As a 10-year-old boy, I believed the grown-up world revolved entirely around fighting. Not bickering, or conflict, or war -- but actual, literal, martial arts-style dueling. Ninja, samurai and street fighter were real, honest-to-god occupations in my mind. But even non-fight based professions still required martial prowess: Half of Jackie Chan's movies were about store-clerks having to kung fu through a sea of thugs just to flip over the "closed" sign in the morning.
As a result, I, like many males my age, grew up half-lost in a delusional action movie world. To this day, every line at the grocery store is interrupted by an imaginary fight to the death with the man in front of me. But this makes it sound like I was kind of a badass as a child. That statement is hilariously wrong, because this is what my 10-year-old self understood about fighting:
Any jackass can just punch a dude, but even the most powerful, expertly executed straight is nothing next to even the most half-hearted of jump-kicks. But if you add the words "spinning," "leaping" or "sweet-ass backflipping" before that straight, it inexplicably adds untold dimensions of power and damage to the move. Just try it yourself: Give that evil cyborg that replaced your stupid math teacher a quick jab, and it will laugh in your face before flunking you out ... of life!
"Ha. Ha. Ha. If. Only. You. Had. Spun. First. Your. Family. Might. Still. Be. Alive."
Oh, but if you spin around first, duck down and then jump in the air while jabbing, he'll probably explode into a fine, red-tinged mist of former asshole-teacher-robot-that's-probably-pretty-sorry-he-wasn't-nicer-to-you-now. This is why I spent a good part of my childhood dizzily spin-kicking at water-filled milk-jugs that I had suspended from the roof of my back porch, well before I'd even learned how to make a proper fist. Awesomeness always adds power.
Every little boy loves his parents, and we were fully prepared at all times to murder an entire regiment of rogue samurai in order to avenge their tragic deaths. That's why we needed that extensive weapon collection we had stashed somewhere -- under the bed, at the bottom of the closet beneath the toy chest or just wrapped in an old blanket down by the creek. If you were rich and, consequently, your affluent parents were too busy making money to love or supervise you, those weapons may have even been manufactured: illicit ninja stars forged in the darkest heart of those touristy areas in Mexico, a pocket knife ordered from the back of a comic book or possibly even the dreaded butterfly knife (by the properties of Lesson #1, the wimpiest butterfly knife was always more dangerous than the wickedest hunting knife, by virtue of that spinny shit looking really cool.)
On rare occasion, you may have even known that one lucky child who possessed the ultimate weapon: a pair of red, hard-plastic nunchucks purchased from Ancient Chen, the revered weapons master who ran the convenience store across the street from the arcade, and stored them in their sacred place: a glass case next to some bongs.
"This case? No, young one, this case possesses a power you are not yet prepared for. Stick to ninja star."
For those of us who weren't lucky enough to be born rich and neglected, however, we had to build our arsenals ourselves: whittled stick swords with hand-guards stripped from the handlebars of our bicycles; crossbows painstakingly crafted from old tire irons and bungee cords; or that tried and true classic -- the extension cord whip. Of course, we all had our signature weapons as well. Mine was a golf club with the head knocked off. I would run the streets at night dragging it on the asphalt beside me so that it would leave trails of sparks. Of course, looking back now, it's easy to see that it was too light to be an effective bludgeon without the head on it. But that's because you are a fool, and you've already forgotten about Lesson #1 and how totally bitchin' it looks to run around leaving spark trails in your wake like a murderous Marty McFly.
On the playground, there was one weapon that if used, it was guaranteed to either drastically accelerate every conflict or else shut it down entirely. It was the atomic bomb of childhood. It was not a strike, nor a weapon or even a strategy. It was a phrase. Three little words: "I know karate." Speaking them was a risky gambit. Sure, your attackers know you're probably lying ... but what if you're not? Movies are full of unlikely, malnourished children spin-kicking the holy shit out of entire groups of confident bullies, thus embarrassing the attackers for life and possibly also stealing their girlfriends in the process.
This is how you get dates. This is the only way.
But the gambit had a downside, too. If you've spoken the words falsely and they attack anyway, you can never use the tactic again; all the other kids will know for a fact that the only "karate" you know is Crying Windmill Style. There were a number of factors that decided whether or not the bluff was believed -- from the number of mysterious Asian-looking patches on your backpack to the time of day (night time, especially with the presence of a full moon, adds 50 percent credibility to any claims of martial arts proficiency.) If the statement was accepted, the fight was defused with a simple "Whatever, fag." If denied, the fight most likely terminated in a series of humiliating (but ultimately not very effective) shoves.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If a kid can do the splits, you always give him the benefit of the doubt. And then give him whatever else he wants, too. You do not want to be on the receiving end of a jumping split-kick (see Lesson #1).