When I lived in New York City I had the privilege of training Krav Maga at a very good school.
It was one of the most demanding things I’ve ever done but very rewarding.
With apologies to the cardio crowd, there’s no better complement to weight training than martial arts. You move freely through space and learn to channel and express the strength and power you’ve (hopefully) developed in the gym.
And if the environment is serious enough, you occasionally do it with fight or flight stress hormones surging through your veins. It makes your breathing shallow and your heart race, resulting in a feeling of panic and terror that everyone should experience in a safe environment at least once.
However, this isn’t about fighting or training. It’s about my friend Charlie.
Despite being the most jacked guy in class I was always the second worst fighter, especially when the black belts would show up to brush up on fundamentals and perhaps whoop the meathead from Canada’s ass.
Last place though, well, that usually went to Charlie.
Charlie was in his 50s, not terribly athletic, and easily frustrated.
Still he always showed up. And while he’d curse and vent and often throw up his hands, he NEVER left the mat until class was done.
So for that reason 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.
Yet every day, sometimes showing up on the mat at the last second, here comes Charlie.
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.
Why was he here? Why was he putting himself through this? Why not do something easier or less demanding?
I learned that he was having trouble.
Despite being a finance guy he’d 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 told me that since that day he hasn’t been able to enter an office building, much less work in one. Not good when you’re in finance.
So he does what he can for work from home or does odd jobs. Or just spends time with his family.
And fights. Every day. The worst fighter in class. Kicking and punching and flailing at an opponent who sucker punched him 17 years ago and hasn’t let up.
The worst fighter in class in the fight of his life, every single day. But hanging in, round after round, year after year.
Right now it’s too close to call.
But I’m pulling for Charlie.
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