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                      Don't be fooled: Behind the bully's swagger lurks a coward

                      By James Healy | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-24 08:28
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                      Bullying is a universal scourge, but the brazen pack attack displayed in the recent Tangshan incident was particularly reprehensible.

                      James Healy [Photo/China Daily]

                      The Hebei province case reached a new low, in that the invaders of the barbecue restaurant preyed solely on defenseless (or so they thought) young women.

                      It turns out that the only brave hearts that night were the young women, who fought back relentlessly, though beaten senseless, while the "men"-shame on them, they could at least have shielded the victims-stood by watching (save for one who finally intervened, almost too late).

                      The truth is, such gangs are usually a cowardly "house of cards". Take one card out, and they all fall. They are "brave" only in large numbers.

                      My first encounter with this phenomenon occurred when I was about 12 years old. My brother and I left a friend's house one night and were suddenly encircled by 19 local punks-I counted them before they moved in for the attack.

                      Brother Mike and I had been detested and picked on for years for the simple fact that, at a time when boys had long hair, my father forced us to have military buzz cuts. That night, the punks had set an ambush.

                      We were suddenly startled by a yell and recognized the voice of Dan Hill, the friend whose house we had just left. Dan was the toughest guy in the neighborhood and beyond, and upon hearing his voice, the 19 scattered like cockroaches when the lights are turned on. Although greatly outnumbering us, they were nonetheless cowed by a single shout.

                      It's a lesson we should take to heart when we consider the Tangshan attack and how it might have turned out differently.

                      It was precisely because of such encounters that I began taekwondo training at age 16-authentic, hard-knocks taekwondo, not the game of tag you see in the Olympics. Under the tutelage of master Ki Hyung Kim, former chief instructor of the Republic of Korea Army's Tiger Division, I soon found heart and courage, as well as the warrior's determination to aid justice-a key tenet of traditional martial arts.

                      Later events further illustrated how insecurity lurks behind the swaggering facade of bullies like the Tangshan bunch.

                      Once, while I was walking alone late at night, a gang of punks stopped their car and accosted me. The six, most of whom were bigger than I, closed in. I zeroed in on the group's leader, knowing that if he went down, the rest would lose what little false courage they had.

                      Suddenly, one sneaked up behind and struck me with a weapon, shattering my glasses, a large shard of which entered above my left eye, causing a blinding gush of blood but no harm to the eye.

                      I chased my assailant and was about to tackle him when I heard car doors slam. Though in darkness and without my glasses, I could see well enough to tell that the five others, unnerved by my fighting spirit, were returning from the car with baseball bats.

                      I was well trained, but not a fool. I knew that only in a movie would someone temporarily blinded on a dark street corner prevail over five ruffians with bats. Therefore, I relied on my track-and-field skills and ran like the wind to fight another day.

                      I later discovered that the assailant who struck me from behind had been among the 19 ambushers of yesteryear. Obviously, such vermin repeat their behavior until stopped.

                      This was further underscored when, during my post-college days, some fraternity brothers called and said a gang of strangers had crashed their party and clearly intended to start a brawl.

                      Upon arriving to lend a hand, I recognized that the menacing thugs' leader-who stood about 195 centimeters tall versus my 183-was a troublemaker I knew from high school. He was also a friend of an acquaintance who, during our elementary school years, had bullied me.

                      I stood ready as one of my friends craned his neck upward and told the big bully to leave. An accomplice of the bully suddenly thrust his face toward my friend and threatened him.

                      It was obvious that an attack was imminent and I needed to act immediately. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this new face belonged to another of the 19 who, 10 years before, had accosted my brother and me!

                      To preempt the attack, I rushed him with such momentum that the chief bully himself was bowled over and, flailing awkwardly on his back, gave up the fight. So did his friends-and without a single punch being thrown. When I saw the chief bully's buddy, my elementary school tormentor, lurking nearby, he feebly pretended he hadn't been with his now emasculated leader.

                      So don't be fooled, much less daunted, by the size of bullies-inside them beats a chicken's heart.

                      Now, the trembling-in-jail Tangshan thugs who preyed on women must answer to Lady Justice. No doubt they're praying she hasn't seen the video.

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