Learn The Look

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In a cold world it is important to bring the heat.  No other sport prepares you to turn it up like wrestling.  If someone has a problem, a wrestler has choices others don’t.  If all goes well you solve problems and walk away.  If it doesn’t, you know you can handle new problems stemming from the frustration of not solving the first.

Think about it, if someone gets in your face, and you’re a basketball player, you walk toward the other person until teammates or a referee pulls you away.  You yell and wave your arms. 

You need a small demonstration to show the other person you are no one to meddle with.  In basketball that means you either drain a three pointer, or fly through the lane for a jam.  Not many off-court conflicts get resolved that way. 

Imagine you are waiting for a parking place and another car tries to slip in ahead of you, but you cut them off.  You get out of your car you find the other driver standing by your trunk yelling.  Who’s going to call a foul on him?

This situation might be better for a football player to address.  There’s the guy yelling by your trunk when you get out of your car.  Do you tackle him?  Block him?  Run away from him?  Those are the tools of football. 

What would a baseball player do, throw something?  Swing a bat?  Take a running start and slide into the problem maker?  What about golf or tennis?  The most frightening aspect of those sports is the way players shake their fists in their own faces and yell after a good shot.  That will never do in a conflict.  Fist shaking is no substitute for hooking and jabbing.

The most important part of conflict resolution is keeping calm and reaching a good sense compromise.  Avoiding violence is key, which is why boxing is poor training in this case.  The boxer knocks the yeller out when it might not have to go that far.    How does wrestling give an advantage? 

Opponents in wrestling see each other clearly.  There is no helmet or pads, nothing to swing or wear on your hands.  They walk out to the middle of a mat and shake hands like they’d do if they were introduced in church during the awkward fellowship minute.  They look at each other close-up, and that is the difference.

In all of sport, wrestling has a special ‘look.’  It might be The Look between a college wrestler and a high schooler in the practice room.  It might be The Look between a college guy and an Olympian in an open tournament.  It’s not a look of fear as much as anticipation.  Both guys wait for a whistle before flying at on one another, which is what you want to avoid in most conflicts outside of sport.

Wrestling season helped both my sons.  They both know The Look.  The older one has friends he wrestled in high school who are pretty rough customers.  He beat them all.  He pinned the college guy wrestling varsity at his weight when they met in the high school state tournament.  

He hasn’t had to deal with over the top problems from others.  I think it’s because his friends who have wrestled have respect for each other and they all know The Look.

One night the younger one is at a house party when an older student jumps him from behind and chokes him like he’d seen in Mixed Martial Arts.  The freshman rolls him off his back, takes him to the floor, and wraps an arm around his neck. 

The other kid said he was just playing around and wanted to see if he could make someone ‘tap out’, which isn’t playful.  Wrestling experience saved the day, and saved the furniture in the house from being slammed by two guys fighting.  Both boys learned The Look the usual way, by getting worked in their early matches.

If you want a degree of protection but don’t want to spend years learning how to wrestle, just learn The Look.  With that on your face you can approach the guy yelling by your trunk peacefully.  If he’s smart he knows The Look too and will find someone else to intimidate.  The Look creates a moment of doubt, a pause to reflect; it helps others clear their minds to make a better decision. 

You might be an Olympic wrestler, a college wrestler, or a high school wrestler.  Maybe you wrestled in a PE.  If you’ve ever resisted the will of another person’s hands then you’ve got the beginnings of The Look.  It’s enough to give the other person, the yeller, pause to think.  If that doesn’t work you can always roll them gently to the ground and explain the concept of good manners while they turn purple.

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