The Calculus of Mortality

by Jinryu

The last time I did any sort of competitive martial arts was about a year and a half ago.  In a kickboxing tournament against the university’s Kickboxing Society’s vice-president, I forfeited after the third round because my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding.  Not that would normally stop me.

The thing is, I am actually fairly certain that I could have won that round, and that I could actually have survived the entire fight overal and win  on points. Even though I defaulted, I had taken much less damage than my opponent.  He also was bleeding from his face from where an axe kick in round one had landed, full on, in the middle of his face.  From round two and on he was breathing heavy through his mouthguard. He also had pretty substantial bruising on his forearms; and his shins and one of his ankles were swelling by round three. My kicks had a connection rate of about 50%, and I was throwing about 4 kicks for everyone one of his.

We were in different weight classes though, so his core was really like a tank.  He had energy all the way until the end, and to give him credit, despite the psychological damage that I tried to inflict, he stayed in that fight with a strong spirit and pushed down the substantial physical damage.  It was also hard to really push him back because we were wearing body armor, and as a principle, I don’t try to win by KO because in a uni setting like this, I think that one of my high roundhouse kicks is more than enough to knock someone out– but without medical staff on hand, that’s just not a nice thing to do.

So if I was winning, why did I forfeit?

Somewhere during round three, I took a huge superman punch in the face.  It wasn’t enough to knock me down, but it substantially staggered me and had me backing up.  BEcause this tournament had chest armor on, I didn’t have enough stopping power to keep him from charging me– and though I think we were technically pertty evenly matched as far as punching goes, I realised at some point that I was being pushed back.  Because he was more willing to hurt me than I was willing to hurt him.  I stress that I was not incapable of hurting him– but I am generally very unwilling to do serious damage to the head.

After the round finished, I was slowing down my nosebleed and thining– but something else just  wasn’t right.  While the referee was checking his face out, I realised what it was: I just didn’t want this anymore.  Here I was: I loved kickboxing.  And I wasn’t badly hurt.  But the sight of blood, some of it mine and some of it his, all over my gi made me think of [CM] and how upset she would be when she saw it, even if it was cosmetic.  I was a bit dizzy from the superman.  Not the worst that I’d ever taken, but still bad enough.  And my opponent was a headhunter– he was trying to knock me out.  With the body armor, headshots were the only things that were really having an impact.

I think in my head, I weighed it all up.  I could win– but it would cost me.  There was the risk that in order to get this win, it would get me hurt in some other way.

Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want it enough, so I forfeited while I was ahead.


That was a turning point in my martial arts “career.”  It was the first time where I really chose long term considerations of prolonging my health beyond the time limits of a round.  Up until that day, I had always gone through training and competition as if getting through that one day was all that I wanted.

Something changed on that day– I was no longer willing to sacrifice everything “for the day.”

Perhaps the significance of having CM in my life is much greater than I had originally thought.  Martial arts were always a world of my own, one where I relied on nobody.  Even my closest friends, who come from our history in martial arts, are outsiders to the particulars of what motivate me.


Physio has changed the equation a bit.  Originally, my world view saw hit points as a finite number that I could build up through training and levelling up– but that at a certain age, there’d be no more levelling up, and then all my stats would start dropping gradually.

I’m not actually that old yet, but the localised damage in a lot of my joints was such that I thought I had advanced problems in those areas.

Physio changed the situation because it has actually given me the ability to start restoring degrees of function to damaged joints.  I suppose all it really took was the right physio (I’ve been through enough bad ones to almost have given up on them altogether).  My knees have been getting better, and my shoulder is slowly regaining a lot of the function after my rotator cuff tear.

As I am now, I’m not even in condition to throw a right cross– that’s how bad my shoulder is.

But now that I’m finding ways to rebuild my stats…?


I was in a judo championship yesterday.  I hurt my ankle– rolled it while dodging a tai otoshi attempt.  I’m probably going to be out of commission for a couple of weeks.

But it feels good– it feels good to be working towards something with my body, and to be able to exercise my fighting spirit again.

At the tournament, I was supposed to fight 6 rounds.  I only managed to complete 4– during the fourth round is when i hurt my ankle, so I had to forfeit the remaining two rounds. I would have fought [Kobain] and [3B].

