The Break

The Cast: Erich (with swords), Myself (with injury).

The crack was deafening. It may have been my leg. I was hoping it wasn’t.

If you are familiar with this blog, I thank you for reading. If you are not, well, I thank you for stopping by, and may this keep you here for more. Enjoy!

So, in order to be a good superhero, you have to train. And, that training sometimes comes at a cost. This time was no different.

Just another summer day. It was 1990-something and the day was warm, the sun was shining, and the local park was filled with all manner of children and parents out and about enjoying it all. Erich and I had decided to be there as well. I don’t recall why we had, but we had, so, there we were. Maybe it was because we would regularly train at the park, but, that was almost always at night. Maybe we just were walking from one of our houses to the other’s house. Maybe we were hoping to see some cute girls. I honestly don’t recall. But, what I know is that we were there and so were other people. So, there we all were: Parents, children, a few dogs, Erich (and his swords), and myself (with my weapon).

Early on, Erich—as Tiger—had decided to use two swords for his weapon(s) of choice (I think it had something to do with Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—can you blame him?). I did enjoy a bo staff (Like Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I would have preferred the sai that Raphael uses—can you blame me?—but, you couldn’t just find those sorts of things in a small town, but, anyone can find a stick), however, a bo staff is long. It can be difficult to hide, or work within shadows, or around buildings, or walls, and such. Eventually, I came across a thing called a three-section staff.

A three-section staff (​​otherwise known as a sanjiegun or “coiling dragon staff”) is just what it implies by its name. It’s three sections of staff connected by short lengths of chain. I saw it in a ninja magazine (a magazine that had ninja stuff in it, not a magazine just for ninjas). It looked promising. I had some sturdy dowels, a length of strong chain, and some eyebolts. I could make that. So, I did—deep in The Sewer. I based the lengths of the staff on an old arrow quiver I had. It was sturdy leather and because it slung over the shoulder, I could wear it on my back and keep the three-section staff out of the way—yet easily accessible. Perfect.

A major downside to this weapon was one: I didn’t know how to use it. Erich had it pretty easy with his swords. While real swordsmanship is difficult, in the worst situations all you had to do was swing them about (no offense to swordsmen—I had a good friend who was a fencer—I’m just saying that in the worst case, that’s all). And, with a three-section staff, there are real methods to use them. However, how often have you seen them used (like in movies and television)? Probably never. They are just not as flashy as swords and nunchucks. I should know, I used to watch Kung Fu Theater.

My point is this: I had nothing to build upon. I had no idea how to go about using this cool-looking weapon that I had crafted, properly—and, on a side note, it did turn out pretty well. So, I just sorta guessed at how to use the three-sectional staff. I would typically hold one end-section, in my left hand, in its middle. This would allow a defensible end. I could parry and jab with the left-hand shaft. The middle section could block and deflect because I would hold the other end-section with my right hand near the inner portion. With this technique, I could swing and bat away incoming blows, and, inflict some of my own. Not bad.

I tried to create what I thought was going to be the perfect defense/offense move. In playing around with the three-section staff I thought that if I were to hold the outer ends of the inner section, and then begin to spin the outer two sections in a circular manner, that I could hit and block at the same time. I tried this in an alternating fashion, like, if the right end is upward, the other end is downward. I also tried keeping the ends in synchronous rotation. It was meant to be kinda like the move General Grievous uses when he fights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, 2005) and spins the two lightsabers in a shield-like fashion and then advances. It was supposed to be like that. It wasn’t. Not at all. I hurt myself a lot. A lot.

If I started wrong (which I often did), one end would hit me in the back of the head—then the other would hit my shin. And, if it ended wrong, one end would hit me in the back of the head—then the other, my shin. If I put too much momentum into it, I would get hit in the back of the head—and my shin. If I would use it wrong (which was every time), I would get hit in the back of the head—and shin. Now, I didn’t always get hit in the back of the head, when I attacked with it and one of the ends hit my opponent’s weapon (or anything at all), that end of the staff would bounce back and hit me in the face—while the other section would still hit me in the shin. So, yeah… I quickly gave up on trying to make that maneuver work.

Well, because of those repeated fiascos, I could only pretty much just do the left-handed/right-handed move as mentioned a couple of paragraphs before. And, it worked pretty well. In some of the sparring that Erich and I would engage in, I discovered a great trick—completely on accident. See, Erich would use wooden dowel swords. He did this for a couple of reasons, one was, we could make them (wooden dowels are inexpensive). The second was, we didn’t have money to buy metal swords. Like I have mentioned before, no Amazon shopping at that time. So, wooden swords were the tools of the trade—for a time. Where was I going with all this? Right! The trick. Ahh, the trick.

