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Sometimes it’s better to just take the [s]hit.

We often duck and dive to avoid something, when our interests would be better served by meeting it head on. Sometimes it's better to just take the hit.

By the time they are a few weeks old, most babies have mastered the art of the double-dump. Inexperienced parents react to the first load: a stinky nappy (diaper for my American friends) requires immediate attention. So we jump up, change the nappy, and then with a smug little grin, the infant fills the fresh one too. With experience comes patience; leave the nappy on for another 5 or 10 minutes, just to make sure she’s done, then change it.

My eldest daughter was a master at this pretty much from birth. On one particular occasion though, aged about 3 months, she excelled even herself, with a perfectly timed double-dump. I was changing her nappy, on the changing table in her room. With her legs in the air, all cleaned up and right before the clean nappy went on, she let go a squirt of liquid baby-shit, right at me, from a range of less than a foot.

Only my trained swordsman’s reflexes saved me.

There is a technique in swordsmanship, which is especially common with thrust-oriented weapons like the rapier or smallsword, of swinging your back leg round behind you to void your body out of the way.

Ridolfo Capoferro calls it the “scanso della vita”,  the avoidance of the waist.


(You can see the action on video on my School's Syllabus wiki page here.)

Domenico Angelo calls it the “Demy Volte”, or half turn.

I have been training to use this kind of avoidance for many years, but have only ever pulled them off in freeplay a handful of times. It’s really hard to get the timing just right, and it depends on a full, deep attack from the opponent.

But somehow, my deep lizard brain reacts better to a stream of shit than it does to a sword-thrust, and even at that close range, I effortlessly, immediately, and perfectly, avoided the attack, while keeping my right hand on the baby. (You never, ever, leave a baby on a changing table without contact. Because if you do, that’s the moment they’ll learn to turn over, and roll themselves off.) Not a drop of the vile stuff touched me. No, it went everywhere else but on me. At that elevation, under that much pressure, it travelled about 6 feet.

So instead of only having to change my t-shirt, I had to clean the floor, the wall, and the armchair.

I should have just taken the (s)hit.

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

3 Responses

  1. Yes and yes. I’ve had the joy of cleaning shit off of a large selection of books for the same reason.

    I learned a neat trick for the void from Maija, from her teacher Sonny Umpad. It lets you set up the action from a place a better safety. When you think you might be a place to perform it, set your lead foot down with the heel leading somewhat. Execute the void by first moving the head in the direction of the foot and then complete as normal. I’ve found it much faster and smoother, and with a much higher success rate in sparring. Or I did, anyway. No one gives me that opening anymore. Sigh. Students who learn. Grumble.

  2. Life’s full of “shit” that you’re better of just letting hit the fan, I remember an incident with a coffee jar when I was a student. It slipped out of my grip as I was reaching for it from an overhead kitchen cupboard, I Juggled it with both hands, determined not to let it hit the deck. After jumping between hands a few times, it leapt out of my right hand for the last time and as I was moving my left hand into position for another try at catching it, it smashed across the edge of the bench and a large shard of glass stuck into my wrist, I started losing allot of blood very quickly. When I eventually came back from hospital (with 4 nice new stitches), I had loads of blood as well as coffee granules to clean up. Should have just accepted the inevitable.

  3. “Take a light blow, to deliver a heavy blow. Take a heavy blow, to deliver a crippling blow. Take a crippling blow, to deliver a killing blow.” Bruce Lee

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