Three Bulls

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Three Bulls

Postby HanshiClayton » Sat Dec 05, 2009 7:16 pm

Matsumura and Itosu famously fought and defeated bulls during their careers. Matsumura met his in the arena and glared it into submission (after spending days sticking its nose with a hatpin to terrify the poor creature). Itosu met a running bull in the street and bull-dogged it to the ground until someone brought a rope.

It occurred to me that I have my own bull story, a real one, in which my karate training arguably saved my life. It certainly saved me from some weeks in hospital.


I used to help a local rancher with his cattle. His kids were all petite daughters, so sometimes my phone would ring when he needed a hand.

One day he called to say that his big black bull had ripped through a couple of fences and was nowhere to be found. He wondered if I would take a horse and scout the west side of the valley while he tried to follow the bull's trail on the east side. We barely got started when he called me on the two-way radio to say he had found the bull. Return to the corral, please.

The bull's problem was plain to see. There was an abscess in his left ear the size of a tennis ball. The younger bulls had been butting him on that ear, and he was in a frenzy about it. To treat the abscess, we would have to get him into the "squeeze chute," which is a vice for livestock. Just herd him into the alley, coax him down to the squeeze box, and trap him. Then we would lance the boil and pump about a pint of antibiotics into him.

That was the plan.

We chased him into the narrow alley without too much problem. I had an axe handle as my "prod." You just smack his butt with the flat of the axe handle to make him move. The alley was a narrow corridor walled with 2x10 planks. This alley had high walls--- a good foot taller than I was. The planks were butted against each other so there were no ladder-like gaps to make the wall climbable.

We got the bull started down the alley toward the squeeze chute, and the rancher ran around to take up station for the great squeeze-play. It was my job to keep the 1500-lb, pain-crazed animal moving toward the box. I followed him down the alley, shouting encouragement and whacking him on the hind end. The chute was so narrow that his ribs brushed against both side of it. Otherwise he would have turned on me. I kept up the pressure. Get along, giant angry doggie! He kept glancing over his shoulder, measuring me for a pine box.

Then the bull caught sight of the rancher ahead. That was the last straw. Apparently the bull remembered some previous session in the squeeze chute, because he decided not to be nice anymore.

I didn't know a full-grown bull could stand up on its hind legs like that. It spun around and came crashing down with its head aimed at me. Payback time.

The bull charged, and I was trapped in the high-walled alley. Running away was out of the question. He was coming like a freight train.

There was only one way to go, and I went. My karate-trained legs delivered the most outstanding high jump I've ever done. I went straight up in the air. I have a vivid memory of seeing about an acre of black hide pass by below me.

The rancher thought I'd been killed for sure. He ran into the alley in a panic, looking for my crushed and mangled body. He looked wildly around before seeing me... sitting on top of a seven-foot fencepost with my knees tucked up under my chin.

My legs were twitching with cramps, and remained sore for days. It is not often that we call upon the body to deliver the full 100% of its ability in a single heartbeat.

Unlike Matsumura and Itosu, I didn't exactly defeat my bull. If it hadn't been for hundreds of taekwondo jump kicks, however, I would have gone from matador to doormat in one crushing second.

You never know when, or how, your karate training will save you.
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
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