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Karate in Japan

Ok, so this is not the exact photo of that night :)

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Three to one. Three soldiers, to me. An ex-girlfriend on my arm, scared. How did I get myself into this situation? More importantly, how did I get myself out of it?

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When we are kids we all have dreams of being the karate kid. No, not being lanky and whiny (I didn’t have to dream about that part), but being the guy who fights the bullies in the bar…and wins of course. In the summer of 2002 I had my own karate kid moment in Tokyo, Japan. I know, a very cool setting for the story.

Yes, it seems I jumped straight to Part 2 rather than training on the beach in California with a small Japanese guy who can act really really well. Despite not being in Okinawa, I still managed to find a group of US Soldiers. Note, I really respect all US military personnel and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Although, sometimes a few jerks slip through the recruiters ;)

The Break Up

Fresh off of a break up, I decided I needed a night on the town. My relationship was one of those overly complicated emotional roller coasters where the girl’s ideal ending of the relationship was mutual suicide. Yeah…I really need to blow off some steam, especially after our last talk, “I think we want different things. I’m not ready to get married.”

“I never wanted to get married. I just want to be with you for the rest of my life.” We had been dating for 2 months. The water was boiling, the steam whistled, it was time to take the pot off the stove.

A Night on the Town in Tokyo

Tokyo Dance Club

Dance Dance Revolution!

In Tokyo the options are endless, so I gathered a group of friends and we hit the clubs in Roppongi with the aim to drink and dance the frustration out. Clubs in Tokyo rage all night and after bar hopping in some seedy, sweaty, overly packed clubs in Roppongi we headed down the hill to the more refined, upmarket area of Azabu Juban to find a club where we could dance until the first trains started at the crack of dawn.

It was 1 am and this was our last stop for the night, a dark, smoky sweaty club filled with well dressed 20 somethings. Past 2 am there was no getting back in, you stayed until you were forced to greet the morning sun. We wove our way through the crowds, grabbing shots and beer along the way until we hit the dance floor, beads of sweat flying to the beat of underground Japanese house music. The bass beat deep into our souls, it cleared our minds just as the booze erased the past. Only now existed. The beat, the rhythm, the…why was she staring at me? Through the haze I could see a girl at the bar, looking at me with an intensity you don’t ignore when you’re drunk and looking to forget the world.

Reality is a Bitch

I staggered over, preparing my first clever remark (“hello”) and…smack….I walked right into a wall. The wall of reality. I could now see the girl closely and who was it but my ex-girlfriend. Thirty three fucking million people in Tokyo, 23 city Wards, and thousands of bars and we choose the same one. I don’t want to bore you with the details of our conversation. You know how they go. We rehash the break up, she cries. We rehash why we can’t be together, she cries. I try to be polite but firm, I cry. She tries to emotionally black mail me. Good times.

We are sitting on stools, facing each other when suddenly three heavily muscled white guys, heads shaved, walk up. All were wearing t-shirts that were 3 sizes to small. Maybe they were better at working out than shopping. The leader takes her hand kisses it and says, “You’re the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.” He turns to me “you get the fuck out of here.” He turns back to her. She turns to me with frightened eyes.

Beat the War Drums

Amazingly, as if out of a movie, his two buddies stand behind him staring threateningly at me, cracking their knuckles. I tried not to laugh. The pressure was building and if I couldn’t dance to blow it off then how about a good fight? I was pretty sure I could take 2 of the cocky soldiers, but the third might have been a problem. What to do? My ex was looking scared, and she had no idea what was going on. Time to man up.

“Where are you from?”

“Fuck you. Get out of here before I kill you.” Cracking knuckles danced to the bass pulsing from the dance floor.

He tried to turn back to her. I kept his attention and his lips away from her hand. “Look, I’m here with her.” I kept my voice low and polite, he kept his loud.

“We’re going to beat the shit out of you if you don’t get the fuck out of here.” Why was he talking so slow? “We’re fucking in the army and you’re fucking nothing.”

I turned to face him further. He stepped closer to me. His buddies stepped up. I stayed seated. “If you don’t stop swearing in front of my friend you’ll have to leave.” Calm, controlled. I shouldn’t have been, but I was.

How you Beat 3 Guys at Once

“Yeah, fuck you! What the fuck are you going to do about it.” He released her hand. That’s what I had been waiting for. I raised my hand slowly, high over my head, and extended two fingers. Did I mention I know, Karate, Aikido and few other arts? No? Well, here we go. I extended my index and middle finger and…made a “come here motion.” The boys seemed confused.

Within seconds five extremely large Japanese bouncers descended on the group, wrapping the soldiers up in tight grips. “Throw them out,” I said in polite but firm Japanese.

From the corner of my eye I had seen the bouncers getting more and more tense during the conversation. Three in morning and the guys would never find anywhere else that would let them in. They would be stuck on the streets until the first trains started.

The bounces started dragging the guys out when the leader lunged for me. He got low and began to plead. “I’m sorry. I”m sorry. We were just joking man. It’s cool, we’re sorry.”

“Fuck you.” They got hauled out of the club. My heart pounded to the rhythm of the music. The club gyrated along oblivious to our drama. A bouncer returned with two warm yellow towels for us to clean our hands, to help wipe away the distastefulness of the situation and the unwanted kiss.

Moral of the Story…Nah, It’s Just a Good Story

The girl and I didn’t work out, but that’s no surprise. But I had my Karate Kid Moment. I like to think that Mr. Miyagi would be proud that I didn’t resort to fighting. “Todo-san, you have strooong Karate.” Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to fight, but in most instances there is always a safer way out.

