My fight with Saravanan

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note: This is a scene from the novel that I’m writing. Any resemblance to characters dead or alive is not purely coincidental, though.

   We were having dinner at the terrace as usual. But somehow the conversation veered towards me and Saravanan started bragging about how he could easily pulverise me and crush me in a real fight. Since Nisha was also listening, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. So I challenged him for a real fight. I suggested that we should have some safety rules like no hitting below the belt, no hitting in the face or throat, etc. But he just dismissed my suggestions,  and demanded a no-rules everything-allowed fight to settle the matter. So I said “Fine! As you wish. We will keep fighting till one of us is knocked out, or gives up.” He immediately agreed.

   Later, Saravanan came up to me privately and said “The winner gets Nisha. Ok?” Of course, at this point of time, though both of us were trying to win her love, she had shown no interest in either of us yet. So what he must have really meant was that the loser should stop trying for her. I thought, yeah right, good riddance! I said “Sure!”

   We fixed the venue of the fight as Besant Nagar beach, time 8 a.m. All the science team members were very excited and promised to come and watch the fight.

 I decided to wear my kung fu dress for the fight. It consists of a white shirt and black pant of the type my hero and idol Bruce Lee wore in his famous fight with O’Hara in the movie ‘Enter the Dragon’.

   The next day morning at 8 a.m., we arrived at the Besant nagar beach. We definitely did not want any crowd to gather, since it is illegal to fight in public. But a few curious passersby did pause to watch the proceedings. Saravanan wore a tight t-shirt and shorts.  My colleagues were all very excited to see the fight. They did not realize that they were in for a shock.

   We gathered at a vacant spot in the beach which was partially hidden by an abandoned and ruined building. Saravanan and I took up positions a few feet apart. I stood in the jeet-kune-do ready stance, with my feet slightly spread apart at 45 degree angle, with my right foot slightly forward and slightly bent. 70% of my weight was borne by my front foot, and the rest by my back foot, which contacted the ground only at the balls of the feet. My right hand covered my chest and could easily protect my face from any attacks by deflecting the punches or kicks to the sides. It takes less force to change the direction of a punch thrown at you, than it would take to block it. So I prefer deflecting the attacks away from my body, if I can’t use my nimble footwork to quickly shuffle out of reach of the attack.  Since I stood with my feet making 45 degree angle, I was facing him side-on, thus presenting a very narrow target-area to attack. Even that limited target area was well-protected by my right hand at the top and my left hand at the bottom.

   From the elaborate description of my stance you can make out how seriously I took this fight. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Saravanan just standing there facing me with his feet wide apart and both his hands hanging down by his sides. Was he out of his mind? Why was he presenting his whole front to me for target practice? To make sure, I asked him, “Are you ready? Shall we start?”.  He said “yes!”, but did not change from his ‘wanting-to-die-like-a-dodo-stance’. Once again I asked him if he was ready, and again he gave the same response. He was just standing there doing nothing! I guess he had never hit anyone in his life before. I should’ve known from the way he was bragging about demolishing me, since barking dogs seldom bite. But I got fooled by his physique. He is quite well-built, and certainly strong, whereas I’m very lean and very weak. That’s why I agreed to the fight in the first place. I would never fight with a physically weaker opponent. It’s actually very difficult to hit someone if that someone is a friend and you are not even mad at him. So that’s why Saravanan was just standing there, waiting for me to make the first strike.

    Well, I didn’t have any such inhibitions. He was the one who mocked me and taunted me in front of the ladies, and insulted my kung fu. So I wanted to give him hell! Bruce Lee has  said ” I fear a guy who has practiced 1 kick 10, 000 times, but not a guy who has practiced 10, 000 different kicks only one time. ” So this quote made sense to me then, when without consciously thinking,  I launched into a forward lead punch. This is the first punch you learn in jeet-kune-do, and I had practiced it the maximum number of times, say, around a few thousands of times. My right hand shot towards his mouth in a straight line which is the shortest path frommy knuckles to his teeth, taking the least possible time. Just before making contact with his hard teeth which were covered by his soft lips, my wrist which was loose till then to allow for maximum speed, snapped outwards,  and my fingers curled into a fist. Thus when my knuckles made contact with his teeth, his soft lips got punctured,  and some skin got peeled off even from my knuckles. The power of a punch is maximum if the energy of the punch is transferred to the target in the least amount of time, since power = work/time, and work done = energy transferred. Thus the contact time of the punch should be minimal. That’s why the punch is delivered in a snappy manner, and the fist is withdrawn very quickly after the punch. There was no ‘dishoom’ sound (the way it happens in hindi movies) when my punch landed. Instead, it produced a very sick ‘thwack’ sound. More than hearing the sound wave travelling through air, I felt the vibrations travel through the bones in my arm till they reached my shoulder. It made the sick sound feel even more nauseating to me.

