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Five Finger Death Touch – Mrs. Jones in Action:

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

***

“Joseph, stand up and tell us about 1812.”

Joseph sat to my right, two rows over. At the sound of his name, he slumped over as if he had a heart attack. “OOhs” and “uh-ohs” filled the room. As he stood, I could see his hands trembling. His brown hair covered his eyes but I bet he had them closed, praying.

Mrs. Jones clapped her hands three times. “1812, boy, speak up.”

Though he probably knew the answer, Joseph just stared at his feet. Joseph was extremely smart but he had no people skills. He spent all his time reading fantasy books, drawing wizards, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and feeding quarter after quarter into Xelda at the mall arcade. Whenever a girl smiled at him, his entire body turned red and he lost the ability to speak. He was no match for Predator Jones—which is why she attacked him daily.

“Boy, did you drop your tongue out in the hall?”

“Mrs. Jones,” Myron shouted, “I tell you what happened in the war of 1812. A bunch of people died!”

The class went ballistic.

Mrs. Jones was on her feet. “That’s it, boy. That’s it! Get up here. I got somethin’ for you.”

Realizing he was no longer in her sights, Joseph dove back into his seat.

Mrs. Jones started rummaging through her drawers looking for her paddle. It was a long wooden thing with holes punched in it. She had named it Bathsheba. She told us ‘that King David in the Bible made a bad choice when he laid up with Bathsheba, so any time she pulled out the paddle, that meant somebody made a stupid choice.’

After several minutes of slamming drawers and looking under piles of books, Mrs. Jones gave up her search. Myron had hid the paddle the day before. Frustrated, she pounded her fist on the desk. Her yellow hat went lopsided and her left clip-on earring fell off. She’d worked herself into a sweat. Her freshly applied face powder was quickly turning to cake batter. She pointed at Myron. “I said get up here!”

“But, Mrs. Jones, you don’t have your paddle.”

She started cracking her knuckles. “I got somethin’ worse than Bathsheba, boy.” Mrs. Jones then lifted her hands and a made a show of curling each of her thick fingers into a fist. “You about to get the five finger death touch.”

The entire class jumped to their feet. Everyone was shouting and clapping. Since the beginning of junior high, we’d heard the legend of Mrs. Jones’ Five Finger Death Touch. Rumor was that if she couldn’t find her paddle, she would punch you in the butt instead. I had never believed it, but now here she was about to send Myron into orbit.

As he headed to the front, I told Myron, “She’s gonna beat you down.” I should’ve known by the look he gave me that something bad was about to happen.

“Oooh, Mrs. Jones.” Myron brought his hand to his mouth like he’d just heard something shameful. “Brandon said your five finger death touch couldn’t get him because he knows kung fu.”

“Oh he did.” Mrs. Jones eyes flashed like a hungry wolf that had just discovered she could have two kills for the effort of one. “Well, come on up here, boy, and let’s see if your butt knows kon fu.”

“Whoa, whoa,” I lifted my arms in surrender. “I did not say that.”

“Too late now.” With the power and elegance of a sprinting rhino, Mrs. Jones made her way around her desk.

The class was in a frenzy. The laughter and applause was louder than the crowd at an NBA final. Everyone was pumping their arms and shouting, “Go! Go!”

I couldn’t believe this was happening. I tried to reason with her some more but with all the shouting she couldn’t hear me anyway. I thought of running from the room, but honestly, even though it was happening to me, I didn’t want to miss this. I was about to become a part of Marshall Junior High history.

I met Myron at the front, in the isle between the front row and Mrs. Jones’ desk. Instinctively, my right thumb went rigid. For dragging me into this, I wanted to ram it into the soft spot beneath his floating rib to execute the horrible spinal-column-shock-and-instant-bowel-release technique. I decided to let it go.

“Y’all lean over and putcha hands on the desk.” Mrs. Jones circled behind us.

I was laughing so hard that I almost couldn’t stand. Myron moved in beside me and as we lay our hands on her desk, the sounds of laughter increased by a hundred decibels. I looked over my shoulder and Mrs. Jones was actually winding up her arms the way Popeye does just before he knocks out Brutus. Then she started doing a shuffle like Curly on the Three Stooges.

