ladies love those) Planks off the balance ball. More running with the medicine ball over their heads. More almost throwing up.
But never giving up.
The women turned out to be as tough as their men folk, and they seemed to be having fun. I sure was. Em was always cracking me up with the gems that rolled out of her mouth.
She’s quite eloquent. Not just eloquent for a person with special needs, but eloquent eloquent. She certainly has a better vocabulary than any of the bimbos on Bravo.
“Come on, Em. Let’s do this. Don’t be stubborn.”
“I’m not stubborn. I’m obstinate. It’s because I’m a Taurus.”
Oh man. She just …kills me.
All the time.
One afternoon, I mentioned I had some boxing gloves and punching mitts in the car. Em insisted I break them out. She gloved up and started smacking. A little awkwardly at first, but began landing a few with some zing. She knew when she connected well, and adjusted her technique to replicate the results. Well alright. I took notice. Do all people with Down’s punch this well?
After that, at the end of every p.t. session, she wanted to work on her hitting. Her mom was cool with it. Nothing wrong with a young lady knowing how to lay a smack-down if necessary. Make some predatory perv think about things…while handcuffed to his hospital bed.
For Christmas her dad got her a heavy bag and her own gloves. So we started beating on that. I taught her more stuff. With each lesson, she got better. And better. She knows how to take direction. I’ll suggest something and she does it, and then remembers to keep doing it.
I wonder what that would be like.
I only had to remind her to keep her gloves up a few times, early on. After that, they’ve stayed up. It’s crazy. I’m always having to harp on my clients, “Keep your hands up! Keep your hands up!” Not with Em. She keeps her hooks in close. Turns on the ball of her feet. Snaps her jabs out sharp, but doesn’t try to homer with them. Uses them to set up her next punch. Mixes up her head and body shots well.
Pretty soon, I felt like I was witnessing some kind of miracle thing. There was some natural ability we’ve tapped into here. She’s got some God-given talent to whup ass. And I have been sent to help deliver it. I must abide by my Creator’s wishes.
I’ll tell you right now, I’m not a boxing coach. I’m an ex-bouncer. That punchity punch-punch stuff is okay, but in the real world, brawling rarely comes down to dancing around a bar room floor while exchanging jabs. It’s a lot of kicking, clawing, and gouging. Stuff that really works.
I started teaching her how to scrap. How to use her elbows and knees. I even taught her The Ron Martinez Belly Bopper, a move I watched a fellow bouncer use with great success. It’s just a simple open hand thrust into the center of your opponent’s mass. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you do it quickly, and really rally some meat behind it, it’ll send dudes tumbling over several cocktail tables. It’s also a low-profile strike. Harder for witnesses to see than a Hollywood jaw shot.
“C’mon Em, become Ron Martinez. Really get your bull on.”
I’ll swing the bag and watch her time her thrust for maximum penetration.
I’m teaching this girl with Down Syndrome a move I learned from an crazed Vietnam war vet bouncer in Santa Fe, over twenty years ago. How awesome is life? She’s just got to remember to be sneaky about it. Ron never telegraphed the Belly Bopper. He also shot it out low so the crowd couldn’t see it. Once your mark goes down, grab a salt shaker off one of the tables and bring it down on his eye as he’s getting up. C’mon Kid. Practice. Practice. Practice.
She’s improving. And she keeps improving. Who knows where she’ll be a year from now?
We also work on breaking out of holds via groin strikes. A woman actually only has to think about throwing a groin strike and a male will instinctively start to cover up. It has something to do with our only reason for living. Regardless, she knows not to bet the bank on a ball-bonker, but to follow up with a foot stomp and throat shot. Oh, and that kicking somebody when they’re down depends on what they did, and if you can time it to the beat of whatever song is playing over the juke box. Keep it cinematic.
It’s not like I expect her to be able to walk into a country western joint and bitch-belt a shot glass into the teeth of some cowboy drinking at the bar. Just drop his bony ass. While the band plays Boot Scoot Boogie and security swarms.
Unless, that’s something she some day wants to do. Then I’ll support her dream. In the meantime, she’s getting some exercise, and a healthy place to take out any life frustrations. And learn some skills she’ll hopefully never have to use.
That’s it. That’s all I bring to the table. But what she shows me, teaches me, gives me, is much more profound. She has brought more joy and delight to this recovering alcoholic than he seemed worthy of. Spending time with her is the highlight of my week. I personally believe that angels will sometimes take human form. What I can’t believe is that I’ve gotten to teach one how to take out a knee.
It’s been very rewarding. I’ve gotten to actually see what makes a successful human. It starts from the love they emit outwards. That love is irresistibly returned by those around them, and that creates a force field that makes all those within it thrive.
Thank you, Em, for welcoming me into that force field, and helping me thrive. God knows, I can use the help.
Thanks Marius, you made me well up again. Bastard. As a ‘disabled’ person, with a ‘disabled’ family, I wholeheartedly get it. The way to happiness in this world is to accept our flaws with grace realizing they are benefits that will inform us and eventually help us embrace the differences between us. (notice I said eventually) My autistic family make me so happy to be alive. They are honest and smart with it. I’m so conversant with ‘disability’ that I find ‘able-bodied, neuro-typical’ people sad and locked into their own supposedly superior world. Which makes them disabled without knowing it. So, at the end of the day, I have to love them too!
Em looks like a diamond! Send her my love and tell she’s got a fan in England!
Ha, I found it takes very little these days to turn on my waterworks these days. Tell me a cute story about cats and you’ll find me clearing my throat and bitching about my allergies making eyes watery.
I got a kick out of “neuro-typical.” Of all the things a woman ever accused my of, that sure wasn’t one of them. I guess that’s good. I’ll take it as good.
