Three to one. Three soldiers, to me. An ex-girlfriend on my arm, scared. How did I get myself into this situation? More importantly, how did I get myself out of it?
When we are kids we all have dreams of being the karate kid. No, not being lanky and whiny (I didn’t have to dream about that part), but being the guy who fights the bullies in the bar…and wins of course. In the summer of 2002 I had my own karate kid moment in Tokyo, Japan. I know, a very cool setting for the story.
Yes, it seems I jumped straight to Part 2 rather than training on the beach in California with a small Japanese guy who can act really really well. Despite not being in Okinawa, I still managed to find a group of US Soldiers. Note, I really respect all US military personnel and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Although, sometimes a few jerks slip through the recruiters
The Break Up
Fresh off of a break up, I decided I needed a night on the town. My relationship was one of those overly complicated emotional roller coasters where the girl’s ideal ending of the relationship was mutual suicide. Yeah…I really need to blow off some steam, especially after our last talk, “I think we want different things. I’m not ready to get married.”
“I never wanted to get married. I just want to be with you for the rest of my life.” We had been dating for 2 months. The water was boiling, the steam whistled, it was time to take the pot off the stove.
A Night on the Town in Tokyo
In Tokyo the options are endless, so I gathered a group of friends and we hit the clubs in Roppongi with the aim to drink and dance the frustration out. Clubs in Tokyo rage all night and after bar hopping in some seedy, sweaty, overly packed clubs in Roppongi we headed down the hill to the more refined, upmarket area of Azabu Juban to find a club where we could dance until the first trains started at the crack of dawn.
It was 1 am and this was our last stop for the night, a dark, smoky sweaty club filled with well dressed 20 somethings. Past 2 am there was no getting back in, you stayed until you were forced to greet the morning sun. We wove our way through the crowds, grabbing shots and beer along the way until we hit the dance floor, beads of sweat flying to the beat of underground Japanese house music. The bass beat deep into our souls, it cleared our minds just as the booze erased the past. Only now existed. The beat, the rhythm, the…why was she staring at me? Through the haze I could see a girl at the bar, looking at me with an intensity you don’t ignore when you’re drunk and looking to forget the world.
Reality is a Bitch
I staggered over, preparing my first clever remark (“hello”) and…smack….I walked right into a wall. The wall of reality. I could now see the girl closely and who was it but my ex-girlfriend. Thirty three fucking million people in Tokyo, 23 city Wards, and thousands of bars and we choose the same one. I don’t want to bore you with the details of our conversation. You know how they go. We rehash the break up, she cries. We rehash why we can’t be together, she cries. I try to be polite but firm, I cry. She tries to emotionally black mail me. Good times.
We are sitting on stools, facing each other when suddenly three heavily muscled white guys, heads shaved, walk up. All were wearing t-shirts that were 3 sizes to small. Maybe they were better at working out than shopping. The leader takes her hand kisses it and says, “You’re the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.” He turns to me “you get the fuck out of here.” He turns back to her. She turns to me with frightened eyes.
Beat the War Drums
Amazingly, as if out of a movie, his two buddies stand behind him staring threateningly at me, cracking their knuckles. I tried not to laugh. The pressure was building and if I couldn’t dance to blow it off then how about a good fight? I was pretty sure I could take 2 of the cocky soldiers, but the third might have been a problem. What to do? My ex was looking scared, and she had no idea what was going on. Time to man up.
“Where are you from?”
“Fuck you. Get out of here before I kill you.” Cracking knuckles danced to the bass pulsing from the dance floor.
He tried to turn back to her. I kept his attention and his lips away from her hand. “Look, I’m here with her.” I kept my voice low and polite, he kept his loud.
“We’re going to beat the shit out of you if you don’t get the fuck out of here.” Why was he talking so slow? “We’re fucking in the army and you’re fucking nothing.”
I turned to face him further. He stepped closer to me. His buddies stepped up. I stayed seated. “If you don’t stop swearing in front of my friend you’ll have to leave.” Calm, controlled. I shouldn’t have been, but I was.
How you Beat 3 Guys at Once
“Yeah, fuck you! What the fuck are you going to do about it.” He released her hand. That’s what I had been waiting for. I raised my hand slowly, high over my head, and extended two fingers. Did I mention I know, Karate, Aikido and few other arts? No? Well, here we go. I extended my index and middle finger and…made a “come here motion.” The boys seemed confused.
Within seconds five extremely large Japanese bouncers descended on the group, wrapping the soldiers up in tight grips. “Throw them out,” I said in polite but firm Japanese.
From the corner of my eye I had seen the bouncers getting more and more tense during the conversation. Three in morning and the guys would never find anywhere else that would let them in. They would be stuck on the streets until the first trains started.
The bounces started dragging the guys out when the leader lunged for me. He got low and began to plead. “I’m sorry. I”m sorry. We were just joking man. It’s cool, we’re sorry.”
“Fuck you.” They got hauled out of the club. My heart pounded to the rhythm of the music. The club gyrated along oblivious to our drama. A bouncer returned with two warm yellow towels for us to clean our hands, to help wipe away the distastefulness of the situation and the unwanted kiss.
Moral of the Story…Nah, It’s Just a Good Story
The girl and I didn’t work out, but that’s no surprise. But I had my Karate Kid Moment. I like to think that Mr. Miyagi would be proud that I didn’t resort to fighting. “Todo-san, you have strooong Karate.” Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to fight, but in most instances there is always a safer way out.
Stay tuned for more alcohol induced judgement impaired situations in future posts. Like how I found myself in a penthouse with the head of Sri Lanka’s mafia and an empty bottle of scotch, and a sleepy Chinese prostitute. But that’s another story…
Have you ever felt unsafe while traveling? How did you handle it?