The Logging Road Cyclist went to run the Illinois River with The Bad Drunk and a couple of Kids, The Assailant and The Nice One. It was a beautiful warm spring day with 2500 cfs in the river. An idyllic run.
Down below Submarine Hole, they camped on the right bank in a cobbly little getaway. After dinner, the kids smoked some dope and ate the mushrooms they had brought, while The Bad Drunk swilled his way through the bottle of pinot he had decanted into an aluminum fuel bottle. The sober TLRC lounged in his sleeping bag, enjoying the glow of the canyon.
About half-way through his swill, The Bad Drunk started up a little game with TLRC. “You’re a black belt, TLRC,” he’d say, “see if you can stop me from getting you!”, and then he’d dart in and poke TLRC somewhere on the upper body.
This was pretty irritating, but TLRC was used to The Bad Drunk, so he took it for a while, quite a while, actually, and he asked The Bad Drunk a number of times, politely, please to stop. Finally, TLRC told The Bad Drunk to stop it, for real, or TLRC would. TLRC had been really, really, patient, but the continued unwanted poking by a bad drunk was getting to be a bit much.
The Bad Drunk, of course, as bad drunks are wont to do, did it again, because he thought it was pretty funny, what he was doing. The next time he poked TLRC and retreated, TLRC snatched The Bad Drunk’s ankle and chopped at the back of his knee. This laid out The Bad Drunk pretty well, aided, no doubt by his drunkenness. The Kids looked on. The Bad Drunk sat back and started chattering away about something else.
The next day, while driving to Gold Beach, The Bad Drunk was drinking the six-pack he had bought at Cougar Lane. The Kids were in the back smoking dope. TLRC was driving. The road there is generally one lane with patches and dips and bumps and occasional oncoming traffic. TLRC drove in his usual conservative way: slow.
The Bad Drunk started to badger TLRC: “Go faster, Jesus Christ are you a grandmother, come on, what’s wrong with you &c &c &c”. For some reason, TLRC tried to explain why he was driving the way he was and let this go on for some while before he realized he was arguing with a bad drunk about something stupid.
So he did something stupid in response. TLRC looked over at The Bad Drunk and said “Like this?” and stomped on the gas and drove as fast as he could for a mile or so. The Bad Drunk looked appropriately terrified. Looking around, TLRC saw that the potheads had gone white. TLRC stopped in the center of the road, turned to The Bad Drunk and asked “Enough?” The Bad Drunk nodded and TLRC drove on in what he considered was a safe manner.
The next day they went up to run the North Fork of the Smith. On the way in they stopped at a high spot to look at the view and The Bad Drunk and TLRC walked away from the car to look around. On their return The Kids were burning their way through a fatty with the shuttle driver. This discomfited The Bad Drunk, whose car it was, and pleased TLRC.
TLRC was futzing around with his boat at the put-in when his Combat Information Center (CIC) pinged him about the incoming bogey apparently trying to avoid the sensor arrays. TLRC gave a quick half-turn and saw The Assailant coming in low and fast with his arms extended. Clearly, The Assailant intended to grapple TLRC at least, and probably to take him down onto the gravel.
While the CIC brought the Target Acquisition and Fire Control algorithms online, TLRC pondered the situation. He knew The Assailant reasonably well, and they had always gotten along, and had just had a pretty good time together on the Illinois. The Assailant had always seemed like a peaceable and friendly sort of guy. TLRC could think of no earthly reason that he was suffering this sudden attack.
On the other hand, TLRC knew that The Assailant had been a wrestler, was a pretty beefy guy, and had at least twenty years on TLRC. If The Assailant was intent on pressing home a real attack, TLRC could be in for trouble.
TLRC had realized that one of the problems with Shotokan karate (if one chose to view it that way) was that there was no “flexible response” or “escalation ladder”, as the nuclear war theorists put it. Shotokan training relied heavily on parrying an attack and responding to it, emphasizing the defensive focus of the discipline. The responses were intended to put a stop to a fight in a very definitive way: performed correctly, some pretty awful things should happen to the attacker. In real life, this limits the options available to a karate practitioner. It is sort of like carrying a .45 or a knife. You might well prevail, but save for the most dire situations one might end up being responsible for actions he would rather not be morally or legally associated with.Thus TLRC did not want to do anything he’d regret, and most certainly he did not want to hurt anyone at all, especially in such a vague and uncertain situation as this.
Target Acquisition had by now told TLRC that a nose was easily available for a strike, should he choose that option. TLRC decided that his best choice was to feint with a back-fist strike (uraken) to distract The Assailant, while he, TLRC, got out of Dodge and figured out what was going on. Uraken is a very fast strike, useful against weak body targets. One makes a tight fist and, keeping the wrist, elbow and shoulder very loose, pulls the fist up against the opposite shoulder and then uncoils it like a whip, as fast as possible. A wrist snap at the end gives a final burst of kinetic energy and the force of the strike can be concentrated on a very small area of knuckle.
TLRC asked Fire Control for a solution that would put the middle knuckle of his right hand about an inch in front of The Assailant’s nose, and pulled the trigger.
Unfortunately for The Assailant, TLRC had quit training a few years before due to serious shoulder problems that had required surgery. He had chosen between karate and boating and quite frankly was a bit rusty. Fire Control in particular was poorly calibrated. The uraken unloaded precisely on the bridge of The Assailant’s nose.
The Assailant diverted his charge and backed away, making loud pain-associated noises and with both hands covering his face. TLRC felt terrible, and completely forgetting that he had just been attacked, and still had no idea what The Assailant’s intentions were, ran over apologizing profusely. Fortunately, there was no real damage (intended as a feint, the uraken wasn’t really loaded). To TLRC’s surprise, The Assailant was apologizing too, and feeling pretty much like he deserved what he had just gotten. “There was all that stuff about your karate, and I wanted to see what you would do. I guess I know”.
For some reason no one present believed that TLRC had missed his true point of aim, which kind of hurt his feelings. The Nice One was disgusted with The Assailant and thought he’d gotten what he’d asked for. There was no bad blood between TLRC and The Assailant. The Bad Drunk just thought it was all pretty funny.