Salt Lake City, UT – 2002
My brother Nate has been a blade smith for years. He makes high performance knives and swords. He always has sharp things lying around and is always in the middle of a project.
We were both working graveyard shifts at the time. It was nice because we would both be up late, and on our days off we could get together and practice martial arts. He still lived with our parents and I had been out of the house for many years. But my relationship with my parents had improved enough that I was welcome to stop in at my discretion.
On this particular night I went up to my parents’ house. Nate and I were going to practice martial arts in the garage. The garage was far enough away from my parents’ room that we could spar and punch the punching bag without waking anyone. We weren’t terribly loud anyway.
Our martial arts instructor was something of a god to us. He had trained in the time and place and with the people who didn’t have to soften the art for the sake of public interest. He was forced to spar bare-fisted with only a cup and a mouthpiece. They would spar with live weapons and condition their fists by punching elbow-deep into a bucket full of washers and nuts. This was intense, hardcore, macho, awesome stuff. We wished we could have participated in something that challenging.
During his training, he was forced to kick an apple off of the tip of a spear. This taught him to kick with the correct form under duress. He was free to leave the dojo any time, but if he wished to stay he had to face the danger necessary to achieve greatness. Heat and pressure make a diamond, and this was the kind of training we wished to emulate.
On this day, it just so happened that my brother had made a spear. This wasn’t a sharpened stick. It wasn’t a tin can on the end of a broomstick. It was a high performance, razor-sharp deadly weapon. You could shave with it. With a gentle thrust you could poke it all the way through a yellow pages phone book. It was about five feet long from base to tip – the perfect height for an experiment.
It was a matter of seconds before I suggested that we kick an apple off of it. We didn’t have an apple, but shortly found a small block of potting foam. I insisted on going first. We dabbed the foam gently onto the tip and my brother held it upright at arms length. I threw a swift kick and sent the foam sailing through the garage. I had faced danger and won; we were excited.
Now it was his turn. But before he could act I had an idea. If we put several cinder blocks together in a pile, neither one of us would have to hold it and we could take turns in rapid succession. He liked the idea and we spent a few minutes setting it up. With the spear now secured firmly between four cinder blocks we were ready for action.
It was his turn, but being the big brother I wanted to go first again on our new apparatus. He stood back and I limbered out for my second turn. With a quick flick of the hip, the foam went flying as my foot came down directly on the tip of the spear.
The spear impaled my shoe cleanly, sliced like a scalpel through my sock and buried itself more than in inch deep into my Achilles tendon. I was shocked by initial pain of the entry, but more urgent was the fact that my foot was now stuck at head height on the tip of a spear. I hopped about desperately on the other leg. “Nate! Nate! Help me down!” He ran to the base of the spear and furiously separated the cinder blocks.
He leaned the spear down and I laid down with it. The spear was still lodged in my heel. The initial emergency was over so we could think clearly for a moment. We looked at each other. “We’ve got to pull it out.” I said. He agreed, and with one quick jerk he yanked it free.
Together we untied my shoe and removed it gently. We cut my sock off with a pair of scissors and stared into the gaping hole in my heel. The cut was so clean that it wasn’t even bleeding; I could open the wound and look deep into the tissue. We couldn’t go to the doctor – no insurance, and too expensive anyway – so Nate raided my parent’s medicine cabinet, helped me hobble to the car, and we went to my house to try to fix it.
By the time we got to my house my heal was bleeding profusely and hurt like hell. We cleaned it out as well as we could, bandaged the heal and wrapped the ankle. I went to bed.
I was unable to walk on the ankle for weeks. I used crutches at work for almost a month, and limped for two months after that. I was unable to kick the bag with my right foot for almost a year. Small price to pay for a chance at greatness though, and it still makes a hell of a story.