Without any words spoken, he got off his bike. I can’t even remember us having stared at each other.
A straight one. On the chin.
Knock on wood, but so far that’s been the only physical fight I’ve ever been in. Well, I shouldn’t call it a fight.He punched me; I was stunned and surprised and before I knew what had happened, the traffic lights had changed and he was gone. I won’t pretend I’m any tougher than I am in real life, and so won’t claim that I was rolling up my sleeves to give him a lesson or two.
That’s just not who I am. And no, this isn’t out of some noble idea or principle. I was simply way too surprised by his punch-out-of-the-blue to do anything but get my bearings back. A question, very literal: ‘What the hell just hit me?’
I thought of this ‘fight’ – probably about a quarter of a century old – a few days ago. Someone told me about the ‘art of taking things on the chin’. Meaning: when something happens that is not welcome, one better takes it in one’s stride. Let it bounce off the harness of one’s ego.
This approach carries a hint of Medieval Knighthood, I feel. A message planted deep in many of us to ‘take it like a man’, and pretend it didn’t touch – let alone: hurt. Of course, no one adult can afford to be wiped off balance by every well-placed punch life tends to give away now and then. Just like no one tree can afford to be uprooted by just any breeze passing through its leaves.
We all need an anchor of sorts; something that allows us to stay on course, and keep close to ourselves. Especially when clobbers are being distributed. A human being who ends up acting like a rubber band will most likely drive him/herself nuts; if not the entire environment.
The thing is: there’s a balance to be found somewhere along the path of life. Neither rubber band, nor a brick wall.
A footing of sorts; one that allows to sway and swing.
A useful balance doesn’t lie in being as stubborn as can be; or as stagnant as one’s bones and muscle allow, until the point is reached where they’ll break.
Whatever energy is out there and fiddling with my compass, my bearings and my chart: it is bound to be stronger than I as an individual can absorb. “Taking it on the chin” will only work if I at the same time move in tune with the incoming punch. This wisdom lies at the heart of every martial arts, of every form of physical self protection.
“Move with the energy.”
That’s how you get to divert said energy and use it for your own well-being.
I am not trained in martial arts.
But I am told I am a good dancer.
And from experience I can say that when it comes to “taking things on the chin” in a clever way, there’s only a little difference between the lessons of tango and those of tai chi.
It’s all about tapping into one’s own energies, far beyond the powers of brain and reason, and learning to move with those.
Block and break?
Or bow and bend?