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Noisy Cricket

October 5, 2011

So we’re staying at a hostel in Chengdu this week called Sim’s Cozy Guesthouse.  It’s amazing – a real island of serenity in a Chinese city of 10 million people, that literally boils with life.  Everywhere you look there people carpeting every possible street and surface jostling, shifting, pushing and shifting like one, amorphous mass.  To get there we had to battle through the crowds with our heavy rucksacks, sweating and navigating the rickshaws, mopeds, street vendors trying to sell us unidentified barbecued foodstuffs and a man dressed in cardboard boxes with a paper bag on his head, dancing to happy hardcore with a broom as an air guitar, next to an MC screaming “HALLO” at us through a microphone.  Odd.

When we arrive at Sim’s we almost walk straight past, as all there is to spot it on the street is a small unassuming sign and a driveway in between a computer shop and yet another phone shop (you would not believe how many phones there are for sale in China).  As we turn in to the cavernous opening, and the sounds of the street fall away behind us, an oasis opens up in front.  Bamboo terracing surrounds a network of ponds and footbridges.  Palm trees dot the edges of the water, which is stocked with catfish, carp and terrapins casually taking in the atmosphere.  Crickets chirp in the undergrowth with the typical, disproportionately loud racket that belies their size, and I wonder how many have met their fate in the jaws of that terrapin who calls their noisy bluff.

Yet, sadly, the beauty of the place makes no allowance for the potential idiocy of the clientele.  Whilst all the people we actually met in Chengdu were lovely, and we have spent a few great evenings playing cards and eating hot pot, I had the misfortune to be sat in the bar the other day and the bilge I overheard spewing forth from one chaps mouth compelled me to write a blog about him.  Well done young man, for you are now famous – at least ten people read this each and every week.  Without fail.

I shouldn’t.  It was none of my business, really. I was only sat in the bar writing and the poor guy wasn’t even talking to me, but I couldn’t help but hear him mention to the barman that he was a bodyguard.  This caught my attention, not least because, whilst talking to the barman, he made sure he said it loud enough for most of the bar to ‘overhear’.

The man’s irritating nasal declarations of greatness sailed across the bar as if he were announcing royalty at a state dinner, not chatting in a quiet bar to a man sat directly next to him.  This, as much as what he said, revealed more about the character of this particular ‘bodyguard’ – more than he perhaps intended, and certainly not what he intended.  I’ll let you make your own judgements, based on the snippets of wisdom I was able to pick up on / unable to block out:

“…You know I have an 8-pack? [referring to his stomach, and as far as I can tell not related to anything anyone was talking about]  An actual 8-pack.  No, no, it’s not like I’m saying look at me, it’s just a fact.  I have to, you see, in my line of work as a bodyguard…”

“…What would I do if somebody attacked me?  I always get asked that questions.  Whenever someone says ‘what would you do if I
did this’ and go to do it I block them, knee them in the ribs, spit in their face and walk out of the club.  Because it’s my job man, and they’re making light of it…”

“…I could beat almost any man I meet in a fight.  Like, literally, with one arm tight behind my back.  I’m not joking, with one arm.  It’s just that fighting is something that I happen to be really incredibly good at…”

“…If I wanted to impress you I could lift up my top and show you my scars, my bullet wound on my side, or the knife scar on my ribs.  But I’m not trying to impress you, and that’s just not me…”

I wish I was exaggerating, but these are pretty much verbatim. I’m surprised he didn’t catch on fire when he said “but I’m not trying to impress you”.  The people he was chatting to seemed to be taking it in and buying this nonsense, this bad Hollywood movie version of a bodyguard’s lifestyle. Where do I even start. Well, in my life I happen to have met one or two bodyguards, and one or two men who really are very good at doing violence.  And everyone I’ve met who knows anything about violence, about real violence and its real  consequences, wants to avoid it at all costs because they also know how arbitrary it is – and how it’s not about being ‘good’ half the time, it’s about being lucky, or about getting there first.

This guy’s talking about how good he is at fighting like a street brawl is some kind of computer game.  The reality is that for all his ‘skills’, anyone sat near him could have decided to pick up an ash tray and dash him round the head at any given time, and there is nothing he could have done to stop it.  Real violence is ugly, unpredictable (well, real experts would probably argue that him being hit after all that bragging was actually very predictable, but that’s a different blog entirely), has little to do with ‘blocking’ and is over in seconds.

Good security isn’t about being incredibly good at fighting, it’s about being incredibly good at assessing risk, avoiding violence before it ever happens or if you can’t do that, recognising the signs and beating your opponent to it.  The best bodyguards are the ones who never have to fight at all.  I know one wise old ex-bodyguard who would be the first to tell you that most of it is standing around and very, very boring (although I will admit he does have some pretty incredible stories after twenty years in the game – check out the interviews in Chapter 3 of How Not to Get Hit).

And one arm tied behind his back?  Does he think he’s Jackie Chan?  Anyone who really knows how to fight knows what an idiotic thing that is to say.  Even if what this guy was saying was true (which it wasn’t) everything he has described is driven entirely by his ego, by proving something – by using violence as a mating ritual to prove to another man that he’s the bigger guy.

Real violent men are predators, not peacocks, and that’s not what a predator does.  And I can’t help thinking that one day this silly little man is going to meet a real predator and he’ll show him to be the noisy little cricket in the undergrowth he really is.

Right.  Rant over.  Next blog, normal business will be resumed and I promise you some cute videos of fluffy panda bears – the Yin to this blog’s Yan, if you will.

  1. Stuart permalink

    are you sure you’re in china and not on the set of a ‘direct to video’ fight movie?

    He must be super hard to have an 8 pack when us mear mortals just have a 6 pack (all be it with out the plastic bit that hold them together).

    an we have to remember the proverb ‘he who shouts loudest… …will probably be the initial target when it all kicks off’.

  2. Marc Moor permalink

    Loving the 8 pack…

    • I thought you would enjoy this particular entry Mr Moor! I really, really wish you were there…

      • Marc Moor permalink

        You are finding your way, very nicely without this muddled of a man beside you.

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