There’s hardly any people in the gym at stupid o’clock in the morning, this works out quite nicely for me. The locker room isn’t packed, machines are available and there’s not many idiots screaming their way through each exercise.
The familiar smell of the recently applied cleaning products greeted me as I walked into the locker room. Sweaty lemon. My eyes scanned the room looking for somewhere to set down my kit before hitting the showers.
My usual corner was empty, there was no bag on the bench or hoodie hanging from the wall so I set my bag down there and headed off to shower.
I’m done and unlike most of the old white guys that frequent the gym I always manage to get my underwear on while maintaining my dignity, if you know what I mean.
I’d barely pulled my trousers past my knees when I feel a sudden jolt in my back. My head snapped back like I was an extra in Willow Smith’s whip my hair video. I all but smash my face into the wall before my hands come up to save me.
I don’t know what I felt as I turned around to see who this clown was, I was completely certain I would be informing him that comedy wasn’t his calling.
He was muscular, you could tell he comes to the gym often, maybe a little taller than me, his eyes seem tired, like he just got out of bed, his hair uncombed, and he was foaming at the corners of his lips.
His arms were waving wildly like they were flapping wings building up to flight.
“You’re in my space FAM!!!
I had yet to compose myself, whipping my hair back and forth was not an easy dance move.
He was shouting so loud that a few guys had wandered into the room.
At this point I was of two minds, the Godly thing to do, as far as I knew was to humbly say something pious like “God bless you.” Grab my bag and let him have the space.
The second option was much more appealing, Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of the child and it takes the rod of correction to remove it far from it and Proverbs 13:24 spare the rod and spoil the child. I was about to give this guy a beating, I mean a disciplining of biblical proportions.
His movements were lacking the grace and elegance anyone with training in martial arts has. His balance was non-existent as he bounced on the balls of his feet with his heading bopping around like it was attached to his body with a cheese strings.
I didn’t get any feeling he was actually capable of controlling the body he had obviously worked on disproportionately now that I had looked at him properly I noticed his chest and arms seemed defined but he had toothpicks for legs.
I silently prayed;
Father. Thank you for the opportunity to be your rod of correction, for you use mere men such as me to show fools who think they are hard that they are not. Please now Lord, give me a sign that you wish for me to lay hands on this fool.
To your glory of course.
I realised very quickly that I might have been very wrong about this guy it seemed comedy truly was his calling. His form was a joke, I could see the punch line coming from a mile away and it was hilarious. He was telegraphing like he was trying to send a message in 1837.
The chorus of Fat Joe’s song lean back started playing in my mind but I hesitated. If I dodged his punch, it wouldn’t be too obvious that I hadn’t started this fight.
I also wanted to measure how much of a beating I could safely deliver to this fool so decided
I would measure his strength by the nature of his strike.
I braced my neck for impact, ready to roll with the punch if he indeed turned out to be just incredibly good at concealing his skills.
His skin felt coarse and dry as his fist introduced itself politely to my cheek. I instinctively closed my eyes. I think a smile crept over my face as I realised, he really wasn’t trained, my baby sister punched harder than this guy.
Finally, I’d received the first punch and no one would call me mean or a bully, I wouldn’t lose my gym membership I would have been acting in self-defence when I baptised this guy in the name of pain and blood and humility.
I suddenly found myself looking at two people, one an older man, maybe in his 60’s the other just a young boy. The older one looked angry. Livid. He was about to swing for the boy but something about the way he did so looked curiously familiar. Had I blacked out? Was I wrong about this guy after all?
And why was this older man about to smack this young boy in such a viscous fashion. He swung his fist, now I don’t how I knew but I just did. I recognised the boy was this guy that had decided to assault me and the man was his father. This wasn’t a boxing lesson, this was a beating! But it seemed to have taught my attacker everything he knew.
My heart sank, just a little bit, but my pride and my lust for violence were just about able to keep it afloat, I was still duty bound to baptise him and I respond to my duties with all diligence.
His hand was barely leaving my face when I opened my eyes.
He stepped back as I straightened up. I shifted my left foot about a shoulder’s width forward, bent slightly at the knees, raised my right hand to my chin and the left was held out slight in front of my mouth. I shifted my weight to the balls of my feet.
I was acutely aware of the fact that we’d just finished a chest workout, my movements would be much slower, much more laboured, but the adrenaline would help manage that. I began to calm myself.
Ken No Sen, Tai No Sen, Tai Tai No Sen, I had time. I was awaiting the right moment to decide which form of attack I would go with. Shall I make the first move, react to his next move, or confuse him by attacking simultaneously as he did.
He shifted his weight to his left foot as his right leg came fluttering towards me. At this point I was almost insulted by his lack of technique, the speed was incredibly slow, his movement incredibly predictable.
Tai Tai No Sen it is.
My left foot almost involuntarily went straight for the inside of his thigh. I connected and watched him buckle.
In the same space, almost SuperImposed on him I watched his mother buckle, almost as though she was his shadow in a video game and he was repeating moves he had done just before. In front of me stood his semi-transparent step dad recoiling, having punched her in the stomach and getting prepared to punch her some more. He raised his head as I saw a slightly older version of that boy running towards him. He pushed him with all his strength threw his right leg in the exact same way he had just now.
He was certainly stuck in his ways. But this kick was much nobler. He was defending his mother and I watched as he got brutally beaten by yet another man.
My heart sank a little more
And my head quickly followed as he swung wildly for me
I barely dogged having been distracted by this hallucination, illusion, and vision? I was confused. But I had no intention to get beaten up for it. I pushed him away having side stepped another straight left.
I began to pray, a little more sincerely this time. What was God trying to show me?
I tripped and fell over a bag and watched in horror as this guy jumped right on top of me, I could barely see the faces of all the guys gathered round us I could hear them cheering on, their feet rustling, a few guys swearing as they held back some who wished to stop this fight. But my pride had left me. I knew God had something to say and to be honest this was the perfect opportunity to have a moment to actually concentrate on whatever that was.
My arms rose up to protect my face as I wrapped my legs around his torso and pulled him in. He was trying to punch me. Wildly going for it. But in this position it was all show. I was perfectly fine and from behind my guard I watched as he turned into every man, uncle, friend, enemy, and cell mate that had ever put him in the same position he had me in.
That had ever brutally beaten him and kneaded and moulded him into the hopeless excuse of a man he had become.
And God showed me myself from his point of view, how I had gestured towards my head at my friend who was stood behind him earlier on that morning. I was jokingly telling my friend that he was crazy because he has gestured at me insinuating that I was looking lustfully at the girl working out beside me.
He thought I was insulting him, and given his past I realised this was the only way he knew how to deal with how he felt about that.
I looked out at him again and noticed he was getting tired. I caught his right arm under my left and slid him over to my left side as I rolled over to the right.
He was straight back up and coming for me, his right fist thundering dangerously towards my face. I shifted slightly to my right and towards him and as his arm flew over my shoulder I hugged him like we were long lost friends re-united.
I whispered quickly, I’m sorry for all you had to go through, but God loves you.
Surprised and maybe confused he stopped fighting the tears he had held back all these years.
This might not be the story of every delinquent or violent male or incarcerated criminal, but every delinquent or violent male or incarcerated criminal has a story. Maybe if we knew the story before we judged them we’d do so a little more compassionately. Maybe we wouldn’t need to judge them at all. Maybe we shouldn’t judge at all.
Maybe we could just show love to all men, in the same way God’s shown an incredible amount of love to us.
And we don’t even have an excuse.