Offered by: Willy Strohmeier – Colorado Karate Club
At 5 feet 7 inches I am not a big guy, I’ve never been. Some folks say: “I was really tall for my age when I was a kid”. Well, that was never me. My parents were short, my brothers were short, and I’ve always been short. At school, we used to line up by height and while I wasn’t the rst one in line I was usually within the front five.
I attended a large all-boys Catholic school in Lima, Peru (Colegio Maristas) from first grade to High School (during the 80’s) and as it may be expected, when you put a bunch of boys together, things often got interesting. We had 6 classrooms per grade, each of about 45 students. Classmates teased one another nonstop, sometimes jokingly, sometimes mean spiritedly, guys would steal your lunch from your bag if you got distracted, and at times the usual fist fight would break out.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good school, and we had fun, made lifelong friends, academics were demanding, and many of our teachers were amazing folks. However, in such an environment it did not pay to be timid – being small was bad enough. Bullies would target and torment those seen as weak, and back then and there, telling the teacher only earned you more torment, or even a reproach from the teacher for being “soft”.
In any case, within my small frame, I always made myself tall, my posture, the way I walked, sat, and stood, told all around me that I was not about to become a victim of their sport. Well, that worked most of the time, until some big boy decided to put my swagger to the test. While I tried to avoid confrontations, backing down would only empower the bully, so I stood my ground. Most of the time the bully backed away, making an excuse that he didn’t want to bother beating up a little twerp like myself. Other times, however, things didn’t go down so smoothly, but I was always ready for it.
What I learned though is that once I stood my ground to a couple of “bad boys” (regardless of the outcome), I was pretty much left alone for months or years. And I could even a ord to stick up for others.
While in today’s American schools there are many other avenues to exhaust before resorting to such an attitude, I believe that the basis of what I did to navigate school dynamics, still holds true. Being con dent in yourself, your posture, how we walk, and carry ourselves is the best deterrent against predatory behavior (whether in school, work, or the street.) And having the knowledge of how to defend yourself reassures you that you would be able to protect yourself and those around you.
We counsel our Karate students to always avoid the situation to begin with. Defending oneself is the very last resort, and only when our physical well being is at stake. Good Martial artists are peaceful folks as long as we are allowed to remain so.
As the falied: “It is better to be a warrior tending to his garden, than a gardener in a war”.
While I continue to train avidly, I’ve been tending to my garden for many years, and that’s alright with me.