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.
When in Doubt, Bluff
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.
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).
Do Not Use the Death Touch
There are many, many versions of the death touch. At last count, roughly one in five fourth graders alive today knows how to kill a man with a single blow. The exact method -- whether that's by use of a pattern of ancient Chinese pressure points, the secret Special Forces maneuver that forces one knuckle through the temple or the infamous Steven Seagal flat palmed nose-into-the-brain strike -- will vary from child to child. So, why isn't every fourth grade graduating class made up of one solitary, triumphantly screaming, blood-soaked child who has bested all comers?
"I AM VICTORIOUS! THE BLOOD OF MY ENEMIES STAINS MY OSH KOSH! I AM READY FOR THE FIFTH GRAAAAAADE!"
It's because we all promised our masters -- be they fathers, Senseis or governments -- that we would never, ever use the forbidden blow. It was only for honor's sake that we restrained ourselves and that Jeremy, the big kid with the bowl cut who took our lunch money, wasn't dead and in the ground faster than he could say "I never knew my father."
Practice, Practice, Practice
If something looks like, feels like or could theoretically be used as a weapon, you should probably take advantage of the opportunity to get your practice in. There was nothing better in life than a good, weighty stick -- to this day I cannot walk by a fine, sword-shaped branch without grabbing it and practice-swinging for a block or so before ultimately feeling foolish and tossing it away. But there are many other every day items that can double as deadly weapons in a pinch. And you must get your practice in. You must stay sharp. You must be ready for the day that fateful call comes. The one that says, "This is the president. The worst has come to pass: The robots have arisen. Yes, yes I'm afraid they
know karate. Little Timmy Johnson, I beg of you, will you help us
This behavior is so ingrained that remnants of it stay with us even into adulthood. If, impossibly, there are still some ladies still reading this right now, watch your man the next time he picks up literally anything over a foot long with a decent weight and a handle. For a brief moment, a far-off look will pass over his eyes. This is because he is no longer your loving husband and regional manager of a struggling IHOP. No -- right now, he is elsewhere; busy killing ninjas with that torque wrench or broken mop-handle in the burned out wreckage of the world.
Personally? I'm always a sucker for the Sock-chucks:
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook or you can just use that time to name all of your various moves things like "Dragon's Flame Punch" and "Psychosis Kick."