September 9, 2020, Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Newton, New Hampshire, USA
When I was a child growing up in Israel I read some American comic books. These were gifts brought to us by our relatives visiting from America, easy to read and a good way to improve one's English language reading skills. There were several advertisements that I remember, none of which were relevant for me as we could not order anything from the USA, not in those days, but I enjoyed reading them. One was for sea horses or sea monkeys; you buy a pack of seeds and soon you have some wonderful sea horses/monkeys. Another, which I shall never forget, was for Charles Atlas's body building course.
Charles Atlas, or Angelo Siciliano, as he was born, was the most famous body builder of those years. He apparently was not born large or muscular but developed his own system to develop his body and then taught it to others. He advertised like crazy. His story was that he was allegedly a 97 pound weakling (44 kilo) (thus creating the well known expression '97 pound weakling') and was humiliated at the beach by a tough guy. He used this experience to motivate himself to become strong. In his iconic comic book advertisements he uses this story. (You can still find it online and see the original).
In his advertisement you see a young couple, the woman is attractive, the man is very thin. The muscular bully kicks sand in the weakling's face. The girl is disappointed in her man. He goes home, in frustration kicks a chair, and decides to finally take action. He sends away for Charles Atlas's book, exercises, becomes a perfect muscular male, goes back to the beach, finds the bully and punches him in the face. All the women are very impressed by his behavior and his body, and his girlfriend returns to him. Happily ever after.
There is much that disturbs me about this story line; the idea of revenge, the girl losing respect for a man simply because he is not a fighter, the women admiring a man only for his body despite the fact that now he became a bully, becoming that which he hated, etc. But the point I want to focus on is the idea that becoming physically stronger is the answer to fear of violence.
There will always be someone stronger than you, FACT. Becoming fit is good, being healthy is good, being strong is good, but this is not what will save you from crime. How many football players have been held up at gun point and robbed? Size is not a factor. The man with the gun, or knife, or the MEN, plural, more than compensate for your strength and biceps. Strength has its limitations. In fact it is small factor indeed in self defense. Skill is what truly matters.
Increasing the size of your shoulders and biceps is great for the ego, you feel stronger, you feel better, but that is not how we are created and man survived for thousands of years without the body builder look. Survival on the street is about having the knowledge of violent crime; the psychology, the mind set, the awareness of danger, profiling, scenario training, and; correct techniques that will work under pressure.
Being a great athlete does not and has not protected anyone from violent crime, gun, knife, gang warfare. Remember a man with a knife is your physical superior, regardless of your size. A man with a gun is your physical superior, two men armed and experienced are your physical superiors. So while the Charles Atlas program may give you self confidence on the beach, it is not a solution for violence and crime. And I sure Mr. Siciliano, who was born in Italy around the turn of the previous century, knew this well.
Take control of your life, of your destiny. Training in self defense, Krav Maga, is an important step in the right direction, not for ego, not for revenge, but for life.
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