Blow to the Throat


Well, I wanted a positive theme for the week, but it looks like accidents are our common thread. I was teaching at one of the elementary schools with an English education pilot program. I really love teaching there and wish they could put me full time at that school. Today one of my favorite students was expressing some of her attractive qualities, of which she has many.

  • She is cute as a button. Not just that childhood cuteness that 95% of the kids have, but rather that sense that she will become an elegant lady.
  • She makes eye contact and speaks with clarity and confidence.
  • She is friendly but not overly flirtatious.
  • She is very coordinated and active.
  • She is calm and assists the others around her without lording it over them.

The list goes on, and today I saw a new side. Dodge ball is the game of choice for Japanese school kids. Being a runt as a child, I have many traumatic memories of this game. We always had rules for safety – like, no head shots – but those were generally ignored by bullies (and by teachers, them simply being another variety of bully.) The Japanese version is ramped up to a heightened level of fear-causing action. Being played outdoors, they got the wonderful idea to put the “out” players behind the competitors’ side of the court. This sets up a gauntlet where you whiz the ball at your opponents and when they can’t catch it, your teammates behind their baseline scoop it up and wing it at their flanks. The icing on the cake is the Japanese mindset of safety.

Japanese people are obsessed with (the idea) of safety. Someone decided long ago that a light ball is safer than a heavy ball. Almost every school I have taught at used very light (yet hard) balls. Thanks in part to my physics discussions with teachers and principals, I have noticed a lot of volleyballs and four square balls emerging on the playgrounds. High school physics lets you know that kinetic energy goes up with the square of the velocity and life teaches you that getting hit with something hard will cause pain. I’ve shagged fly balls in the outfield with no mitt in softball practice, yet some elementary kids had left me with stinging pains from dodge ball.

Today, my endearing student was showing her prowess as the best dodge ball player at her school, but she suffered a setback. At some point I noticed the game was continuing but she was collapsed on the court. I ran over to evaluate and she wouldn’t raise her face from her knees, but with nods and uns and uuns (the Japanese equivalent of m-hm and n-n) she made it clear she would not be going to the nurse’s office and she would be continuing the game. After awhile she released her long well-brushed hair from its band and stood up in a manner that caused her hair to cowl her entire face. Sweeping a hand towel from her pocket, she deftly patted away her tears, slid her hair accessory back into place, and scooped up the ball with her tidy ponytail bobbing along. I asked her about the injury: apparently she took a direct blow to the front of her throat.

She is tough as nails. I guess she will be a team captain in some sport in junior high. And her toughness won’t cause her team to hate her because she balances it out so nicely with her gentle spirit.


8 Responses to “Blow to the Throat”

  1. Stefanie Says:

    As someone who was terrified of dodgeball but always made to play by teachers, I am amazed at the fortitude of this girl. I would have gone to the nurse’s office in a heart beat.

  2. Sylvia Says:

    Wow, good for her. I once got a ball in the stomach at point blank range (deliberate) and kicked in the shins (also deliberate) during a soccer game when I was a kid. It took me 20 years to get up the nerve to go back on the field!

  3. びっくり Says:

    Ah, soccer! I played from K through 6. I was a runt, but soccer was a great equalizer. I was often tough as nails, but it was a beligerent toughness; not tempered well at all. I took abuse for my size, often from teammates.

    I received a deliberate shot to the face and some cheap stitching of the ball resulted in the edge of a leather patch gouging my face. I refused to stop until my goal was defended. I rarely got front line action, but at mid-field or defense, I would give no quarter. (That did result in my being run over more than once, but in soccer you get rewarded for that.)

    We used to refuse to wear shinguards because that was “sissy”, but you don’t have to take many cleats to the bone before you realize how silly that kind of machismo is.

    Glad to hear you got up the courage to return to the pitch regardless of how long it took.

    Stefanie – realizing some of the medical problems that can follow trauma to the neck, I told her if she felt any pain later to go immediately to the nurse. She gave me a pretty smile and nodded her willingness to do so.

  4. kevenker Says:

    Ah dodgeball! A classic! Sorry that the others here had such hideous times. I never did outstanding, but it was fun and a challenge to stay in the game.

  5. びっくり Says:

    Kev – Dodge ball was fun??? I don’t even know who you are anymore!!! 🙂 Actually, I had fun playing it even though there were bad experiences associated with it. One difficulty with playing now is that I can’t throw the ball very hard. Most of the kids can handle it, but if I injure just one of them not only would I feel bad, but it would not reflect well on me at work. I think it was an Adam Sandler movie where he went back to school and had fun hurling the ball at the little kids in his class.

  6. Naomi Says:

    You might be interested to know that in Toronto we play dodge ball with the same rules that are used for the game in Japan.

  7. sunkissd1 Says:

    For some reason I don’t recall being horribly traumatized by it either. However I also don’t remember it as being especially fun. Often it was better than the alternative our gym teachers came up with for us.

  8. びっくり Says:

    I guess you’re right: there was always the rope climb. Aaaaaaa…

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