I grew up in a tough neighborhood in New York City. I was constantly involved in street fights. Walking home from school, playing in the park, walking down the street. Everywhere, there were other kids who wanted a piece of you.
My father had also grown up in the City. He felt it was very important for me as his son to know the importance of not backing down. Every night at dinner I had to report on any fighting I had done that day. My instructions were not to start fights, but to finish them. Of course, I learned early on that you don’t win them all. But I did realize I had to stand my ground.
Unfortunately, my father kind of created a monster. I took to the fighting too readily, and with too much zeal.
I recall that there were many times when I took fighting way beyond self-defense. I would get into fights during sports games. If I had a spat with a friend I would start punching. I even went after bigger kids just to prove something.
The sad irony is that in some ways, I became much more of a bully than those bullies who were trying to pick on me.
Of course, I eventually became an adult, and was smart enough to keep my fists in my pockets. But I am sure that I acted much too aggressively with people. Bullies can do great damage with words, sometimes much more so than with their fists.
It wasn’t until I started training in martial arts that I realized how I had become so used to being aggressive. My school teaches traditional Kung Fu and places a keen emphasis on being peaceful. “The martial artist should be the most peace-loving person in the room” is what we are told.
When I started sparring, I was able to see just how physically aggressive I could be, even though I had not had a fistfight in decades. Of course in being so, I was acting quite contrary to the standards of my school. I realized very quickly that if I really wanted to keep training there, I would have to change my ways.
I have since become very committed to the way of life that is offered there. I believe fully in the righteous exercise of my power and being in command of myself and the situation I am in at all times.
It is a good path to be on. I expect that as I travel along, I will encounter some situations very similar to those in the past in which I had been aggressive. I look forward to proving to the world that I am different and better now. In that way, I hope to make amends for any damage I have caused in the past.
Steve Kobrin, USA