“Watch out cause here it comes!” Both arms swinging, she stepped in. I thought of hopping over her desk but I was paralyzed with laughter.

“BAM!” she shouted as her big old fist hit me in the left butt cheek.

Myron collapsed to the floor and faked a seizure. I dropped to my knees overcome with laughter.

“Everybody sit down and shut the hell up before I tap somebody else.”

The class was over the edge. Papers were flying. Books were scattered across the floor. It was a madhouse. Even the two teachers, whose rooms were on either side of Mrs. Jones’ had rushed in to see what was happening.

We had to go to the office and after telling the principal what happened, he laughed, told us to not provoke her again, then dismissed us. I could still hear him laughing as we closed his door and started down the hall.

To this day, I’m certain that it was my kung fu skills that kept the poisonous affects of Mrs. Jones’ Five Finger Death Touch from harming me.

As for Myron, I received word recently that he lived in Colorado teaching band.

He walks with a limp.

Five Finger Death Touch – Mrs. Jones Returns:

Monday, September 13th, 2010

This tale comes with a warning: (To better prepare you for what you’re about to read, please search the archive and read the blog titled, Mrs. Jones, before going any further. For those of you who have . . . well, you’re on your own.)

And yes, all of it is true. There was a time when teachers could get away with this, especially, old ones about to retire.

With the start of each new school year, I can’t help but think about my own school days. The one teacher that still stands out in my memory is my eighth grade history teacher Mrs. Jones. I remember her not because she made a positive impact on my life, but from a skill she possessed—the Five Finger Death Touch.

Mrs. Jones was a very large, very old teacher and she always dressed as if she was going to church. Long floral pattern dress, fat clip-on earrings, and multiple pearl strands dangled around her neck. The big flowers on her dress only accentuated her double-plus size. Sometime she even wore a hat with a flower stabbed through the top. And to accessorize her saintly wardrobe, Mrs. Jones had the largest, thickest Bible I’d ever seen. It sat like a holy shrine on the corner of her desk. Rumor was it weighed fifteen pounds. One day before class, a girl named Pam sprained her wrist trying to pick it up.

My eighth grade year was her final year before retirement, after what she called, “forty-one years of hell”.

And we loved to wind her up.

One of the funniest tricks we played on her was turning our desk around to face the back of the room. We had maybe ten seconds to do this and we had to do it in complete silence in order for it to work.

Mrs. Jones was always hot, constantly fanning herself with a newspaper or one of those handheld fans she brought from church. Most days she even sweated her make-up off. That’s what we were waiting for.

No matter what she was doing, she would stop, sit down, and begin the ritual of re-powdering her face. We knew what was coming. With the stealth of ninjas, we would signal each other. The message was clear. Get ready.

I gripped the top of my desk as I watched Mrs. Jones go through each step.

With lots of grunting, she would bend over, grab her purse and plop it on the desk. The whole desk shook from its weight. She then slid off her bifocals, unsnapped her purse, plunged her hand to its bottom, and pulled out a round container of beige face powder that was as big as an IHOP dinner platter. She sat it on the desk and unscrewed the lid.

I waited, ready to make my move.

She sat the lid aside then ground the massive face pad into the powder. Then with the intensity of a herd of elephants stampeding through a small African village, she repeatedly pounded her face with the pad. Powder dust billowed around her like a brown cloud.

That was our moment to act.

In perfect synchronicity, twenty-three of us clutched the top of our desks, stood up enough to lift the desk’s legs off the floor, spun a one-eighty, and lowered the desks back to the floor. We called it the desk-flip. We had it down to an art.

I sat third from the front, middle row. I could hear her snapping the powder lid shut. The “rule” was that we were to sit there in total silence. I bit my lip and squeezed my eyes shut to keep from laughing. I knew that in three seconds, she’d put her glasses back on.

“Well then,” she said. “I guess I didn’t get the memo. Today must be Comedian Day. An ever body think they funny.”

I opened one eye and peeked left. Michael Wilson was crying from holding his laughter. I peeked right and Rebecca Johnson was doing the same. I could hear Mrs. Jones pushing away from her desk. Her tired chair squealed, pleading for mercy to be set free from the burden it held. She stood.

