I had a teacher many years ago, Bones, who once told me the story of his last fight. Bones had been a fisherman for a while. Commercial fishermen are a tough bunch, working in a very dangerous profession, with no guaranteed pay, success or survival. After spending a long time at sea, they’re usually ready for a beer or two when they get back to shore.

One night, out on the town, Bones decides he’s going to go to one of the bars he used to go to when he was fishing. He walked in, and immediately some big ugly looking guy at a table near the door gave him a dirty look. One of those ‘you don’t belong here get the @#$% out’ looks. Bones thought that was strange. He used to go there all the time and never had that reaction before.

Since his time as a fisherman, Bones had begun to study tai chi. He glanced down and realized with his long hair and silk shirt, he didn’t quite fit in with the regulars anymore. At the same time, he wasn’t going to let this guy’s dirty look stop him from having a beer. He had come to have a beer and possibly start up a conversation. If he didn’t strike up a conversation during that first beer, he’d move on to the next place.

He went up to the bar and ordered a beer. The fisherman’s glare gave Bones “permission” to watch the guy — from a self-defense point of view. He watched the fisherman in the mirror over the bar as he started drinking his beer. After a while, the fisherman stood up and stumbled into his table. It was obvious to Bones that he was pretending to be more drunk than he actually was and simultaneously “telegraphing” or previewing the approach he was about to take with Bones.

As tall dark and ugly walked around the bar to where Bones was standing, Bones grabbed the bar and thought of his arm and right side as being part of the bar, part of the bar, part of the bar…. So when the fisherman, as predicted, “stumbled” into Bones, instead of bumping into a normal soft human, he bumped into “part of the bar”.

The guy then says “Sorry”, and goes to shove Bones hard on the shoulder. Bones used the yin withdraw and deflect movement so his shoulder was “not there” and he drew his opponent off balance (into the void). This guy had tried to push Bones (a.k.a. part of the bar) so hard that when Bones wasn’t there the fisherman lost his balance, fell across the bar, spilled Bones’ beer and the beer of the guy on the other side of Bones.

At this, the fisherman said, “I must be more drunk than I thought!” He then proceeded to buy three beers for the three of them and they all sat down and shared a laugh.

An excellent example of using martial arts (awareness, rooting, withdraw and deflect) to control a situation without throwing a punch. No need to worry about weapons, friends, friends with weapons, revenge, police, police with weapons…. And most importantly, this is an example of using martial arts to get free beer!

Bones, we toast your memory and the lessons you continue to teach us.

–David True
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