How To Pack a Punch

July 7, 2014 at 6:13 AM

This is the fourth in a series of pieces from Millburn High School's award-winning literary magazine, WORD, that will be published on TAP Into Millburn once a week. The author, Devika Kanagaraj, is a senior who will be attending New York University in the fall.

How To Pack a Punch

Devika Kanagaraj

Sign Up for E-News

     “Girls can’t fight.”

     Oh, really.

     My cousin’s claim was as ridiculous as his appearance. As a lanky, bespectacled, nine year old, who the heck was he to tell me I couldn’t fight. Honestly, he stood no chance. It was perfectly fine with me if he wanted to challenge me to a fight. He was just begging to be taught a very important lesson. Girl power has no physical boundaries.

     Alec’s misogynistic statement rang in my ears. There was no difference in my eight-year-old mind between a boy and a girl. Except for the clear distinction that girls rule, while boys drool, obviously. But physically? Boys had absolutely no advantage. Especially not over me.

     Had Alec forgotten my incessant boasting of my brand new green belt? It was my prized possession. I had taken to attaching it to all of my clothing that summer. I even tried wearing it to bed, but I found that it was much too uncomfortable to sleep in. I resolved to wear it proudly in the daytime hours and hang it to rest on my headboard while I slept. My green belt was always close. It gratified me. I was no longer a strange, violent little girl, but instead a trained and sophisticated fighter. A martial artist.

     After a year of karate classes I was a good student. I understood that power could be derived from form and technique, instead of brute force. My teacher, or sensei, was a black man who had a friendly face and the beginnings of an afro, and stood more than six feet tall. Next to my three feet and ten inches, he was a giant. Each day, the class ended with a sparring session, and I had the privilege of being partners with the sensei. The first time I stood opposite him I was shaking with nerves. How could I ever hope to compete with someone so large? His size intimidated me. The sensei told me to relax. Being small has its advantages. It is much harder for bigger people to defend themselves, as there is just so much of them. From the sparring sessions with my sensei I learned to be quick and agile, attacking the weak spots my opponent couldn’t cover. I learned the fundamentals of fighting, which I now planned to use in my battle to defend the integrity of girl-kind.

     “Prove it!” I spat at my cousin. We agreed to meet in my basement after our afternoon snack. We sipped at our juice boxes, aggressively staring each other down. As we descended the steps of my basement the air tensed. We were both preparing mentally for the fight. In silence, we cushioned the ground with pillows. Both our hands grasped at the same pillow, and I shot him my most terrifying look. He dropped it at once, alarmed by how seriously I was taking this fight. Once we had the ring set up we stood in the center, facing each other. He smirked at me. I looked him dead in the eye, straight-faced. His smirk faltered and quickly faded. We bowed to each other. This was a gentlemen’s fight. I turned my back to Alec as I walked to the edge of the ring. My mind was recalling what I had spent the past year learning. My fists clenched at my sides as my fingers curled into my palms. I had to remind myself to be careful as to where I placed my thumb. It was crucial that I keep thumb across my index and middle fingers, instead of tucking my thumb under them. This was something my sensei constantly reminded me of. I smiled to myself and thanked him in my head for preparing me for this fight.

     I turned sharply to face my cousin. I brought my fists up to my face, shoulder width apart, just below eye level. I kept my elbows in, making sure they were protecting my chest. I immediately noticed Alec’s failure to do this and saw an easy victory. His elbows stuck out awkwardly, creating the perfect spot on his chest for my clenched fist. As we took our stances I noticed another unforgivable mistake Alec was making. His feet were too far apart, much more than shoulder length, making his uncoordinated self even more prone to falling over. Alec raised an eyebrow at me as he saw me taking my stance slightly turned away from him, instead of facing him dead on, like he had done. This look of confusion quickly morphed into bewilderment as I pivoted on my back foot, rotating toward him at a dangerous speed.

     In that moment I remembered something my sensei had mentioned. Scream! It catches your opponent off guard and throws them. That lapse in their concentration makes them vulnerable. I took a deep breath and hurriedly decided to scream “girl power!” to emphasis the lesson that I was trying to teach my ignorant cousin, but it probably sounded more like “GAPOWAAA!!!”

     I didn’t care. It was just as effective. Alec had no time to react. My knuckles aimed straight through Alec’s chest, and his body fell to the ground as my knuckles met their mark.

