Friday, July 07, 2006

I Am Not - Regret

"I fight, therefore I am." - Menachem Begin


I never got into a fight growing up and I have always regretted not defending myself from childhood bullies. In seventh and eighth grade I had a classmate named Heath who would hit me almost every day in school. Heath was more muscular and taller than I was so I was always frightened to hit him back. Around this the same time, there was also an Irish-American boy in my neighborhood named Trey who would taunt me and threaten to hit me every time he saw me.

To this day, I continue to regret that I did not punch them both in the face. I regret being such a coward and being the passive victim. Perhaps these bullies would have beaten me up, however it is entirely possible that my act of self-defense (or preemptive strike in the case of Trey) might have served as a deterrent in the future.

I plan teach my son never to act as an aggressor. However, if someone punches or hits him, he should know that he should respond decisively; forcefully enough to make his aggressor reconsider doing it again. While I cannot change the past, I can attempt to change the future.

I can teach him not to be the passive victim that I once was.

-
Afterthought: Looking back, psychologically I can now understand why my heroes in my teenage years were the fighters of the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

21 Comments:

At July 7, 2006 at 7:42:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

This post doesn't have anything to do what's going on in Israel today, does it???
:))

 
At July 7, 2006 at 8:24:00 AM EDT, Anonymous mosh said...

how about trying tora dojo? It's a jewish martial art school run by Chaim Sober (a real killer who can put his fingers through a concrete wall, slowly). They teach karate, kung fu, and also tai chi (which has some major health benefits in addition to fighting skill).
I guess that's our best option now. Hopefully soon we'll get back to David Hamelech's fighting techniques (whatever they were). Meanwhile we could use Chinese ones (koshertorah.com has an essay on it).

 
At July 7, 2006 at 8:36:00 AM EDT, Anonymous mosh said...

Chaim Sober (a real killer... - I meant that he could kill, not that he does it chas v'shalom.

 
At July 7, 2006 at 8:37:00 AM EDT, Blogger Shoshana said...

Interesting. Being quite a passivist, I have a hard time understanding the desire to hit someone, though I certainly can understand it in the name of self-defense. I think, as a woman, I am lucky, because it is much more rare that we encounter such situations, especially from our peers. I wouldn't have liked to have faced bullies growing up.

 
At July 7, 2006 at 12:00:00 PM EDT, Blogger Tamara said...

I have two boys, and like you I teach them that it's okay to defend themselves if someone tries to hurt them.

 
At July 7, 2006 at 2:43:00 PM EDT, Blogger Philly Farmgirl said...

I remember teaching my son this also. Never to be the agressor but to defend himself and the honor of his sisters (i.e. someone picking on them etc.) I remember twice he was in situations where he had to defend himself. One time I was actually present. He was about six years old and playing with a boy much bigger than him outside. The boy's mother and I were visiting together on the porch steps. Suddenly the other boy started to push my son down. I was very surprised, especially when he did it again. Finally when the boy did it a third time my son was fed up and slugged him. I went over to tell my son to apologize and the mother told me "No! I am glad your son punched my son, he needed it." Afterwards we all had a very nice time together and the boys played beautifully. Sometimes you just gotta do whatcha gotta do.

 
At July 8, 2006 at 10:26:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Ozzie said...

The Barbarian believes that there is a time and a season for everything. Sometimes you must fight now so that you do not have to fight later.

Yawp!

 
At July 9, 2006 at 5:40:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: Not specifically, however the concept of detterance certainly does apply.

Mosh: I will check out the link.

Shoshana:Yes, boys certainly have do deal with this more.

Tamara: We certainly are in the same boat.

Philly Farmgirl. I REALLY liked that story. Thank you for sharing it.

Ozzie: I agree with you 100%!

 
At July 9, 2006 at 8:52:00 AM EDT, Anonymous mosh said...

ASJ: Here's the exact link to the article: http://www.koshertorah.com/health-exercise.html
You may want to explore the whole site, it's really amazing. Loads of exelent essays on very pertinent topics. One of the few truly spiritual people.

 
At July 9, 2006 at 10:31:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks Mosh :)

 
At July 9, 2006 at 3:57:00 PM EDT, Blogger Emanuel Ben-Zion said...

Going to a dojo, making exercises or thinking that you can fight back will not help you if you don't overcome fear itself. After, you have to deal with confidence and last with being smart and wise. It can take a life time or it can happen in just one minute.

