At West Point (and later in the Army), PT (physical training in this case, not physical therapy) was a big part of our existence. We spent a lot of time at it, for one thing, and for another it tended to present us with some of the longest-lasting lessons we learned there.
Speaking for myself, anyway--the longest-lasting lessons I learned, I learned in PT.
One class that we manly men were required to take in our plebe years was wrestling. This one I was kind of looking forward to after boxing, as the wrestling professors weren't known for the same bloodthirstiness as the boxing P's. I hadn't ever wrestled, but my mom had dated a professional wrestler once, and that's pretty close, right? I'd watched matches, both in person (Jerry Lawler!) and on TV, and it really didn't look that hard.
I'd even watched the wrestling at the summer Olympics. That stuff looked kinda sissified compared to watching Hulk Hogan leap off of the turnbuckle and land his entire weight on his opponent's head. Still, it was interesting enough once you got into it, especially when members of the good ole' USA team were winning. I remember, in fact, watching history made in 1984 as an American, an Army officer, won the gold medal in the heavyweight class of the Freestyle event, marking the first time ever that that particular medal had gone to someone from my own nation.
Fast forward, one year later: there I was, standing in the heavily-padded wrestling classroom with a bunch of other sweaty guys, waiting for class to begin, thinking how cool this one would be compared to Facebashing 101, when in walked....
Yeah, it was him. The guy who'd won the gold.
First thought: Holy crap, it's him. He's famous. That's really cool, to be taught by someone who's famous. Second thought: Holy crap, he's gonna tie me into little bitty knots finished with pretty bow ties.
He looked even tougher in real life than he had on TV. He had one of those necks that's really not a neck; it was more of a muscular pyramid, a continuation of his pects and lats and trapeziuses upon which a head was perched. He was so powerfully built that I had no doubt if he told the wall to move, it would.
He curled a guy.
No, really. I'm referring to the weightlifting curl, not the sport of bowling with rocks. It's the lift using only the biceps. The biceps, by the way, are one of the weaker muscles in the body despite their glamorous appearance in bodybuilding shots. That's why powerlifters are impressive when they curl, say, 50-60 kg. For comparison, the world records are 475 kg for bench press and 450 kg for raw squat. A few people can leg press 1000 kg.
This champion picked a 70-80 kg cadet up, held him sideways in his hands, and used his biceps to lift and then lower the guys' body weight. And then he did a couple more repetitions.
I suppose these days someone might say, "Hey, nice planking." I don't think anybody in that room, though, was thinking anything other than "holy crap, that monster is curling a person."
In any event, he was a good teacher. He and the rest of the P's spent several class periods teaching us how to get into and out of holds, how to start a match from both sides, and so on. I learned quite a lot about the sport and its mechanics.
Then came the sparring.
If you haven't already figured it out, I wasn't that much of a combatives sportsman back then. I was the gladiator of the swim meet, the marco of the water polo.
Yeah, sorry for that last. Couldn't help it.
But after narrowly passing the boxing class--literally by the skin of my chinny chin chin, I think--I was looking to prove something in wrestling. And thus it was that I was overjoyed when they paired me up against a guy my own size who was wearing a cast.
Woo hoo! I know I'm not supposed to cheer the shallow victory of beating an injured opponent, but I was hungering to cheer a victory of any sort at the time. A guy in a cast? Bring it!
He tied me into a knot.
Well. Must've been a fluke, I figured. I squared down with him again, and....
He tied me into another knot.
"You've done this before, haven't you?" I asked as I carefully removed my kneecap from my ear and checked for hearing loss.
"Champion, State of California," my easy-opponent-in-a-cast said.
Lesson: never, ever, underestimate your foe, even if he's gussied up in a cast. Or, for that matter, if he has any obvious disadvantage, you should still never assume victory.