When I was nine, my father began telling me how to hurt other boys. He said to squeeze their upper lips until their eyes watered or twist their ears and hold them low so you can walk them like a dog. And if you need to make a point, punch them straight in the nose so their eyes stream tears and their noses stream blood. He said that he used to do this if boys acted tough to him. So I listened and watched. What I didn’t know was that he had heard the stories of how I’d been beaten up at school and had never thought to hit back. Why would I want to hurt someone? I had only cried and waited for it to stop. But it did not stop. Not until I checked out books on jujitsu from the library and studied the step-by-step schematics. Not until I began practicing with my friends: awkward, fumbling throws, pretend punches to the throat, pretend fingers to the eye, evening after rainy evening, until one day, age eleven, I threw the red-faced boy to the gym floor, sat on him, and punched his chest because I didn’t have the heart to hit his face and make him bleed. I got in trouble, even though I was defending myself, and my father was proud. Over the next decade I grew, got stronger, took classes in karate and tae kwon do, learned to punch so hard my blows echoed in the gym and men stopped to watch me. I could kick people off their feet. I accidentally knocked men out while training. I fought in tournaments and took home golden trophies. My father was proud. This was how he’d survived around young men with switchblades and rolls of dimes in their fists, young men who would beat him down and take what was in his pockets if he didn’t stand up. He’d fought Golden Gloves, become a Marine. But I abhorred it all, never wanted to use it outside the training rooms. I’d never been in a war, as he had at age eighteen, never sat in the dark in a frozen forest in Korea listening for the noises of men coming to kill me. I’ve never fired a rifle at dusk at enemy muzzle flashes in the trees and had a branch explode near my head. He’s been dead six years now, and I’m a father. How could I not have seen that he didn’t want violence either? Not after he returned from the war; not when he refused to talk about it for thirty years. He never struck another man after he became a father, but I did see him use the threat convincingly. As have I. I’ve been around men who’ve threatened me and my friends. I’ve stood in their faces, eye to eye, with that same menacing confidence my father maintained. And they’ve all backed down. Each time, I consider myself lucky that it worked yet again. Because it must stop. We all know it must. I look at my son, age eight, and know I must teach him. Do not fight, my son, and yet you will. You must. And you must not. As did my father. As did I.