By Joe Rector
Not many people know this, but back in the days of the ‘60s and ‘70s, my twin brother, Jim, was a pretty tough guy. In high school, he ran with a crowd that was rough. The group’s idea of a fun weekend night was drinking and fighting. It’s a wonder that Jim wasn’t seriously hurt or worse in some of those interactions with others.
When he returned to college after a hiatus to marry Brenda and work some hard jobs, he kept his anger in check, except for one time. In the lounge of the music department, one fellow student made a disparaging remark about Jim’s wife in a joking way. Before the boy could blink, Jim was on him and threatening to knock him out.
As we know, a good wife will settle down even the crustiest men, and Brenda did a good job quickly. On occasion, he would have to stand his ground, but for the most part, the rough lifestyle faded into the past as Jim grew older and began a family.
On the other hand, I wasn’t much of a fighter or a lover for that matter. I avoided showdowns with other guys unless the situation demanded it. In most cases, however, I didn’t have to fool with too many males looking for a fight. The rumor of Jim’s fiery temper and willingness to fight circulated. For some reason, folks thought that I was the same. They figured we twins shared one brain and the same craziness. I was told back then that people warned not to mess with the Rector boys because they were mean and ready to fight. Although I never uttered such a thing, I did nod in agreement. For my teen years, I lived off my brother’s reputation and stayed away from most fights.
In my 30s, my inadequacies in defending myself began to bother me. A wife and two children needed someone to protect them, and I was short on those skills. So, I began taking karate lessons. I became an Isshinryu karate student. On the first day, we completed stretches and exercises. Before the session was half done, I was already so sore that movement of any body part brought pain.
As time went on, I learned the discipline and was promoted. No, I never came close to earning a black belt. What I did develop was a love for sparring. Each evening after workouts, those who wanted to participate formed two lines. It made no difference at what level the individual was in his training, he fought two-minute rounds with every other person.
On that first night, I dove into the fist of an experienced man, and when I stepped back, my nose gushed blood; it was broken. On another occasion, a brown belt and I decided to spar a little without permission. At one point, I read the man’s move, which was to throw a kick. I thought I could step inside of the kick as he threw it and deliver a hand strike. Wrong! Instead, my face met his foot at the perfect time. I took a couple of steps back and then dropped like a rock. I was out cold for a couple of minutes, but no worse for the wear.
The sport was taking too much of my time, and Amy told me that I needed to choose between it and family. See, I told you a good woman can defeat any man. I gave up the sport, but from it, I gained a bit of confidence that I could handle those situations that I’d avoided in school.
I’m too old now to throw many of the kicks and punches and holds that I learned. Instead, I just avoid trouble as much as possible. These days, my brittle bones don’t heal nearly as fast as they once did. Besides, too many crazy people settle disputes with handguns instead of fists.