 
At July 9, 2006 at 5:00:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Neshama said...

I am a girl (never mind the age) and I remember back in grade school, there were some girls that taunted me. Our neighborhood was changing, and I was one of a few Jewish students. I had some friends, however, and these black girls protected me. I was never a fighter.

But let me tell you how times have changed.

I read recently how a gang of muslim boys kicked to death a bus conductor because he dared to tell them to stop taunting the passengers. This happened in Holland. I read about this happening in Canada, France, and I think England - I guess just about everywhere they are. The bad element is getting extremely brazen!

One against 5 or 6 is NOT GOOD ODDS (that is, unless you know tora dojo!). Where I live they are in neighborhoods all around my community. It may only be a matter of time. I wouldn't venture as to how the 'authorities' here might react. (a hate crime? yes, no, maybe?)

The change is IN ME. I feel that if I were in the wrong place at the wrong time (HV"S), I wouldn't have any second thoughts about flattening these guys with something. But, what in the world is a lady to do? What can she defend herself with? Isn't it awful to realize that it may come to this?

 
At July 9, 2006 at 8:53:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Emanuel Ben-Zion: Good point!

Neshama: That is an extremely difficult situation to deal with. One bully is hard enough.

 
At July 10, 2006 at 9:55:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

I recall the toughest girl in our Junior High slapping me across the face after telling her to shut up. (She was being mean.) I promptly slapped her back as hard as I could- not thinking in the least about what I was doing- sending her and her desk flying. Then I thought, "I have just antagonized the biggest and meanest girl in school. I'm dead. And stupid. And I cried in front of the whole class like a sissy." Long story short, I had inadvertently spoken her language, despite the crying, and earned her respect. She had my back for years after that. Weird. I don’t get these people.

To me, the thing about fighting back that is most difficult is that people may second guess your act of self defense, even if they encouraged you to fight back. People talk tough, but it's like they are just fantasizing. The reality scares and embarrasses some people.

I guess we'll teach our son to fight back but not to expect people (other than us) to pat him on the back for it. It's not like in the movies.

 
At July 14, 2006 at 10:42:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

ASJ,
This post really resonated with me – We sure seem to have quite a bit in common…

 
At July 14, 2006 at 12:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Why did it resonate with you? I am curious to hear the reasons.

 
At July 14, 2006 at 1:12:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Well...
I also suspect that my liking for Irgun fighters is similarly inspired – I also suspect that this is not at all uncommon. When we talk about Channuka or Purim, (or as a Chossid, the same can applied to the great moments in Chassidic history) – we are inspired by the struggles to overcome opposition and stand up and fight for your beliefs in the face of great hatred – no doubt people, like myself, who felt that they lacked that kind of intestinal fortitude are impressed by, and aspire to, that inner strength

As a child I was an appeaser; I avoided conflict at all cost, and allowed myself to be bullied on many occasions. I became very skilled at diffusing situations - telling myself that I was being a better person, that I was above fighting, but knowing in my heart that I was just "wimping out."
I grew in a fairly liberal area, so pacifism was somewhat of an ideal - but I knew that I was selling myself out.

I wish I would have stood up for myself then; at this point in my life, I try hard to make sure my backbone is in place - and not be fall prey to my tendency to avoid conflict. I also want my children to stand up for themselves, and not be taken advantage of (when I would probably not have at their age). I try to speak to them about this often.

I remember reading that a certain Rebbe’s father would often read him stories from Chaza”l & Tanac”h that displayed inner courage and strength when he was a small child, in order to infused him with these qualities…

 
At July 19, 2006 at 7:36:00 PM EDT, Blogger Bagel Blogger said...

I think most Jews, feel a sense of confusion when i comes to reacting to violence.

I too was like you, now I hold my tongue, walk away whilst watching but now, I refuse to be forced into any thing including fear..

The essence is: what is the intent?

Shalom Aaron

 
At July 20, 2006 at 6:37:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

What do you mean by "what is the intent?" ?