     Alec lay curled on the ground, winded. He winced. It was my turn to smirk.

     Girls can’t fight?
     Suck it, Alec.

The Millburn High School Literary Magazine, Word, is a juried publication that showcases the extraordinary talents of this school's writers, artists, photographers, craftspeople and illustrators. The editors and staff take the process of creating the magazine very seriously. We hold regular open meetings from September to February to read submissions and to identify potential pieces for inclusion in the next volume. Then we choose selections that exemplify the diversity and strength of our student body and spend several months working on a unifying theme, on layout and production. Since we are constantly amazed by the abilities of our peers, we consider the magazine a tribute to the virtuosity, skill and creativity of our student body.

To download the 2014 edition, click here.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Millburn/Short Hills

Senior Rabbi of B'nai Jeshurun of Short Hills Leads 50 Adults to Israel

SHORT HILLS, NJ - Congregation B’nai Jeshurun’s Senior Rabbi, Matthew D. Gewirtz, led a group of 50 adults to Israel in early November. In addition to touring, the trip included Adult B’nai Mitzvah services and discussions with local leaders on various aspects of life in Israel.

Rabbi Gewirtz began his tenure as the Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in ...

Millburn-Short Hills Resident Participates In Woman's March in Washington, D.C.

January 21, 2017

MILLBURN, NJ - Throughout the country and around the world, Saturday, January 21 marked Women’s March on Washington where an estimated 500,000 people descended on the nation's capital. Additional 'Sister Marches' took place in cities around the world including Millburn Township neighbor Westfield. 

Millburn-Short Hills residents joined the movement, and one resident ...

Theft at Louis Vuitton; Fraud and Forgery Strike Nordstrom at Short Hills Mall

January 14, 2017

On January 5, 2017 Millburn Police Officer Zonn responded to the Louis Vuitton store at The Mall at Short Hills on a theft report. Louis Vuitton personnel report a Hispanic male wearing an olive colored jacket and jeans concealed a pair of sunglasses valued at $760.00 and left the store without making payment. The incident is under investigation by the Millburn Police Detective Bureau.

On ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, January 24, 11:00 AM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

EMPOWER HOUR - MMAC Empower Hour Continues the ...


Wed, January 25, 8:00 PM

Ricalton's Tavern, S. Orange

Roll Call Comedy Lab

Arts & Entertainment


Thu, January 26, 7:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Bike/Walk Millburn – First Meeting of Townwide ...


Sun, January 29, 9:00 AM

Temple B'nai Abraham, Livingston

BA Sports Breakfast features Willie Randolph, ...


Millburn Board of Education Invites Public to 10th Annual Open Forum

January 23, 2017

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Board of Education is holding its tenth annual Open Forum, A Conversation with Dr. Burton and the Board, on Sunday, January 29 from 2-4 p.m. at the Millburn Public Library Auditorium.
Members of the community are invited to meet the new members of the Board of Education, and take advantage of this annual occasion to ask questions and get answers about ...

Hellenic Therapy Center to Host Anxiety Workshop for Ages 10-14 Years

Anxiety is a normal part of life and children often go through phases of feeling overwhelmed or nervous from time to time.  When anxiety is experienced more consistently however; that nervousness, shyness and fear can have serious negative impacts on a child’s life.

Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children.  Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders ...

Video: Point View's Dietze Says Beware of Headwinds in 'Market Call' Appearance

Point View Wealth Management's Founder, President, and Chief Investment Strategist, David Dietze, answers audience questions on BNN's 'Market Call':

Point View Wealth Management, Inc. works with families in Summit and beyond, providing customized portfolio management services and comprehensive financial planning, to develop and achieve their financial ...

Pure Barre Short Hills Announces 2017 Fitness Challenge

SHORT HILLS, NJ – Pure Barre, the largest and most established barre concept in North America, is pleased to announce the Set The Barre challenge, to help new and existing clients reach their 2017 health and fitness goals.

Whether you’re looking to switch up your fitness routine or start working out, Pure Barre can work with you to accomplish your new years resolutions. Designed to ...

Closed Fund Open Mind

Closed-end funds (CEFs) can play an important role in a diversified investment portfolio. They offer benefits similar to those of an open-end mutual fund, but also sport unique advantages.  

Unlike a traditional open-end mutual fund, CEFs have a fixed number of shares available to trade. Their price is not tied to the value of the underlying portfolio. The only way the number of shares ...