“Well, let me tell you about the memo I did get. Today, the principal declared this class to be the retarded class. And guess what? Ever body in here gettin’ an A.”

I couldn’t hold it any longer. Neither could the class. Laughter erupted. Next to me, Michael fell out of his desk from laughing so hard.

“Now ever body turn around and shut the hell up.” She collapsed back into her chair. The old wooden thing just moaned from the onslaught of weight.

“Mrs. Jones,” Myron Anderson, the boy in front of me shouted. “You can’t say hell.”

The noise of everyone returning their chairs back to normal went instantly quiet. Myron was Mrs. Jones’ nemesis. They fought constantly and none of us wanted to miss a single moment of what was about to happen.

Mrs. Jones leaned forward, rested her elbows on her desk and started punching her fist into her palm. She stared at Myron. Behind her thick bifocals, her brown eyes narrowed to thin slits. She looked like a cobra ready to strike.

“Boy, let me tell you about hell. That’s where you about to go.” She suddenly jumped up and reared her fist back as if she was about to come over her desk. For a large woman, she could move blindingly fast. Emily and Claire, sitting in front squealed and scooted back. Every body else laughed.

“As soon as I knock you out that chair, boy, that’s where you going, straight to hell. Now shut up.”

The class went hysterical. Some students in the back shouted, “Preach on, Sister Jones.”

But Myron couldn’t leave it alone. “Mrs. Jones, how you know I wouldn’t go to heaven?”

Shantal, a girl behind me said, “Oh no, here it comes.”

Mrs. Jones sat back in her chair, crossed her arms, and shook her head in disbelief. “Cause, boy, you so evil, that’s why. You filled with nothing but the devil. Matter fact, I can’t believe the good Lord ain’t done struck you down with a bolt of lightening.” She clasped her hands together in prayer-style and looked to the heavens. “Lord, please overlook this heathen’s evil heart and don’t kill him in my classroom. Kill ‘em outside, Lord, so I ain’t got to be bothered with disposin’ of his dead body. Thank you, Lord. Amen.”

Veronica, a girl sitting in the front said, “Ooh, Mrs. Jones. That’s mean.”

Mrs. Jones sneered at her. “What’s mean, girl, is you talkin’ and killin’ us with your funky breath. Now shut up.” She looked back at the class. “Now everybody open up your books. Last night, I told you to study the War of 1812.” She squinted her eyes as she scanned the room. Her head swayed left and right and up and down, like a badger following the scent of a wounded animal he was about to eat.

Hunters tell you that the basic rule to deter a wild animal from attacking you is to avoid eye contact. After only two months into the school year, my class understood this rule very well. We all kept our heads down pretending to read. And that was fine by me. I could keep writing on my Wade Cheng Ninja Adventure novels.

Hunters also say there is an amendment to the survival rule: Don’t be the weak one. The predators always go for the weak one.

Just as I opened my journal and began writing Ninja CIA Operative Wade Cheng out of a sword fight in the middle of Disney Land, Predator Jones attacked.

***

Caramel Apples

Friday, February 19th, 2010

A couple years ago had you asked me, “What thoughts would go through your mind if someone walked up and pushed you?” I would have probably said that it would make me mad and I would push back. I know the correct response should have been to turn the other cheek, but as you can see I still don’t have the answers.

Just the other day, in a small kung fu class in the little town of Tyler, a couple of us guys were getting some instruction from the “Man” It had something to do with plucking, center, being empty, timing, and caramel apples I think. You’re saying, “Caramel Apples?” Yes, caramel apples, and believe it or not it was a great analogy. I think I described our lesson as a grenade going off in my mind. I had just enough know how to see it, but was unsure if I could ever really grasp the whole concept.

What’s bad is that this confusion isn’t after my first week of kung fu, or my first month or year, but I’m going into my third year now and the questions just get bigger, broader, and a little further apart. After talking with my sihings, they all have the same problem understanding. That gives me some comfort, but not much.

This is what keeps me training every week. It may sound weird to some. – why would you want to keep working so hard at something you will never fully understand? Because it’s that complex, it amazes me. More everyday. The more I think I know, the less I really understand.