 
At July 6, 2011 at 4:27:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jack said...

well, i was the skinny boy whom anyone in the class didn't think twice before saying something to hurt me or even physically too. i wasn't bad looking and i wasn't dumb actually i was the opposite, i was an A+ student (well up to a some point in my adolescent)i guess it was my insecurity. anyways im not here to tell the story of my life which is way too boring and way too sad ( up to a point:) anyways, i used to stick up for myself once in a while but i guess it wasn't enough my parents were to hell and back until i got where i am now and bullying is the reason that i went through all this, anyways 5 yrs ago i was 17 i told my father i quit yeshiva and im going to work and i'll pay dfor martial arts classes myself anyways my father bargained with me in the end he was going to pay ( which is a rare thing in my community im chassidic) and he found me a private trainer (im grateful to him to this day) and guess what style of course Tora Dojo it helped me allot and i was training for 3 yrs got to purple belt even did board breaking which for me that was always the skinny weakling was awesome then i moved on to wing tsun kung fu and now im practicing Hapkido which is a korean style i used to think i'll from now on stick up for myself and i'll get back at those people that hurt me turns out nowadays i do it more as a study i love the philosophy of it and i never got into a fight since i can remember i have had times that people bullied but i became confident enough to just laugh of them "what do they know? they don't know i can kill a person within a few seconds" anyways im still a coward which btw is a good thing in martial arts my Sabumnim (korean for teacher or master) always says fear is the best thing to have if u use it right u can become a dangerous person. but im only a coward until someone hits me and when my adrenaline kicks in i can be dangerous (never happened so far) but like they say martial arts doesn't teach u how to fight but it teaches u how not to fight. last week i was walking in NYC one night with some friends when some non jewish guy sort of gave me a push on purpose and he said "aye watch where u r going" so i said "sorry" my friend told me hey go back and show him who is boss and he called me a coward (to be exact he called me the coward the black belt lol) so i said well he didn't hurt me it was only a nudge and now to get into a fight it's not worth it. sometimes it's better be safe than sorry. basically the moral of the story is that i thought that i'll beat up anyone that says anything, but it turned out that im the person saying sorry and i feel good about it too. what im saying is that more than to teach ur child to take care of the aggressor u have to teach him/her not to get intimidated by the aggressor of course u should defend urself but not always is hitting the answer, because look at me i still have some issues since way back in school fortunately im happy that i turned out the way i am (im very unique with allot of knowledge and talent and experience in life :)but

 
At July 6, 2011 at 4:27:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jack said...

even when i used to hit back when i was younger it still effected me i didn't get over it in fact to me words always hurt me more than being hit . martial arts is more mental than physical of course it takes a great deal of physical power but more than that it's the mind. it taught me that not always u hit but sometimes u flow with ur opponent u go around the punch or kick, and sometimes u go with it. my opinion is that u should teach ur child how to take it. how to come up on top, because if u look at the bullies allot of times (most of the time in my case) the biggest bully is the small person with a good tongue by me it was someone half the size of me. i was tall and i would have been able to kick the living hell out of him, but his mental game was so strong and mine was so weak that i felt helpless. so in short it's the mental game that we gotta teach the youth, and btw martial arts taught it to me. a little late ,but it kept me from going further down the drain and of course helped me out. u just have to find the right teacher for that because like i said more than the Kata's ( forms) and movement e.g. blocks, strikes, and throws etc. martial arts is a life lesson if u learn it the right way. it's how u flow with the challenge and when u flee. (fight or flight)when u strike and when u go around to strike from a better advantage point it's the sensitivity in feeling where ur opponent is. in fact Wing-Tsun-Kung-Fu on a higher level they practice blindfolded. i can go on and on to write a whole book about my story and what i learnt but i won't bore u anymore. so gyus/ gals from my experience, teach them how to be mentally strong. the strongest physical person can be broken the mental strong person cannot or atleast not so easy. i have a ripped body tall and strong used to be in the gym 3 hrs a day i can break wood and bricks with my bare hands but not completely healed yet and that's 10 yrs im in the back and forth process so if u wanna teach ur kids something for life teach them how to be really confident, and confident is the opposite of a bully ( u can teach them martial arts too which will btw help them in confidence and in mental health, but it doesn't have to be martial arts. :) don't get me wrong im extremely into martial arts and it's part of my life and i would advise everyone to do it but it doesn't have to be. there r other ways too. i'll let u figure that out by urself. now good night, and sorry for my grammar and punctuation mistakes and spelling i was in a hurry to go to sleep i hope u'll be able to read it and i hope it gives someone some insight to martial arts and to bullying etc laila tov!! :)

 

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