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The Dog Brother
A Case Study in Parochial Miscommunication
I have been accused for over a decade now of ‘being a Dog Brother’, ‘promoting the Dog Brothers’ and ‘imitating the Dog Brothers’.
I plead innocent on all counts. I have put up a link to the Dog Brothers website, and am a big Dog Brothers fan. I once watched their first video on power every day for six months [Ask my ex, she loved it—not]. I have no problem with what the Dog Brothers do. I have my self engaged in 148 stick fights according to their very slim guidelines. Unfortunately, there are very few people in my area who want to get that physical. I have promoted contact-weaponry from more of an experimental blade angle than Marc Denny’s experiential stick angle.
By 2006 I had long been accused by local martial artists of being a Dog Brother. This was usually their excuse for not letting their people train or spar with me. Then, at Apollo Ladra’s Maryland Open at the DuBurns Arena, as I was wrapping my wrists in preparation to fight Rico Arus, I was approached by a tall, fit, and much younger man. He asked me what I was intending. I informed him that I had broken my hand sparring two days past, and was just hoping that I would be able to hang in there with Rico for three whole rounds. You see, Rico and I had never met, but we had the same coach, and he told me not to fight Rico, that I would definitely get pummeled.
What’s not to like about that! I’m a writer. I was just going in there looking for background material for a fictional hero that tries and fails to stop a four-armed alien from plundering the glazed strawberry cookie jar his MomMom had given him for his fifth birthday…
Seriously, I wanted to test myself. I also wanted to recruit Rico to fight in a charity event—and how better to do it from my back as he kindly brought me the giant second place trophy I was unable to lift…
In any case this young man was from Pennsylvania and had driven quite a while to ‘make a Dog Brothers challenge’. He informed me that he would not debase his art by participating in ‘stick-boxing’ or ‘stick-fencing’. He asked me, with a lot of positive emotion really, if I would consent to fight him according to Dog Brothers guidelines instead of fighting according to the rules stipulated for this event. What really creeped me out was he insisted that I lobby the promoter with him, and that I sign his legal contract, that would prevent me from taking legal action against him If I were injured. I was insulted by the implication, that, if hurt, I would sue anyone.
Below is roughly what I told him, as best as I can recall through the buzz-saw haze that became my life after I nailed Rico with a number one right out of the gate and got turned into an exhibit for the Chinese medicine instructor watching from the balcony [who did use me as a model patient for his seminar after the slaughter]:
“Look, I came here to fight in their event, according to their rules. I normally do what you do—rattan, steel, oak, ash—but without the legal form. I find that insulting. Besides, you are bigger and younger than me, I suck on the ground, and I have a broken left hand. There is no way I can keep you off of me in this condition, in a no-rules situation. This thing will be healed up enough to check within six weeks. Here is my card, a CD of some of our machete duels. Call me up and challenge me, bring a second, I’ll bring mine, and we’ll do it your way—but not here, not today.”
The man almost cried, and went on about how much it had meant to him to fight ‘no rules’ in front of Dan Inosanto in a previous event, and that I was his only hope of this not being a wasted trip. He put his hand to his heart like Chief Joseph beseeching General Miles for an honorable end, “This hurts, that there is no honor in Maryland, that I can’t have a meaningful fight in Baltimore.”
I got pissed, and do remember what I said, “If you need it today, stay and fight Rico—I don’t think he’ll have to burn too many calories hunting me down, since I haven’t eaten for eight days making weight to fight the lightweights that didn’t show up.”
He then looked nervously around and said, “If you won’t fight me I will talk to Apollo.”
I then got really pissed, “White oak: no gloves, no helmets—I’ll bring an orthopedic surgeon!”
He just walked away sad-eyed, and I felt sorry for the kid, like he had showed up with his new football to play with me on Christmas morning, and I had just told him it was a gay football and to go home. [That really did happen to me when I was a fat little twerp.]
No sooner had the Dog Brother left, than Rico came over, lay down on one elbow like a hungry lion eyeing a scrawny old leopard, took notice that we were the only two registered to fight, and rumbled, “So you must be James?”
I just looked at this guy and quipped, “Aaron didn’t tell me you were handsome too—I would have brought a gun!”
He just chuckled and shook my hand, satisfied that his next meal was properly marinating in doubt…
The crazy thing was, a few years later I saw the Dog Brother in a documentary about the Dog Brothers by a really good reporter by the name of Charlie Laduff [I may very well have misspelled that last name.] It was nice to see him on film. And, by the things he said and his actions there, I felt like he had been being totally honest with me when he laid down his challenge. For him, this no-rules Dog Brothers type of spirited stick-fight was a spiritual quest. It made me feel crude by comparison; just racking up as many hours sparring and as many fights as possible in minimal gear as a science experiment that I could cite in some future report about how a man’s body bends, breaks and recovers. [That would be Winter of a Fighting Life. If you do not like me—definitely buy this book!]
Seeing that film of him and thinking back on our brief encounter, I felt like an anthropologist who had ruined some soulful aborigine’s religious ritual; Like Max Kaiser telling a Mek elder that his tree house was going to be devalued when the current housing bubble burst.
Sorry man.
To date that is my only Encounter of the Dog Brother Kind. I am not one of them and doubt if they would accept me if I asked. I think they’re great, that their leader Marc Deny should be deified by a cannibal tribe from Mars, and their link is on our network page.
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