8th Rule: If This Is Your First Night At Fight Club, You Have To Fight.

Dear All,
I am bruised, battered and completely content with my situation. Well, at least I am today. My emotions change like the weather down here in Georgia. Two days of combatives have destroyed my muscles, bruised my arms, and left my lower back raw. And so far, nothing has been more enjoyable.
After being on break for 18 days, most of the men are singing the same tune, “They should have never let us go home”. We have had more people quit, 5 more I believe. (They don’t go home until about week 12. They just sit on the sides and refuse to train.) Most of us seem to be feeling deeply more in touch with everyone at home. And in many ways, this just makes Basic training harder. The men who do the best are the ones who have no ties. Nothing they are waiting for, except to start their career, and in their minds, probably their life. But those of us who have deep connections with home would not trade it for the world. Every lonely night is worth the unproportional amount of time we get at home with loved ones.
Right now I have first fire guard on Saturday night. I can look forward to an unsolid 8 hours of sleep and a relaxed Sunday of cleaning the bay, possibly finishing this letter, or writing others, studying combatives drills for Monday, and a possible nap on my “Pussy Pad” (The mat that comes with our sleeping bag and use for sit-ups on the linoleum). Sundays are nice like that.
In some act of strange kindness, the drill sgts. actually brought mail for those that had it. It was a strange occurence because normally there is no mail on weekends. The only stipulation they put on it was that we had to do push ups for it. Which of course anyone gladly did. Unfortunately, I was not graced with a letter yet. And for some reason I had a lot of my buddies come up to me and tell me “It’s okay, man. I’m sure you will get more letters. Once they start rolling in, you’ll probably get them every day.” I guess I look like a sorry sack with my fresh, swollen up black eye.
Today, after 9 hours of combatives, most of which was spent rolling (start from the knees, can’t come to the feet, slaps to the face allowed, and full on punches to the body. Wrestle for submission). I had done extremely well the whole few days. Undefeated for three days. Today I fought four opponents in a row, going for almost 20 minutes straight, submitting all of them. I was feeling absolutely exhausted. My stomach had begun convulsing at random intervals threatening to paint the mat with my lunch.
exasperated and content with myself, we were brought into our normal final circle which we end the day which we end the day with, and instead of final instruction, they announced that we would have a company tournament, in which one gu from each platoon would fight until a winner could be decided. (Two fights each placing the guy who won twice 1st, the guy who lost to 1st, 2nd, and the 3rd and 4th being the person who lost both fights). We were all excited, if nothing else, we would at least get a good show.
Each platoon was to pick their best fighter and who was fresh enough to go two more rounds. I voted for our platoon guide, a beastly football playing, wrestling background guy with the strength of a gorilla! My platoon soon began to throw out a few possible names, but the most common name was “Chandler!” “Oh, put Chandler in there, I know he can do it.”
There was a sense of complete faith about why they wanted me to fight. I had spent the weeks before we left showing the guys the little Jui Jitsu and grappling that I knew in the bay at night, and having contests to pass the time, and the guys loved  it. There will always be something impressive about a person’s ability to dominate a fight, and I was able to teach this. And always, if nothing else, it passed the time.
I tried to persist that I was extremely fatigued and might not be the best choice. But by vote of hands, Majority Rule had put me in the ring. Now, I would like to say that I was completely confident, my normal self, not nervous to be in front of a crowd, but there is something different here. Normally if you are competing as a team, you are in front of the crowd together, win or lose, you’re a team, or you may perform in front of a crowd by yourself and, success or failure, it’s only for yourself. In this tournament I was fighting for the honor of my platoon, but would stand alone against my opponents.
All eyes on us, Drill Sgt. as a referee, we came to the middle of the circle of people sitting, creating a makeshift ring. Starting from our knees I was looking into he face of my first opponent. He looked nervous and it began  to level the plain. After all, we were both humans competing for our respective reasons. And we both felt fear, excitement, and adrenaline flowing down to the bottom of our feet and the tips of our fingers. Before we knew it, we were clinched. Arms out, shoulders in, we locked our strength against each other.
It began very much as I expected. I pulled him into guard and began aggressively attempting to trap an arm, or take the back, working towards submitting my opponent. Knowing we can strike within the limits of closed fist to the body and slaps to the face, we used our hits to distract and disorient…that is until we got backed up too close to the outer ring of privates.
“Stop! Stop! Start over in the middle!” The drill sgt. began commanding us to being ourselves back to the middle to reset our position. We were dangerously close to the crowd, limbs flying, positions still flipping back and forth. I could clearly clearly hear the referee trying to separate us, but my opponent was in a frenzy. I wasn’t going to let him up until I felt him relax from within my guard.
Finally, I felt his body relax and he was no longer pushing forward for position. I relaxed my guard and began to let him go. That’s when I saw it coming. From behind his right shoulder, I saw an open palm moving through the air. It was right above my face and I thought I saw the fingers close up and…Black. Wake up half second later…
Am I okay? Yeah, I am. I thought to myself as he began to stand up. “Hey, Drill Sgt! I’m pretty sure that was a closed fist!” Quickly he came back, “No, that was a slap, man.” I could hear the crowd already debating it. Drill Sgts in the background discussing it.
And to be completely honest, I will never know whether or not he hit me with a fist or a slap. And it doesn’t matter, I guess. I got a nice black eye for my troubles and I took fourth in the competition. What did the Drill sgt say about the hit? He looked me dead in the eyes and asked me, “Well, do you quit?” It’s moments like that in which you remember why you are doing what you’re doing. This wasn’t about me, my ego, this wasn’t my win. This was for first platoon. And the last thing I was going to do was quit.
Needless to say, I was almost distraught with my losses and worried about how the guys would feel. All that faith they had and I came in last.  But the worst I heard was someone point out that over 8 weeks the only contest first platoon had won was an eating contest. Which is true. And funny.
As you guys know, I am always looking for the lesson and the story here at basic training. Like a reporter, my ear to the ground. But like the greatest writers know, the best stories are the ones you are a part of.
Sometimes I feel like I am not paying close enough attention and missing the story, and other times I just have trouble concentrating. I want to use mental powers that I don’t have to pass the time. I am full of feelings of missing home, and worrying about what the future will bring, but always with an ear to the ground, looking for that story.

Private Chandler

Published in: on January 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm  Comments (4)