FOR MEN, WOMEN AND ZOMBIES
The Unlaxed Garrote
A general rule we live by is that of the 100% of people that come in, 10% come back. 10% of those that come back stay, and 10% of those that stay become fighters. Essentially, out of 1000 people to walk into the door, one will fight at least at the amateur level.
The walls at Hidden Valley Mixed Martial Arts are black and white in no discernable pattern. This isn’t to signify some ancient yin-and-yang philosophy where negative life experiences are equaled with positive – it’s simply because we ran out of paint.
The biggest of the many holes that pepper the paintjob is covered by a vertical-hanging Brazilian flag whose seams have long since been ironed out by gravity. It’s not hard to notice that the gym’s charm is not in its appearance. Its charm is that it is here and not wonderland or genie bottles where wishes are worked into a reality.
As time passes at the gym and months turn to years, you notice patterns. Of the most prolific is the boy that bursts into the gym and demands that we make him an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter. More often than not, it is days after this initial demand that he’s nowhere to be found. This isn’t uncommon for two reasons:
1 – Being a fighter is work, not all glory
2 – Being choked is an unpleasant first experience
To weed out the people that are serious about training, we choke them unconscious to test them. I’ve been “choked out” many times, and now I’m doing it to record the experience…it’s different every time and by now I’ve learned to relax enough to keep the details and enjoy the “ride”.
The new challenger that had recently walked in took a seat underneath the Brazilian flag and stared anxiously as Dustin threw his legs around my waist from behind me to keep control of my body.
“Let’s do it” I whisper back.
His rested his left on my forehead and pulled back to expose my neck. The first knuckle on his right thumb traced just below my jaw line from the lobe of my ear and past my chin, never breaking contact. I could feel his right forearm sliding across the right side of my neck in the wake of his knuckle – the feeling is something I would compare to an anaconda wrapping around your vitals as if it could taste you through its body. It’s a passionate moment between neck and arm.
His forearm continued across my neck and arched across the left side, securing comfortably in the crook of his left arm, which folded behind my head and pushed forward. I could breathe…barely…enough to stay conscious. But he wants me to breathe; he wants me to know what he’s doing to me. Unlike the anaconda that compresses your lungs until you smother, the biceps and forearm form a triangle which leaves my windpipe open, but puts pressure on my carotid arteries.
I feel pressure on the sides of my neck. It’s at this moment that I am reminded of being fascinated as a kid by stretching the water hose (with a full flow of water) across my front yard. I would turn the water off on the side of the house then run to the end of the hose and watch the water supply go from plentiful to a small stream that would eventually turn to drops nearly 5 seconds after shutting off the supply – then nothing.
My forehead began filling with pressure and my eyes felt as if they were being pushed up from below…the blood supply to my brain had been shut off and my blood flow had turned to the trickle of the hose. As I’m reminded of this, the trickle turns to drops…then nothing. I have about 3-5 seconds and I’m aware of it.
My gaze began to blur the Brazilian flag as I thought of the hole behind it. The green and gold of the flag became brighter, and I noticed that it was only because of the loss of my peripheral vision giving focus to that certain area that the colors illuminated. Some people describe this feeling as falling down a rabbit hole. I would say falling down a well and looking up as the opening gets smaller and smaller is accurate. One thing is common – the feeling is that of falling.
On my trip down, the walls of the well developed lightening bugs. The gradual increase in speed at which I was falling turned their glow into streaks that increased in length the further I dropped and the smaller the opening became. I took my eyes off of the dot of light that was lazily disappearing from the darkness of the well and I looked at the bugs and wondered where they came from and why they’re in a well. Of course, they were probably wondering the same about me… but I didn’t wonder why I was falling down a well, I just accepted it.
Eventually the blurriness of the bugs speeding by slowed their glossy streaks to dots and I reached out and picked one out of the air. I studied it intently. The wind combing through my hair ceased and the ripple of my clothes resonated less and less until they were frozen in motion…I was completely weightless…peaceful. The opening of the well had dissipated and I was now suspended in blackness, studying this single shred of light that I held in my hand…silence.
I’m on the fence between real and dream.
My body’s impact into the sand didn’t hurt because it burst through like a wet paper towel and I landed back onto the gym mats. I sat up in confusion and looked about and noticed that nobody was around as sand and fireflies continued to christen me from no place in particular on the ceiling. I wiped my shirt clean, only to have it peppered over with sand.
Although I don’t know it, I’m asleep
The Brazilian flag hung against the wall and slowly fluttered in the midst of a windless room. The silence was still evident. As the rain of sand thinned upon my head, I studied the firefly that I still held. It struggled from between my index and thumb to make its escape and fly lazily onto the edge of the Brazilian flag where it touched down. It fluttered again…sat idle; then exploded.
I was sucked through the roof of the gym and thrust back up the well until the light got bigger and bigger. The fireflies were elongated laser beams that gave me an orientation of my speed…speed only seen in science fiction movies and speed that forced me to brace myself for impact into the open sky.
I shot my eyes open and sat erect and confused.
I’m jolted awake
I was in the gym, but the flag was in its normal dilapidated state. Dustin was holding my feet above head level to keep my brain plentiful with blood…the only way to bring me back.
“How long was I out?”
“About 15 seconds”
I was helped up and moved to the edge of the mat to sit next to new guy. I don’t recall him blinking once, perhaps out of shock and awe from seeing someone go unconscious directly in front of him.
New guy asked what lesson he was supposed to take from this. I explained it in a way that I would hope he would have understood: It is absolutely critical to remain calm when being choked or in a combative situation to give you a chance to escape or fight back. I demonstrated that strangulation can render you unconscious in 3-5 seconds and explained that it can kill you if blood flow isn’t restored within 10-12 seconds.
He stared at me with those wide, un-blinking eyes.
I explained that he needed to get used to being murdered.
Going by the general rule of the gym, we have another 1000 people before we get our next fighter.