So now when I get pushed, I’m wondering…Did my shoulders fold around the punch? Did they drop in the hole? Did they have my center? Were they empty when I plucked? And then I’m telling myself, I was off balance, they had my center, I was too late, or did he say get a beat ahead? Was I supposed to return the strike? I think I turned that time. Was I supposed to turn?

Then I SCREAM to myself, bow to the “Man”, and leave more confused than ever but I can hardly walk out the door.

Veteran’s Day

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I was ready to post on the topic of learning to fight without learning the numerous forms associated with Mantis KF, when the following hit me. (Will discuss the forms topic soon)

As I post this, the morning rain outside my window is pounding everything in its path. The creek running alongside my house is beginning to flood my front yard and strong winds force huge pines to bow. The sky is a purplish gray. I’m cold.

I find myself wishing for a sunny day, feeling down only because of the weather.

That’s when I notice the date.

November 11.

How selfish and spoiled I am. Here I sit, completely protected from the elements, writing on a computer, when thousands of United States Soldiers are carrying out their duties despite the weather. I watch the rain.

I can’t imagine sleeping on desert floors in 150 degrees as sand granules burrow their way into every cell of my body and mortar rounds hum through the night. Nor could I run through jungles with snakes and snipers ready to kill me.

I can’t imagine flying a jet with a MIG on my tail, or being aboard a ship with huge waves crashing against the hull pelting my face with salt water, soaking my clothes, while enemy subs hope to blow me up.

I can’t imagine fast-roping from a Blackhawk as men, women, and children fire their A-K 47’s at me, or being on a four-man special ops team, dropped off in the black of night a mile away from my target, swimming in shark infested waters only then to crawl through dense tropical forest to infiltrate terrorists’ camps.

I can’t imagine going through all of that and then Americans, the people I so proudly swore to protect and to defend, treat me as a leper when I return.

But you know what? I don’t have to imagine any of that. The United States Soldier has already done it for me . . . for real. These men and women do this day after day because they see the bigger picture. They understand the threat.

U.S. Soldiers are the epitome of servant hood. They love this country and we should love them.

The storm has intensified outside but suddenly, I feel warm, safe.

Thank God for you Veterans. Happy November 11.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – El Final

Monday, July 13th, 2009

…Oh crap! I’ve only sparred in class twice and now I’m about to fight Ranger J.J. McQuade.

Miraculously I stood. My hands were at my side, feeling like concrete. My knees wobbled. I dragged my legs across the black line into the ring. I walked like a Zombie. I should’ve been praying, meditating or something as I struggled to a fighting stance. Instead, my mind raced to a story Sifu Fogg had once told me. He said he and Chuck had sparred at Mr. Norris’ home in California back in the 70’s. Sifu said he won. I swallowed and chewed my mouthpiece. Now it all made sense. Chuck commissioned Mr. Clone to Baton Rouge on a revenge mission. Take me out as an example. NOBODY defeats Chuck Norris. I was a dead man.

Judge said go. Chuck Clone smiled. Spit dripped off his chewed-up black mouthpiece. He looked like the devil. He began to circle me. I wanted to turn with him but my body wouldn’t work. He charged with a ridge hand. I thought of ducking but I moved with the agility of a dead cat. I felt the impact from the blow then my feet left the ground. I heard the roar of the crowd as I tumbled through the air. From what others told me, it was beautiful, especially the way my body cartwheeled across the gym floor. Chuck Clone had followed the ridge hand with a spinning hook kick to the back of my head. As I tumbled out of the ring, I thought of Sifu, John, my other classmates. I had let them down; then I though of Rocky. His words to Mr. T, “Come on. You’re not so bad. You ain’t nothin’.” A rush of adrenaline flooded my muscles. I rolled to my feet. Chuck Clone was going down.

I spun around, charged the ring, but Clone wasn’t there. He was already on the sidelines, surrounded by judges and awestruck fans. I was nothing but a forgotten casualty.

It turned out that Chuck Clone was actually a nice guy. He was a student of one of Mr. Norris’ last operating schools, and he’d been an extra on some of Chuck’s movies. None of my KF brothers saw the fight so on the way home I exaggerated a little to make me not look too bad.

