The blankets pull away from me, exposing the back of my neck to the cold bedroom air. “Dolly,” I complain, reaching to push away the small feline and pull the warm blanket back into position. “Chris,” the whispered voice of my wife reaching my ears while her gentle prodding awakens me, “I think someone is trying to break in.”
I find myself on my feet before I even realize I’ve left the bed. Reaching for my glasses.
Crouching to retrieve the cane kept stashed under the bed. My wife whispering, “That’s the fifth time it’s happened.” Without pause, I leave the bedroom, moving in the direction the unknown sound.
Weapon at the ready, I flip on the hall light. Fighting is easier when I can see. Quickly, I move down the hall, checking each room on my way to the front of the house. Distant thoughts compete for my attention. Why would it take so long for someone to break into the house? It’s probably just the cats. Still, better safe than sorry. Reassuring squeeze of my cane.
No one in the front room. No one in the kitchen. Pierre pacing anxiously. Toby looking at me expectantly from the back door. Turn on the back patio light. Nothing. Peek through the vertical blinds. Nothing. I glare at Toby. He gazes back up at me, excitement plays across his features.
Back to the bedroom for clothes and a flashlight; I need to secure the perimeter of the house. “Oh my god, Pepper is outside!” exclaims my wife, peering out the bedroom window. Throwing open the guest room door, I find the window still closed and Pepper looking up at me, curiosity playing across her face. Wondering what all the commotion is for, no doubt.
Great, a stray cat has me out of bed at 4:25 A.M. with a weapon in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
After this incident I returned to bed, but the receeding adrenaline prevented me from sleeping for another hour or so. There’s a scene in The Last Samurai in which Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise, fights four men armed with samurai swords. After winning the fight, he pauses as he replays the movements in his mind. That is not unlike what I felt. From the moment I leaped to my feet until I cleared the house, I had been acting purely on instinct. Only afterwards, safe again in bed, did my concious mind catch up. I found myself reliving each moment in vivid detail.
It’s said that training is bloodless war and war is bloody training. This is a philosophy I’ve held for a long time, but now I understand it at a fundamental level. I’ve always wondered how I would react if my life or the lives of my family were put in danger. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t entertain those very thoughts. In my years of martial arts experience, this was the first time my training had taken over. I didn’t freeze, I didn’t panic, I didn’t hesitate. I reacted. I could react in this way because I had already trained myself how to respond to just such a situation.