Yesterday, I took a shortcut through an alleyway. The buildings were covered in dirty paint from a few decades back. I stepped around a mangled grocery cart and stepped over a rotted bone that wild dogs didn’t even want. A broken down car suggested that the neighbors used the narrow road to discard items that were hard to place in the garbage.
I finally made my way to the open street and the bright sunlight. I felt like I had just stepped out of the arena of would-be muggers, only to find myself facing a fight club. Having never been to a fight club, I decided to put my alley courage to the test and entered the facility.
The dark room was decorated with various pieces of abused equipment and the dilapidated walls were covered with posters from previous fights. The one poster that held its shiny finish was for a fight scheduled later this month. Partially blocking my view of the fight cage was a glass cabinet that hadn’t been cleaned in years. Inside were several champion boxing belts and MMA trophies.
A short Asian man walked up to me and asked, “What you need?”
“I wanted to give your employees some discounted oil change coupons from Hi-Tech Addison Auto Repair,” I said as I handed him the coupons. “Do you train fighters here or have competitions?”
“We train,” he said. “I’ll give these to the guys.” He waved the coupons and then walked into the restroom.
Emerging from the hallway shadows was a bigger man wearing a hoody. The only part of his black face that I could see was his crooked nose uniquely shaped through multiple beatings. I glanced down at his hands and saw his red, calloused knuckles just below the baggy sleeves. The evidence suggested he was a fighter.
“We train killers,” the guy said as he stepped into the light. “The kinds of men that win fights live just on this side of crazy.”
I felt compelled to dribble out a few words of small talk and held my ground as the large framed trainer stepped closer. His knuckles turned white as he clenched and then relaxed his fists. His brown eyes tried to intimidate, but I could see too much depth and control through the windows of his soul.
“Is putting on a caged fight like putting on a concert?” I asked.
“It’s more complex,” he said with a furrowed brow. “Working with killers on the edge of crazy keeps you on your toes.”
“When I’m not working sales and marketing for a company, I’m making movies,” I said. “Some times actors need special attention, too.”
The man’s gangsta look suddenly shifted to that of a visitor at Disney World. He slipped his hoody back and his countenance became childlike. He told me a story of when he was interviewed for a documentary before a fight he coached. He loved the behind the scenes perspective and was in awe of how the final product looked on screen.
“Our dull surroundings came to life,” he said. “The music and the cutting back and forth of the images, I looked like a cool coach.”
“That’s one of the things I love about filmmaking,” I said. “Taking someone’s plain, ordinary day and turning it into a blast of entertainment and awe, as I reveal the heart of the story to an audience.”
“Heart, yeah, that’s it,” he confirmed. “When a boxer has heart, he can go longer in a fight than he thought was humanly possible. The crazy guys, they just try to kill everyone until someone puts them down.”
“There’s a lot of great boxers with skill, and as you say, some pretty crazy ones too,” I said. “But, the guys with heart rise above the moment and become more than the sum of their parts.”
“You’re right, they get a miracle,” he said with his eyes widening with revelation. “I’ve got to think more about this heart stuff. Because everyone has a story, but not every story is worth sharing.”
“Unless it has heart,” I added.
“You’ve got it,” he exclaimed.
“Hey thanks man … for sharing,” I said. “I’m going to take the lesson you’ve taught me and think about it—see if I can apply it to my life.”
“Oh yeah, me too.”
“Our paths just might cross again,” I said as I walked out the door.
“I’ll look forward to it,” he shouted as the door closed behind me.
What an amazing day. I had met a killer that became a coach of killers. The only thing that kept him away from crossing the line into crazy was his heart.