Overall, it was a great experience. I learned to face my fear, and I learned of the enormous power of suggestion. The simple fact that Mr. Clone had Chuck Norris Fighting System stitched on his gi made him a giant in my eyes. He also had the skills to back it up, another lesson learned.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Tres

Friday, July 10th, 2009

…”Competitors,” a voice boomed over the PA, “we don’t have enough fighters in each rank to merit a contest so we will mix all belt ranks divided only by age. Please listen for your name.”

Several competitors cheered, others booed. I wanted to throw-up. The great PA voice in the sky had just announced that I might have to rumble with Chuck Clone. I shot a glance at him. He was pulling on his war-ravaged headgear. Two loose strips of tape flapped side to side. He was smiling the way I’m sure Goliath did when he went out to battle David. I had the feeling, though, that this giant-story was going to have a very different ending. I frantically searched the crowd for John and my other teammates. I needed backup. They were competing in other divisions.

“Jones,” the great PA said, “have a seat on the line.” I sat cross-legged on the black line of the gym floor and sized up my competition. There were nine fighters. Two while belts, four green, one red, a purple (whatever that is) and Chuck Clone. All of us supposedly under 19 but I swear they looked 40. I was so nervous I put my sparring boots on the wrong feet and forgot to lace up my gloves. My mouthpiece was suffocating me. I fought the urge to bolt, or to shout Wait! You have the wrong guy. I’m not worthy to represent the U.S. Kung Fu Exchange! Instead, I sat there and re-taught myself how to breathe.

Since so few fighters, the event was supposed to be set up like king of the mountain. Whoever won the bout continued to fight, but the judges already knew who’d win, so the event turned into “let’s watch Mighty Chuck Clone destroy these weak worthless earthlings”.

All grew quiet.

The judge cleared his throat, looked at the roster. I was the newest. I figured I’d be first. My head felt a hundred degrees. Salty sweat singed my eyes. The room began to tilt. My muscles twitched like I was strapped to a metal chair being torture shocked. I started to stand but the great PA voice saved me–only for a moment.

Out of pure diabolical pleasure, the judges ordered white belts to go last. Sure, allow the lambs to watch the lion eat their parents first. I grew more nauseated with each round. Chuck Clone was incredible. Purple Boy lunged at him with a snap kick. Faster than I could blink, Chuck Clone spun and drove a back kick into Purple Boy’s gut, knocking him out of the ring so hard he refused to come back. The Green Boys did worse. They moved in slow motion compared to Mr. Clone. From one agonizing round to the next, they were either swept, flipped, kicked, or all three, out of the ring without landing a blow. The crowd went crazy. I was afraid my bowels would do the same. Please somebody take this dude out!

Red Man stood, pounding his fists into his palms and bobbing his head side-to-side. I had hope for Red Man. He was bigger, meaner looking, had some wicked dragon design on his gi. He threw one punch. I held my breath. Chuck Clone ducked. Red Man dropped unconscious. The bout lasted 15 seconds. I didn’t even see what he did. The audience sprang to their feet. Chuck Clone was indestructible. No wonder Mr. Norris sent him. The two other white belts reluctantly stood. They stared at the floor with their shoulders slumped. One by one, they stepped into the ring then flew back out, headfirst.

My turn…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Dos

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

…We demonstrated five more techniques and won first place. Great start to a first tournament. John and I went separate ways, and since I was a rookie, I entered white belt division.

It was during roll call that I first saw him. I did a double take, blinked several times to be sure. I thought that perhaps my euphoric brain, clouded from my recent victory, was playing tricks on me, but as far as I could tell, Chuck Norris was standing ten feet away with his back to me.

I stared in disbelief at the guy with blond hair wearing a starched white gi. He had Chuck Norris Fighting System embroidered in bold black letters on the back of his gi and running down each white pant leg. He was talking and laughing with judges and other competitors. My heart started pounding like an out-of-control jackhammer. My palms went clammy. My stomach butterflies began killing each other. He turned, glanced at me and nodded.