I often wonder why people who make a lot of money but can’t, for the life of them, make anybody like them, aren’t labeled with a disability. I’m not saying they should get a special parking place, but having some kind of note pinned to their lapel would be nice. “Be nice to the tycoon, Billy, it says here that he’s empathetically-challenged.”
Maybe in a perfect world. For now, this one’s okay. Glad you and you’s are in it.
Kissing your bullock better, lad.
My ‘disabled’ son showed me this today –
Very cool. Humbles my whiny ass. Amazing dude. I wish my allergies weren’t killing me right now. Damn watery eyes.
That’s a nice story right there. Em looks formidable. I have to get her to teach me that Ron Martinez thing.
She’ll let you know when her boot camp sign-ups start. Make sure to wear comfortable pants. And bring your war face. The scariest one you have. Those are important.
She makes me want to punch things, in a good way. Been a long time since I’ve learned how to get out of a chokehold, and being a nighttime runner, I could use a refresher. I don’t have anywhere to hang a bag without pulling down a supporting beam, but I’ve been eyeing the freestanding ones because I like to kick things and it would be better if they were things that were meant to be kicked without falling apart. Also, I have something in my eye, damn you.
Thanks Lee Ann, The stand-up dummies are much easier to anthropomorphize. (I can’t believe my spell-check didn’t go off right now. I spelled it right!) They’re easier to name and make one of the family. The constantly abused and unfairly scapegoated member. To take our place.
The other idea, is to take a very large wicker, sorry wickah, basket and cut out some leg and arm holes, then have O’Kane don it like a Kendo suit. He can chase you while you jog, allowing you to practice delivering groin strikes. Ones that won’t slow your lap time. Hi-yah!
Oh, sometimes when I knit with really fine Angora, my eyes will get irritated.
Just a couple of things Marius.
First, you need to teach her the tried and true knee to groin to uppercut to Judo grip and flip penitentiary tested move. To be followed by immediately and forcibly putting the boots to ones unlucky and suddenly on the ground opponent. Any streetfighting trainer worth his weight in salt shakers knows the value of putting the boots to someone. You don’t have to go so far as show her how to apply a proper Doctor Marten dental plan to some jackass, but you know. Just saying.
Second, I think you have written your finest post.
And thirdly, Marius, I think you’re doing one of the finest things you’ve done in life by empowering Em like that.
Just don’t let her wire your jaw, cause drinking your meals through a straw for a month will ruin the taste of diet ginger ale for you.
Yeah, we talked about kicking those on the ground, and what warrants it. How there’s never been an agreed upon dogma or doctrine among thugs on what requires boots and then how many. I told her to go with her gut-feelings at the time. If you’re not all drunk, the right amount always seemed to be measured out. It’s more a feeling thing. Like good interior design. You can’t really teach it.
And yes thank you. It is my finest post. I can actually say that. Wow. That’s strange. Well obviously due to my wonder woman subject. Put Em anywhere and things are going to shine around her. Shined up my dinghy, dirty little blogula, for sure. Grateful to her for that. Now lets see if I can keep this motel room clean.
Thirdly, dude, I’ve already caught a few strays. One to the head and one kind of lower. The flashing. The green spots. You know. But for some reason, drinking all my meals through a straw has always had a strange appeal. Seriously. Maybe eat a few space food sticks. Just have units to ingest. It would so simplify life.
Thanks again, brother.
Hey, you’re on Five Star Friday again. And I didn’t nominate you. Which means someone else did, and I have an inkling who. Someone very wise.
PS these comments are making me get a little teary. Tell your readers to stop being so smart and kind. And you, too.
Why didn’t you nominate me? Because of the lifetime of hell? Fine. We’re even. Yeah, I was happy to see we made the Schmutz. Always an honor. Informed Em that her fame continues to grow. She was pleased and dismissed me to continue the campaign. To make everybody smart and nice.
5-Star Friday is how I actually found you in the first place, if memory serves me correctly [and that’s always a crapshoot, to be honest].
My mother is an occupational therapist, so I’ve been acquainted with a wide range of “disabilities” since childhood. One of my best friends in high school had a sister with Down Syndrome. It always warms my heart to see those persons rising above any percieved “deficiency” to become “MORE.”
Em is absolutely beautiful, in many ways. You are lucky to know her, and I wish her well.
Finally, to continue on the tear-jerking thing, here’s this: http://www.viddler.com/embed/70d1d214/?f=1&offset=0&autoplay=0&secret=48017121&disablebranding=0
Damn it, Mugsy. That was an instant throat-lumper. Maybe I’m just getting strep. Aaahrch-hah! AAAArrrrch! Aga! Thanks.
Yeah, I guess if I had to decide the fate of the human race (awesome position to be in) based on the people I meet on a daily basis, I would give it my Roman emperor’s thumb up. Based on the news, I don’t know. Then I see stuff like this, and it cancels out a lot ill will towards my fellow human. We are just a work in progress, In about 17 million years we’ll be hitting our stride. In the meantime, it’s time for me to feed the cats. Good night, JD.
This is for Eme and Marius…I’ve never written on a ‘blog’ before and I’m not sure I’m doing it right, but I just had to respond to all of this fun and success and excellence! I always knew you had it in you to do whatever you wanted to do Eme, and once again, you are doing it! And it seems that you are getting stronger by the minute in so doing. Oh, I am so proud of you my sweet cousin, and I can’t wait to see you all again very soon! Marius, whatever you are doing, I love you for it, keep it up!
You ARE doing it right. Thank you very much. I will make sure M.E. sees your nice comment. In fact, I’ll have her write up a reply and post it. She insists on maintaining that kind of personal contact with her legion of fans. She has repeatedly assured me that she wants to remain accessible in spite of her burgeoning celebrity. On behalf of both us, thank you again.