Shingeru (for Carl)

I lived in Japan when I was a kid. My dad was in the Air Force, and so my parents lived near Yokota AFB for three years.

My Japanese friend Shingeru taught me a trick or two. Shingeru, a couple of years older than me, wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.

His father worked for Japan Air Lines and his mother worked part-time as a housekeeper for our family, which is how I met him.

Anyway, he taught me a wrestling submission hold. It plays like this:

Two opponents tussle till one (let’s say ‘S’) manages to position himself in back of the other (let’s say ‘J’), S kneeling, knees brushing against the shoulders of J, who is flat on his back.

S plants his fingers, clawlike, into the fleshy part of the shoulders at the base of J’s neck. The grip, sudden and unprepared for, seizes J’s entire nervous system, it seems—the whole body tightens.

S’s fingers dig into the weak shoulder flesh. J feels a cold agony, felt along the scalp and flashing lightning-like to his toes.

Involuntarily, J’s own hands spasm into the shape of claws, almost mimicking S’s hold at the base of his neck. Likewise, his toes curl, painfully cramping his feet.

Then J feels a tingling in his thighs and biceps—like the limbs falling asleep. All this happens quickly, like an electric shock.

S applies the hold deeper and deeper, in a stroking motion, and J feels the sharp pangs like waves under his skin.

S pulls himself up taller to add leverage and pressure to the hold. At this point, after battling for a good 15 minutes, both S and J’s bodies shimmer with sweat.

Both of them breathing heavily, J nearly to hyperventilation. Impatient for a clean victory, S shoves his whole torso forward, his full body weight bearing down on J.

Before J can scream in agony, he blacks out. Or rather suddenly everything flashes white.

Seconds later, he awakes to find S massaging his shoulders in a circular motion, stirring the blood and bringing J gently back to consciousness.


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