A couple of weeks ago I was out with a friend for a couple of beers, and on the way home decided to go to the local liquor store and pick up some supplies. It wasn’t that late, but as I came out of the store I was confronted by a person; a beggar, panhandler, bum, scam-man, etc. whatever you want to call him. (Forgive me if I sound unsympathetic – actually I donate annually to help the homeless. But what I don’t do is give money to a person directly who perhaps wants to buy drugs or alcohol with my hard-earned money instead of much-needed food. I can’t take the chance.)
Anyway he was polite and I was polite and I told him I have no spare change (what is ‘spare change’ in today’s world, really? Is there such a thing?) He followed me up to the corner and began cat-calling a couple young ladies and getting in their face. I tried to ignore him but unfortunately it was not possible. A few seconds later, while we were waiting for the light to change, he was bothering the girls and so I said something to distract his attention. He turns on me and rambles incoherently something about ’14 years’ and ‘kung fu’ and then proceeds to ‘kick’ me in the tummy! It barely made contact with my thick winter jacket, and it was slow and clumsy, due to his impairment. I had a bag over my shoulder and a heavy bag of new booze in my right hand and so I simply told him (in a stern way but with a smile) “Don’t kick me! Or else I’ll kick you back and you won’t like that!”
My smile let him know that I was non-aggressive but my tone and eye-contact let him know that I was not a push-over or a punching bag. At first he was a bit stunned, but then backed off. The light changed and I headed towards the subway. He followed and apparently not finished yet he called at me saying “I’m right behind you ya know!” so I stopped, took my left hand out of my jacket (I’m left-handed) and stepped up to him with a smile and said “yes I know…” and we talked. Once again it was incoherent (I suspect drugs) but still I let him know that I was not his enemy and that I was just walking towards the subway, and that we were ‘just talking’ with no malice. He seemed to accept that and we shook hands (funny how a few minutes ago he sort of kicked me!) and walked to the station. He went off to harass others and I went home with a smile on my face.
Summary: I was not angry, upset nor had any type of adrenaline rush. I was happy that no violence had occurred, even though some might say I had a right to ‘defend myself’ or put him in his place. I certainly had witnesses to the fact that he struck first. But I didn’t. Why?
I have studied martial arts for 20 years, including stuff like kung fu, muay thai boxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu etc. and I know I can handle myself. I have no desire to hurt anyone. I have confidence to talk to people, even if they are aggressive or assaulting, and I do not have a knee-jerk reaction to strike back. For that I am thankful. I know I can handle myself if I have to, even though I’m not in shape like I used to be, but I also know that good posture, a stern but pleasant voice and solid eye contact can diffuse most conflicts before they get out of hand, or even get started. Also, we have to have a sense of humour in life, right? If not that then at least a sense of empathy or sympathy.
What can you take away from my story? To practice not over-reacting, and to work on your ‘stern voice but smiling face’ presentation when faced with aggression. There are really very few true times when you absolutely NEED to fight, verbally or physically.
Thank you for reading my story.