To understand my excitement, you need to know how much of a Chuck fan I was. I had seen every movie enough times to memorize the complete dialogue in each film. Play me a half-second snippet of the movie’s musical score, I could tell you the exact movie. I had every magazine with Chuck on the cover, and I had the HBO showing times of A Force of One, The Octagon, and Eye For An Eye, written on my Sports Illustrated Swim Suit wall calendar. I even lost a girlfriend over a Chuck Norris movie. I took her to see my all-time favorite, Lone Wolf McQuade. I didn’t kiss her during the film and she claimed I ignored her. Well, yeah! You don’t kiss during a Chuck movie. I know, I needed therapy, but I had found my calling through the martial arts, and Chuck Norris represented what I wanted to be at that time.

Once I saw his face, I knew it wasn’t Chuck, but only because of his age. The guy was maybe eighteen and extremely fit. Throw a beard on him, add a few wrinkles around the eyes and you had Chuck. He was wearing black tattered hand pads and matching sparring boots held together with duck tape. He moved through the crowd with confidence and a hint of bravado. Everyone seemed to know him, giving him high-fives, pats on the back. I studied his every move, learning. Though not Chuck, he obviously knew Chuck. I mean the man himself sent this kid to represent the entire Chuck Norris Fighting System. Could you be any better? I wanted to absorb everything I could from this guy.

His headgear dangled from his right hand by its Velcro strap. I instantly thought of Hercules holding Medusa’s head. The black Styrofoam head padding also had wide strips of gray tape covering battle scars. His worn, frayed and faded to ash gray, black belt hung around his waist so naturally I wondered if he ever took it off. Chuck Clone was definitely a tournament veteran. Thank God, I wouldn’t be fighting him…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Uno

Monday, July 6th, 2009

As I slid into the back seat of that 1980 Cutlass Supreme at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday, I had no idea that in five hours I’d come face to face with my greatest hero . . . Chuck Norris.

I hadn’t even been in kung fu for three months, yet here I was with five other students headed to Baton Rouge, LA for our first martial arts tournament. Sifu Fogg had given us a crash course on tournaments for the last several weeks. I don’t remember why this tournament was so important, but I do remember the pain in training for it. Then on the Friday before, Sifu tells us he can’t go. So we were off to Louisiana without a Sifu.

It was late August, 90 degrees before the sun even came up, and the car’s A/C wasn’t the best. The back of my legs stuck to the tan vinyl seats. To beat the heat, I wore my Ocean Pacific tank top, short running shorts, and blue-striped tube socks that climbed to my knees. (Remember, this was the 80’s. Tube socks were cool. Sly even wore them in Rocky III. And if Stallone said tube socks were cool—then tube socks were cool).

Titus, the driver, and proud owner of the Cutlass, was a huge reggae fan. For the three-hundred-plus road trip, we gulped Mountain Dews by the case and bobbed our heads to the syncopated melodies of Bob Marley and others. I truly wanted dreadlocks by the end of the day.

The tournament began at 10. Four wrong turns and two wrong highways later, we arrived at 9:50. We scribbled our names at the registration, rushed to the changing rooms, threw on kung fu clothes, and sprinted to the taped-off section of the gymnasium where we were to compete, doing all this as the tournament director called our names over the PA.

John Cheng and I had entered a “practical self-defense” division. It was an event where you had someone attack you then you showed your stuff by dealing with it. That was the first event and we were scheduled to perform first. (Guess who played the bad-guy.) With no warm-up, we jumped into the center of the ring.

The first technique was to escape a standing chokehold. Due to our tardiness, Cheng and I missed the rules discussion, one of which was to perform the routine slow the first time then fast the second time. I pulled in a quick breath to focus then clutched Cheng’s neck. Already nicknamed “Buzz saw hands” for his incredible speed, Cheng’s left hand shot under my left hand, broke the grip, blasted my temple with his right elbow, rammed a knee into my gut then threw me to the floor. It happened so fast and I hit the gym floor so hard, the crowd actually gasped. The judges rushed to my side, asked if I was OK. I gave them a thumbs-up and sprang to my feet. The previous weeks of intense training with John on full-speed mode had conditioned my body.

After seeing that, officials huddled for a serious pow-wow and decided to bring in a mat for competitors to fall on. They also asked John if he could slow down—three different times…

* * *