Nature Pwns Nurture.

Hi! I'm Asian. While most people can think of at least one mainstream Asian professional athlete, we're still pretty much on the trailing edge of statistical significance in the arena of "cool sports." Of course, that's not to say Asians don't dominate some sports.

Sigh.

And again. Sigh.

I didn't always think this way. My dad and his boyz never met a ping pong table they couldn't run. And badminton? That was the stuff blood feuds were made of. I couldn't dribble a basketball or throw a football (still can't), but if you gave me a racket, you'd better be prepared to bend over. Because you'd be picking birdies off the grass all afternoon. And in my world, that was alpha male.

Unfortunately in the real world, that didn't even prevent me from being picked dead last in gym class.

It took me until college to muster up the courage to redeem myself, but I did it. And chose the one thing I feared most but knew could validate me as a true man's man: fighting. I've written about it already so I won't go into details.

Then Fury was born.

As is natural for any parent, all I wanted was for Fury to have it better than I did. And since my childhood social anxiety centered around my incompetence in cool sports, Fury was ringside at kickboxing matches before he could walk. And when I changed his diaper, I would psych him up by chanting "Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!" (UFC referee John McCarthy's signature way to begin each round). If geektasticness was in his genes, I was sure as hell going to nurture the nature clean out of him.

For his own good, of course.

And while I was careful never to push him to participate in Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing or jiu jitsu, for fear of him feeling pressured and rejecting it, I made damn sure he was always exposed to it.

Major. FAIL.

It became too commonplace. Watching two guys kick and punch each other to a bloody pulp in a ring was "soooo boring, dad!" And when I say that those words broke my heart, I'm not kidding. But the kid knew that, and would watch the important matches with me to humor his old man. He'd offer intelligent commentary on ring strategy, great KOs and such, but I could always tell his heart wasn't in it. So I stopped hoping.

But I never stopped trying. Last year, we enrolled Fury in lacrosse. While not a fight sport, it incorporates speed, contact, precision, conditioning and is generally an all-around bad ass athletic endeavor (i.e. all the cool kids in high school played it).

While Fury contends that he enjoys it, any parent can tell when their child doesn't possess true fire for something. I won't fool myself into thinking otherwise. While other kids fight for the ball like it's the last cupcake at the birthday party, Fury will take a few whacks at it. If it passes by his nose. And occassionally, he'll give half a chase. If he knows I'm watching. At least it makes for nice highlight pictures.

I also let him try Crossfit, something I do and love. I figured the "Crossfit Kids" class would make him bigger, faster and stronger.

It did. For a few minutes. Until he got winded from box jumps, at which point he deemed it "no fun, dad."

I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that my kid simply doesn't like to exert himself. That the heat of competition generates a mere lukewarm simmer in my boy's veins. That Science Camp was his destiny.

Then I got a phone call the other day.

"Dad! Mom bought me a badminton set!"

"Badminton? How did you find out about badminton??"

"We play at school. And I can play me vs. five 8th graders and I beat all of them!!"

I don't remember the exact conversation I had with d wife right afterwards, but it covered such topics and phrases as: "oh great" and "I've worked too hard for him to do this to me" and "damn these Asian genes!" and "you can't fight the power of the dark side."

But I love my son. And he was too jazzed about this for me to spoil it for him with my childish insecurities. So I took some deep breaths when I got home and commenced with the trash talk.

"Fear me. I can beat anyone at this game. I beat all my dad's friends when I was in 4th grade. Prepare to go down in flames, boy."

"You can't beat me, dad."

Cold as ice, he was.

I served. He returned. I missed. He snickered.

I served. He returned. I returned. He dove.

"Dad, I was born for this!!"

Oh, Irony. How you taunt me.

Then I noticed it. Barely visible at first, but noticeable if you walked up right to him felt his head in disbelief. He was sweating. And panting. And smiling.

I think Confucius said it well:

"Only when set free against the fiery sunset sky will a Phoenix mirror its striking brilliance. Locked in an octagon, he'll only pretend to care about the UFC to make you feel better."

But I think Fury nailed it:

"Hey, Dad."

"Yeah?"

"Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!"

I ask for just one thing. A 2020 Olympics jacket, size M. 

Cyborg. Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time...

That’s what they used to call me. But nowadays, Fury just pats me on the belly and shakes his head whenever I flex my biceps in front of him. Cyborgs aren’t supposed to jiggle, apparently. And cyborgs don’t find an upside-down imprint of their belt buckle on their belly after prolonged stretches of sitting (you have to stop and think about how that happens, but it has something to do with gut overflow).

I ain’t as good as I once was.

Back then, I believed the measure of a man was his ability to vanquish his opponents in hand-to-hand combat. Or at least hold his own, win or lose.

And I loved it. I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had training, punching, kicking, choking, bleeding and sweating alongside them.

And then this guy came along.

And for a while, the father lion instinct kicked in. I have to protect my boy against all the bad people out there who want to physically harm him, and hell if I’m going to let that happen to my Simba, right?

He was my motivation, my inspiration.

And it was the shot of encouragement I needed. For a while, I was better than I ever was – and I was in my mid-thirties. My Muay Thai coach coined the nickname Cyborg and I was damn proud of it. At least it was better than his first choice, “Tony Roma” because of my tender ribs.

Cyborg was relentless. Tearing through endurance drills, running, calisthenics, sparring, competitions, seminars, and even watermelon (2nd place, eating contest, 2007 team picnic, yo).  Cyborg did come in dead last in the 3-legged race, but that’s because the judges didn’t allow him to just sprint and drag his partner along.

But other than that, no one ever questioned his ability to simply power through without hesitation anything thrown at him.

 

 

However...

No roving band of ninjas ever came to kidnap Fury... but he did want to tell me about his day at school.

No crazy escaped convict ever broke into my house... but Fury loved the homemade pesto pizza I would make him for dinner.

No agent approached me to star in the remake of Enter the Dragon, catapulting me to fame, fortune and Fury’s college tuition... but Fury did want me to videotape his latest homemade Hotwheels catapult.

That 2 hours that I could spend being a man in the gym was 2 hours that I couldn’t spend being a dad at home. Something didn’t measure up. So Cyborg picked up a cold beer, sat next to Fury and they laughed and snorted at Spongebob getting his face ripped off.

But old personas die hard. And although I’ve had a great time playing the puffier, jollier, 20 pounds heavier BusyDad who gets winded taking out the trash, I miss Cyborg. And when Fury patted my belly the other day, Cyborg didn’t like that.

“Should I return to Muay Thai?” I thought. No. I cannot possibly go back into Muay Thai. I have an ego problem. It took me years to get to the level I was, and to walk back into my old gym in the decrepit shape I’m in now would kill me inside. Also, I cannot realistically put in the time or effort to fight competitively. And to see the young lions training for fights when all I could realistically do at this point in my life is just train to get in shape? That would kill me a lot. A LOT.

Then just the other day d Wife got back from a shopping trip to her favorite store in the world next to Nordstrom: Lululemon. “Hey I saw a flyer that they opened a Crossfit in Monrovia.”

Crossfit.

Open any thesaurus and you will find this word as the 5th synonym for “Are you frickin insane? Do you actually enjoy collapsing in a pile of sweat and puke at 6 in the morning 5 days a week?”

Yes. Yes I do. But then again, Cyborgs weren’t programmed for logic.