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The Fall

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A young boy from Eastern Europe has a brush with boxing and learns about pride.

Action / Humor
Dusan Pirkovic
Age Rating:

The Fall

When I was a young boy of 12, everyone, including me, was going crazy about action movies, especially the ones about martial arts. In those times, we didn’t have computer games or the Internet, and the only way we could entertain ourselves was either playing outside, or watching the aforementioned movies.

One of my favorites of all time was Rocky, a story about a boxer rising to the top through hard training and sheer power of will. He was my idol. I wanted to grow and be strong like him, to succeed at something for the first time in my life. It wouldn’t let go of me, so I asked my father about it.

My father, being an amateur martial artist himself, had a lot of connections and knew a lot of people that could help me. When I asked him if he knew any boxers, he replied affirmatively, and mentioned a friend of his called Slavko. Slavko ran a private boxing club at the town’s Sports Centre. However, when my father learned of my desire to actually train boxing, he strictly forbade it. He said perfectly reasonable things, like that my constitution was too low, and that my bones were too brittle, but I paid no heed to his warnings. I went to see Slavko on my own, and he let me join the club. He even let me stay after trainings if I wanted to.

Slavko was an old boxer, once a state champion whose fame quickly faded. He was in his fifties, his hair was already turning gray, and he had a beard, which gave him an even more menacing look. He was nice to me in the beginning, but later he started yelling at me and making remarks about my fighting. It didn’t bother me, since I felt like a part of the team.

My parents, however, didn’t know that I was boxing. I always kept making up excuses for staying late after school. Once it was my friend that needed some help with geography, the other time we had extra classes, or I had an agreement with friends to play basketball after school... But in reality, I raced to the Sports Centre almost every day after school, eager to bandage my hands and hit the bag.

The gym where we practiced was old and musky. Punching bags were right next to the changing room, and there was a big rusty locker in the corner of the gym where we kept gloves, bandages, helmets and other equipment. In the center, there was the ring, standing above the floor like a throne, surrounded by ropes. We weren’t allowed to enter it yet.

The first thing we would do was cardio – running in circles, jumping rope, sprinting... It was exhausting, but I got used to it. Then came the fun part. Depending on what day it was, we would concentrate on a particular technique. Punching, footwork, defense, it was all on the menu.

The only problem was that, being the youngest one in the group, I was also the one with the fairest skin. All of the other boxers were Gypsies. I had nothing against them, and neither did Mr. Slavko, but they would often talk in their own language, point at me and laugh, and I felt embarrassed. But, those were the situations in which the punching bag came in very handy.

After a month of training, our coach decided that it was time for sparring. We’d been studying all about jabs, hooks, crosses and uppercuts, about bobbing and sliding, and we felt we were ready to progress. He then told us to find partners. I was left with the only person nobody would choose, a tall, skinny, southpaw Gypsy boy named Alen. He wasn’t a really bright fellow; his heart was in the right place, but his mind was somewhere where it was dark and cold.

Two weeks in, training with a sparring partner was getting better and better. We learned each other’s flaws as well as our high points. He had bad footwork, but his full crouch stance was enough to guard him from almost any attack. I had an upright stance with a mixed guard, which was very unadvisable for someone of my stature, but I had a mean left jab and right hook – mean as a 12-year old boy’s punches can be. I couldn’t really use it on Alen all the time, however, seeing as how he was taller than me.

Amazingly enough, I won my first bout, although it consisted of only one round. I just applied everything I had learned, and before I knew it, I landed a couple of punches, and defeated a young boy, approximately my age and size. He left the ring cursing, and his mates supported him with their own swear words.

Then the coach said that we were to fight our sparring partners. It was actually a very good idea, to let you fight with someone you trained with, to try to exploit the flaws you knew they had, at the same time carefully hiding your own. In one corner, there was me, heart full of pride, having won my first fight. In the other, there was Alen, tall and brooding. Perhaps he was unhappy that he had lost his first fight, or that I had beaten one of his kin. I never knew.

We started out easily. I kept on dragging to the left, knowing that he would stumble and maybe even get dizzy, because that was his bad side, and I was relying on my left jab to do the work. A few body shots were exchanged, before we really started slugging it out. However, pride and self-confidence reigned over me, and I was becoming more and more open. Just as I lowered my guard to deliver a devastating right hook, from out of nowhere his fist swooped down on my face.

That wouldn’t have been so terrible if we had been using proper equipment. Our helmets had some padding on the cheekbones, but my nose was completely unprotected. And his glove was torn and rugged; and his strike was furious and swift.

Everybody started cheering, but they stopped when they noticed that I wasn’t getting up, and that blood was gushing out of my nose. After ruling technical knockout, coach Slavko also announced a broken nose. He proceeded to drive me to the hospital, where they tried to jam my nose bone back into its place, failed, and then operated on it. All without considering anaesthesia, as Mr. Slavko was unsure if he would have to pay for it.

Needless to say, my parents were furious. My father waited patiently a couple of days, until I got out of hospital, to give me a beating of a lifetime, oblivious to the fact that I had already received one days before.

After that little incident, I trained a lot of sports, but never again boxing, or any other martial art. I still respect them immensely, since they teach you a lot of useful things and build up your character as well as your body. But, the fall I experienced showed me why pride was one of the cardinal sins, and I learned not to think too highly of myself. I learned that even strength and power is useless without self-control.

And, more importantly, I learned to listen to my parents.

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