Stay tuned for more alcohol induced judgement impaired situations in future posts. Like how I found myself in a penthouse with the head of Sri Lanka’s mafia and an empty bottle of scotch, and a sleepy Chinese prostitute. But that’s another story…

Have you ever felt unsafe while traveling? How did you handle it?

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36 Responses to “My Karate Kid Moment: Bar Fight in Japan”

  1. Jools StoneNo Gravatar says:

    What a story! Thank God for the attentive bouncers though! I was wondering how it was going to pan out!
    Jools Stone´s recent [type] ..Festival Express: Canadian Trains, Movies and Music

  2. Jack NorellNo Gravatar says:

    Well done for staying calm, very hairy situation. Great writeup too.
    Jack Norell´s recent [type] ..The National Mall, Washington D.C.

  3. JillianNo Gravatar says:

    Great story. I admire your bravado!

    Looks like I’m going to have to do some catching up.

  4. andynewbomNo Gravatar says:

    serious karate kid MASTER moment. be like the empty jacket. he who fights the empty jacket fights himself. But dang only three to one! I have never had the odds that even before! I bet I would have been stupid enough to keep pushing back.
    andynewbom´s recent [type] ..El Salvador Cup of Excellence Part 2

  5. SebastianNo Gravatar says:

    I love your story! So crazy! I hate these kind of guys. I remember a story in Portugal where 4 guys had beaten up a friend of mine because of a fake rolex. They nearly threw him down a cliff before I heard his screaming… I don’t remember much of the situation. I had a black-out due to the booze & adrenaline rush. I then only remembered talking to police. My friends told me I broke a guy a nose and the other guy a rip. It was a little karate kid moment though :)
    Sebastian´s recent [type] ..5 Regrets people have on their deathbed

  6. Knowledge is power, and since you knew 1.) how to speak Japanese and 2.) the way to call the bouncers… That made you much more powerful than those 3 stupid guys…

    Great story!
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  7. ArtiNo Gravatar says:

    Awwww!!! What a story… Loved the karate kid moment!
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  8. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Such a hilarious story! Certainly shows your “other” side! Good to see you have such adventures, and I also wanted to share with you this awesome book that tells you how to make the most out of your travel blog by making it professional and earning money from it. I’m sure you’ll like it. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZZM6YO

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Oh no! I have another side…I have been very careful to keep everyone on the internet away from there :) Glad you liked the story. Oh, and I already have the book a I’m friends with the Author :)

  9. Buck InspireNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome story. I felt I was there in the club with you. Way to stay calm in a very stressful situation. My blood was boiling just reading it. My travels have been peaceful, *knock on wood*, but it does remind me of an incident where there was a lot of posturing and thankfully the cops jumped in before punches were thrown.
    Buck Inspire´s recent [type] ..Secrets of the Millionaire Mind Review

  10. AdventureRobNo Gravatar says:

    Cool story Todd, I was surprised at the start thinking you got in a brawl with some Japanese guys, but it made more sense when you mentioned they were American Military. As if those guys don’t have a bad enough reputation in Japan as it is already, there is certainly a few about to live up to that reputation unfortunately.

    I find people here much more friendly when they find out I am 1) Not in the forces and 2) Not American.
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  11. DavidNo Gravatar says:

    Great story Todd.
    I can’t wait to hear more.
    And you’re right, the best way of winning fights is to avoid them.
    I haven’t been involved in a physical fight since I was 14 (knock on wood) but strangely I feel that it is my big mouth that has saved me from some punches in the face.
    David´s recent [type] ..Back from Paris

  12. LaurelNo Gravatar says:

    Love your karate kid moment and how you remained calm, despite the stress of having your ex-girlfriend there. I got deported about 10 years ago from S. Korea, definitely a very scary time. I acted tough in front of the Immigration Officials and then went and cried immediately after leaving their offices.
    Laurel´s recent [type] ..6 Things I Learned From Getting Deported

  13. Hell yeah! The force is strong with you Todd san!
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  14. EricaNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, you have some courage there. At least you have quite the story from it. :D
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  15. LilyNo Gravatar says:

    Wow! Great story, Todd!

  16. Wow, that’s so awesome how you handled it! My “backup” plan when outnumbered is to grab an empty bottle, smash it and act loco. True story, worked for me in london.

  17. EliseNo Gravatar says:

    That is some scary stuff……I only ever witnessed my first fight while we were in Vietnam (luckily it didn’t involve Ant or I)……but glad you got out of it rather than violence!
    Elise´s recent [type] ..Kathmandu In Pictures

  18. Geez…you have MORE of these kinds of stories? And here I thought you were a nice, gentle kind of guy :-)

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Oh, I have a whole bunch of these types of stories Barbara :) I was planning to save them for an eventual book but I’m letting them out now. My wife keeps telling me that I’m “born from the mouth” a Japanese saying that means I’m full of sh#$, or a more gentler reading is that I like a good story. Of course this is all true.

  19. CailinNo Gravatar says:

    I would hope that if I ever got into a situation like this that I would have a guy like you near by to help me!!!
    Cailin´s recent [type] ..My South Shore Adventure in Iceland Part 1

  20. Your stories always get me :D

  21. TurnerNo Gravatar says:

    Crazy story. I’ve never found myself facing army or marines in Japan or anywhere else. If there’s not someone else involved, my solution is always to walk or run away, especially if you can’t speak the language.
    Turner´s recent [type] ..Keeping Your Head Down

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Turner, yeah walking away is always best :) These guys were Americans (like me) but they didn’t speak any Japanese, which was probably best for me in the end :)

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