Just a bunch of kung-fuey

March 14, 2002, midnight | By Stephen Wertheim | 18 years, 10 months ago

In view of all the new threats facing America, I've decided to bolster my own self-defense, which had previously consisted of a cunning fusion of screaming, whining and begging. One option is buying a gun, as many people have done, but I need something I can take on an airplane, and guns are, I've heard, not allowed on planes.

My answer was karate. I practice the form called Ninjutsu, pronounced "tuition $80 a month." It met the needs of the ancient ninjas, so I figure it'll be adequate for my needs, which, barring an admittedly unlikely encounter with Osama, chiefly involve traversing the Shoppers Food Warehouse parking lot.

So far, the main challenge in Ninjutsu has been shelling out enough money to buy the required accessories. I got the Gi, a white two-piece suit in which I bear a remarkable resemblance to a marshmallow. Then came the patches: over the heart, on the arm, next to the waist. Now, forget the marshmallow, I look like a repeatedly discounted item at Costco.

Even with my ninja fashion in place, however, I do not look forward to getting into an actual fight.

In karate, practical combat is not addressed. It's more along the lines of: if an assailant comes at you with this punch, at this angle, with this fist, you get in an animal position, squeal and try to remember each step of the special move.

Chances of a real-world application seem pretty minimal.

A mugger comes up to me, "Give me all your money."

"Whoa, hold on there, pal. You've got the whole thing wrong! Let's try this again. I'll come in from this side. You stick the second knuckle of your right index finger up against my third rib at a 95-degree angle. And this whole thing you've got with the gun, that's got to go. Let's try to get it right this time."

Although the instructor neglected to show us the means of defense if the assailant were to carry a gun, he did tell us exactly what to do when the samurai leap out of the bushes and heave those pointy metal star weapons at us. You don't dare use pointy metal stars to mess with me! But if you have a gun, there's not much I can do.

"Let's go, hand over the wallet."
"I'm getting in my monkey position, I'm standing on one foot, I'm coming in, you better watch out—"
"I'm going to have to pull the trigger now."
"Visa's on the right, MasterCard on the left. Enjoy the Sunday coupons, they're all yours."

I'll be happy if all I apply from class is remembering to inhale on the way down to the pavement and then exhale slowly during the seizure of my money and my keys.

That's the other thing: either way you go, you're going to lose your money. If you get mugged, you lose maybe 20 bucks, and if you manage to fight off the mugger with karate skills, you're already down 500 on lessons. That's at least $480 for nailing the guy in the groin and sprinting down Shoppers' mega-sized foods aisle, where amongst their immense cans of tuna fish, he has not a chance of finding you.

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Stephen Wertheim. Co-editor-in-chief Stephen Wertheim is deeply committed to reporting, even when it conflicts with such essential life activities as food consumption, sleep and viewership of Seinfeld reruns. In addition to getting carried away with writing and playing violin, Stephen thoroughly enjoys visiting and photographing spots around … More »

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