Mailvox: Tale of the tape

JR asks: Hey Vox, was wondering whether you could give your height and weight? How much different is it to Franken?

I don’t know how big Franken is, but I understand he’s quite short and in his book he claims the need to lose about forty pounds. So, I’m guessing that I’m taller and lighter, but it’s hard to know precisely. But I’ve fought everyone ranging from a 13-year old weighing about 90 pounds – got my bell rung and my butt kicked – to a 250-pound Marine – same result – so it doesn’t make much difference.

It might amuse you to know that the 13-year old was the result of our sensei’s technique of destroying your confidence upon joining the dojo. He’d tell you that no one was allowed to spar for three months, but then, after your first class, he’d tell you that he could see you were different and special, and therefore he was going to let you to spar that week. Then, for your first round, he’d match you up with someone who could not only destroy you easily, but do so in a manner that would prove totally humiliating. Which for me was the kid, since I was 21. After the kid kicked me twice in the head, then hit my jaw with an uppercut that made me see stars, I called timeout, went over to the sensei and told him that I understood I had absolutely no clue what was going on and would be very grateful if he would consent to teach me. He laughed, and said that I wasn’t quite as arrogant as I looked – he’d assumed it would take at least two weeks for me to appreciate the depths of my ignorance.

A few years later, he used to use me in the same capacity when we’d get the occasional football player in. At first, they’d look at you wondering how they were ever going to avoid killing you by accident, but by the end of the round, they’d be cringing and jumping back ten feet if you even twitched.

The beating I took from the Marine was the triumph of evidence over hypothesis. I’d been bench-pressing with the guy the day before, and knew that I was stronger than he was. So, I decided to abandon tactics and try going toe-to-toe with him in sparring the next day, despite giving up 75 pounds. It was a pretty short match. He punched me in the face, I punched him in the face, he punched me in the face and I went down. Just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke, I went through the process again, at which point I realized that there was a lot to be said for having the mass to absorb kinetic energy. Lesson: when outweighed by more than 25 pounds, stay outside.

As I’ve mentioned before, what separates the veteran fighter from your average bully is that the fighter has taken dozens, if not hundreds, of physical and psychological beatings. There’s no fear of the unknown. Whereas the person who’s unfamiliar with this sort of thing will actually go into shock the first time they get hit, even if it’s not hard enough to do any damage. From the description, it sounds as if that’s exactly what happened to Al Franken in New Hampshire.