I know this seems crazy, but I wish everyone had the experience of being in a fist fight. Oh boy, my mother is going to kick my ass for this post. But seriously, you learn so many life lessons the second you “throw hands” or fight someone. The first lesson you learn is vulnerability. When you get that first punch to the face, God blesses you with the new-found wisdom of how fragile humans really are. Being hit by someone else quickly stops the world from revolving around you. The second lesson you learn or are faced with is courage. When your physical self is hurt, or is at risk of being hurt, you find out if you are courageous or cowardly. Also known as the instinct of fight or flight. And, the third and final lesson you learn is how to cope with and conquer REAL FEAR.
I know what you are thinking, what do I know about fighting? Truth is, the suburb, where I grew up, was a haven for teenage fighting. The UFC was huge back then (and still is, I believe). Everyone wanted to be Chuck Liddell. So our neighborhood, like so many others, had a fight club. I think it is safe to talk about it now that we are in our mid-twenties. At the time, none of our parents knew about it and of course, none of the kids involved told. It was like a weird secret among us boys. Quite honestly, it was very much like the movie “Fight Club!”
We would meet every Friday night behind the gym of the middle school. Didn’t matter if you wanted to fight or not, eventually everyone had to. I will never forget the moment of my first fight at this “middle school fight night.” I remember I didn’t want to do it. I was scared shitless of fighting, but, like most boys, your time comes. When the time came to choose “fight or flight” my instincts were to attack. Initially, I took 2 punches to the stomach and 2 to the face. After a slow start, a demon jumped out of me. It was as if a monster or the animal instinct inside of me was released. I won that fight, but I was never the same. I thought I was always “Jolly Jason.” You know like the funny, picked on fat little kid. Yet, I found out, with those fights, that there was another part of me I had never tapped into before… The part of me there to specifically protect, and push me forward when attacked.
I learned so much from that first fight and the fights that came after that. I learned to react quickly and not hold back. I experienced fear and learned to become comfortable with it. It was inspiring to see how courageous I could be when I was challenged. Much like life, when you lose a fight, it hurts. Whether I won the fight or not, I realized I was overcoming fear every time somebody called me out.
My whole life my parents gave me everything I could have ever wanted. They did everything they could to protect me. But the one thing they couldn’t protect me from was my peers. And those peers could be ruthless when you were a fat kid with glasses. Despite living in a nice neighborhood, there was a seemingly secret law of boyhood. And that was survival of the fittest. And with the fight club, I was given opportunity to prove I was one of the fittest.
I truly believe those fight clubs bred strong men. Several of the guys who grew up fighting in our fight club went on to play in Division One and Professional Football. We all grew up in a system where we were forced to conquer fear at a young age. Yes, it might seem animalistic, but the truth was we were all afraid in the beginning. And whether we liked it or not, we were forced to overcome that fear.
To this day, I have accomplished many things because of conquering that fear when I was a boy. In my mind, nothing will ever be as terrifying as that feeling I had swinging fists in the circle behind the middle school gym. It’s funny how fear becomes friendly once you show it who’s the boss.