Once, while sparring with Erich, my three-sectional staff and his sword became entangled. With this situation, we both took a moment and analyzed the end result, then, worked it out backward to be able to do it again. With a few practice trials, I could repeat the aforementioned accident. The trick was this: With an incoming blow I would move my staff so as to direct the incoming blow to the chain section of the middle and left-handed sections of the staff, then I would swish the middle section around the sword, pull tight on the right-handed section, and this would lock the incoming weapon. My opponent’s weapon would be stuck, essentially disarming them, then, I could whack my opponent with the right-handed section. It worked great.

With that trick developed, I had a slight edge on Erich. Slight. He didn’t like it much.

Now, it wasn’t that Erich was petty, it’s just that as a superhero, you have to be able to best your opponent. So, he wanted a trick of his own. The Whirlwind. As I mentioned in A Tiger’s Tale, Erich created a special attack that seemed pretty much perfectly and completely defendable. He tried it out. On me.

Remember how at the beginning of this story I mentioned that we had arrived at the park to spar? Yeah, let’s get back to that point. So, there we were, the two of us practicing some basic moves. Some warm ups. Trial and error. Then, at some point, Erich says something like, “I thought up a new move. I call it: The Whirlwind. Let me show you.” And, he did. It was cool.

With the new move now revealed, we kept going. And, that’s when it happened.

While we sparred, there came a point where Erich leapt into the air and attempted his Whirlwind maneuver. It worked. Perfectly. Once in the air, and amidst the fake-battle-blows, I was caught off guard by The Whirlwind. I was completely unsure how he would end this. See, at any point in the leap, Erich could extend his legs, and this could leave him in a full stance, a half-stance, or crouched low to the ground. I didn’t know how to block or attack it. By the time my brain processed this, it had a new focus of concern, the growing pain in my leg.

It was the sound of that distinct crack that brought me out of my stupor. 

Have you ever been in a lot of noise and then not? Like large crowds, or had your television too loud, or whatever, then stepped into a quiet building, turned your television off, or whatever, and then realized how deafening the silence you are now in is? It was kind of like that. The sounds of play from the children and regular outdoor noise found—collectively, somehow—a brief moment where they all stopped, just for a second. And, it was at this precise moment, when Erich’s sword hit my right leg. I can still hear the echoing sound of the crack.

While there was no real echo, it felt like it. There was no mistaking it. The ‘crack’ was clear. The ‘crack’ was distinct. Something broke. It may have been my leg, but, I was hoping it wasn’t. It wasn’t. Actually, nothing broke. Surprisingly. It only sounded (and felt) like it.

In Erich’s mind, when he lept into the air, he was sure I would find a way to parry the incoming attack. He also accidentally misjudged his full movement. He had closed the gap between us by just ever so slightly too much. And as an added bonus, the instant his wooden sword struck my right shin there was an immediate reaction. Centered vertically, on the front of my shin, my leg began to swell—quickly. A large lump began to form. I barely had time to comprehend what was happening before my injury had completed itself. This is when Erich’s mind went somewhere else, “He’s going to kill me.”

There I was still standing in my battle pose from seconds before: Right leg forward, left leg behind as the brace, left hand centered on the left section of my three-section staff, right hand at the inner portion of the right section ready to thump, center portion of the staff tight and ready to block, and an almost two-inch high lump upon my right shin, quickly turning red and painful (I could see the welt and color change all unfolding right before my eyes because I was wearing shorts). Erich was still crouched in front of me, not moving, looking up, and awaiting reprisal.

There was none.

Why would there be? He got the best of me. Yes, it hurt (not at first, but shortly afterward it hurt really bad—like when I moved), and the skin began to split—a little (not enough to bleed, just enough to let white blood cells out to make me think it was about to bleed), but, it would be unfair to be angry at Erich just because he bested me. It really would. Erich apologized profusely. No harm, no foul (‘cept there was harm—on accident, but still… and, it did heal and was gone within a few days). So, now that our training session was cut short we decided to walk back to my house (well, Erich walked and I limped—my leg hurt really bad), get some ice for my shin, and watch Animal Crackers (1930, The Marx Brothers). One of the greatest movies. Ever.

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