Round one, I fought against [TheSlav].  I’m not sure if he’s actually a Slav or not, but in any case. He’s a blue belt who is about my height, but has a fair amount more muscle weight on him than me. He was more flexible, powerful, and agile than me– but I went up against him with a gameplan of playing a sweeping game, since my own sweep evasion agaility is probably one of my strongest points.  I managed to keep the attacks on for the length of the round, but it was clear that I didn’t have enough to take him down. On the plus side, his sweeps weren’t working on me either.  What he eventually got me with was a combination into an o soto gari, which is  “Major outer reap.”  THe move slammed me backwards, and I actually hit my head on the ground.  TheSlav is known for being ultra aggressive in randori— to fight him in a competition setting was completely something else.  It was an incredible feeling to face someone who had so much killing intent.

Of course, willpower isn’t enough to win a fight– after I bounced off the ground, I was pretty annoyed because it was a moment of inattention that had lead to it happening.  When I tried to get up, I stumbled: I was dizzy.  I wasn’t able to stand up for a few moments until I cleared my head.

It was a good throw.

Second round was against [Kipps], who is the club ace.  He’s by far the strongest judoka of the club, able to beat everyone, including those taller and larger than him.  I don’t have much to say about this fight– he’s a brown belt who could long ago have qualified for his black belt.  It’s always a pleasure to fight with him, because I always learn a lot from the experience.  Whenever I fight him, he’s always a step ahead and seems to calculate how much of a chance he’s willing to give me.  Within a minute, he had me on the ground with a kesa gatame, but he gave up the hold to give me the chance to continue the fight.  I eventually was taken down by a perfectly timed sweep.

Third round: I went against  [Theophys].  He’s a nice enough guy in general, but even since I started judo, he’s been one of midlevel belts (green) who has never taken any responsibility to his juniors.  I remember training with him one night where, unlike other partners, he wasn’t really doing anything to help me out.  No advice. No guidance.  And his throws weren’t gentle.

In general, I try not to use shoulder or hip throws because my entry is too slow.  My only realistic methods of scoring are with sweeps and reaps, or groundwork after a positive scramble.  In this case, [Theyophys] attempted some sort of throw which ended up in a scramble on the ground– I came out on top, and managed to get him in kesa gatame.  I was pretty worried, because he’s pretty big compared to me– but somehow, I managed to hang on to him for 30 seconds, and scored the ippon by hold-down.  I held on to him so tight that my bicep is bruised where I was cradling his head.

During the fourth round, I foughth [Xiao]. We’re almost the same, physically speaking.  But he’s got about two more years of experience than I do, and I think his feet are faster.  I opened up with a tomoe nage, which failed.  We ended up on the ground with him in my guard.  I couldn’t get anywhere in time though so the referee stood us both back up.  WHile I was dodging one of his techniques, I rolled my ankle– and then it went downhill from there.  Without the confidence to use agility, I fell prey to one of his throws, I don’t even remember which type.

The remaining two matches, I forfeited due to injury.

Despite all the losses, I’m really happy about the one win I did get.  It wasn’t luck.  If our situations were reversed, and I was his size and he were mine instead, and he’d gotten this hold down on me, I’m 99% certain that I would have been able to reverse it.  However, for whatever reason, I guess I must have been doing something right– I kept him down for the 30 seconds.  Trying to pin down someone who is significantly bigger and stronger than you is pretty tough, if I do say so myself.


I’m sitting on the couch now, injured– keeping my ankle elevated. I’m going to head out to the stores later to see if I can pick up one of those lace-up ankle stabilizers.

It feels good to have my competitive spirit back.

It’s not that I like getting hurt.  But I’ve somehow managed to rekindle a want of this.

Striking arts mostly scare me nowadays because I’m afraid of brain damage.  But judo is, all things considered, pretty gentle.  I’m starting to enjoy judo more and more– it has given me an outlet for all the rage, minus the risk of becoming punch drunk, and for the most part, getting around all the broken bones.




I remember, that as I was holding down Theophys, some people in the crowd were actually rooting for me by name– “[Jinryu]!  JUST HOLD ON!” I would only need to hold on for a little bit more and it would be mine.  I could do it.  He was flopping like a crocodile under me and I felt him straining against me– my only chance was to keep the technical advantage of my leverage over him. I needed to stay focused.  I only needed to do it for half a minute.  It felt like an hour.


I think it was someone in the crowd; but in retrospect, maybe it was all in my head.