   Red blood started gushing out of his punctured lips and spilled on to his t-shirt. My colleagues were all stunned and forgot to breathe or move. Saravanan was also stunned and looked at me with bulging eyes full of disbelief and shock for a couple of seconds. Then he slowly touched his bleeding lips with his fingers, and when he saw the blood smeared on his fingers, he gasped and started taking huge, long breaths, with his chest expanding and shoulders rising with each inhalation. Then rage spread over his facial features just like darkness over the earth’s surface during a solar eclipse, and he came charging towards me, huffing and puffing, with both arms spread wide like pincers. He reminded me of a charging grizzly bear.

   I used my footwork to shuffle backwards without altering my protective stance, which maintained my centre of gravity lower and between my feet even while moving, giving me the stability to counter-attack even while retreating. For the next ten seconds, he kept chasing me while I kept retreating back, left and right using myfootwork.

  I tried a roundhouse kick with the intention of smashing his left ear with the instep of my right foot, but I couldn’t get the required elevation because it was impossible to balance and swivel on one foot on the loose sand of the beach. As a result I lost my balance and executed an embarrassing movement that looked more like a dog pissing on an electric pole. Luckily he didn’t capitalise on my mistake. But finally he managed to close in on me, and there was no time to think. If he had caught me in a bear-hug, he would have first crushed me and squeezed the breath out of me like like an anaconda, then turned me upside down and banged myhead on the sand. (You must be wondering how I could possibly know this. Well, he told me when we discussed the fight later.) So when he caught my shoulders, I was shuffling backwards and falling down at the same time. Thanks to him grabbing my shoulders, I landed softly on my butt, with him hunched over me.

I placed my feet on his stomach and pushed  upwards with all my strength as fast as possible, lifting him clear off the sand, and sending him tumbling over me. When both of us recovered from the fall and sat up, I turned back to find his face within range of my forward lead punch. As if by reflex, I released two quick jabs on his mouth (same spot as before) with my right hand.

I didn’t deliberately choose the same spot to hit him. It’s just that the way the forward lead punch is executed, it just automatically hits the same spot in the opponent. As soon as we got on our feet, I quickly moved out of his range and maintained a safe distance from him using myfootwork.
By now I was starting to get scared, because I knew if he got hold of me, he was furious enough to pound me to pulp. I knew I was just lucky to escape the last time, and didn’t want to risk continuing the fight any longer. Luckily for me, his lips were bleeding profusely by now and the front of his t-shirt was covered in blood. I sensed some doubt in him. He seemed a bit wary of me by now. So I hid my fears and asked in a neutral voice, taking care not to sound timid nor cocky, “You’re bleeding badly. Shall we end the fight? Do you give up?” He considered for a moment, and then said “Ok.” to my relief. We shook hands and hugged. I apologized to him for hurting him. He said he never thought I would really hit him. I asked him if he was really crazy enough to think that it was possible to fight without actually hitting each other.
We took him to a doctor, and he got three stitches on his lips. He told his suspicious dad that he fell from his bike. Of course his dad did not buy his story, but then he could do nothing about it.
I got no applause for my victory. On the contrary, all my colleagues scolded me for fighting with a novice and injuring him. But the fact is, this was the first time I fought like a true fighter, without any emotions and with an empty mind. Until this fight, I did not know that I was capable of fighting like this. I did not have any hatred or anger against Saravanan when I was fighting him. The fight just happened. Whatever little technique I knew, expressed itself spontaneously when Saravanan offered the openings. There was no thinking involved, no emotions involved. I have never been more alert and aware than during that fight, since I knew that my body was at stake, and I couldn’t afford to have a lapse in concentration. Such awareness and alertness combined with the adrenaline rush in my blood made for a heady combination. It builds a craving and can become addictive if not kept in check.
Anyway, the result of the fight was that Saravanan kept his word and stopped trying for Nisha, not that I was unduly worried about him even if he kept trying. I agreed to the fight mainly to defend the honour of kung fu and because I didn’t like being ridiculed in front of ladies by a stronger guy.

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