bow at the edge
bow at the line
one step forward and it’s over
that fast
     no you sidestep
  resist        the other
hooks your ankle
hip taps the mat
small point
                      not yours
one minute in and you’re already
        choking on your lungs
burning and blurry and down
             arm bar across your throat
  chin down clench every joint
          to your chest
     fingers pry but can’t unlock you
so the ref calls
    fall forward
            on top of the other
bow at the line
bow at the edge


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NICOLE ANTONIO has the blood of nine different countries running through her American mutt veins, and while she enjoys being a sort of novelty house blend, she doesn’t care for the labels that come with it. Yes, she’s a couple brands of Asian and several flavors of European with a little Latina sprinkled in there. Her Chinese is even fake—she’s actually descended from a tribe of nomadic Mongolians that camped out around Turkey, Russia, and China. As fun as that may be to say, it doesn’t really tell anything about Nicole as a person, so here are the Cliffnotes:

She was born in Hawaii and moved to Northern California with her mom at the age of four months. They moved around there for twelve years before heading back to Hawaii, where Nicole stayed until graduating from the hell that was Christian prep school. Then she moved to Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in creative writing and a minor in screenwriting. After completing her undergraduate degree, she accepted a full-time position at the campus career center. She writes, she works, she lives for foodgasms, and she spars with anyone who’s not intimidated by her martial arts experience.

She gets her Catholic guilt and workaholic instincts from her dad, her twisted sense of humor from her mom. She believes the happily married couple with 2.3 children is an urban legend. She thinks blunt honesty and fierce loyalty comprise the only match made anywhere near heaven. She believes in making mistakes, disregarding The Box, and writing about all the messed up things in life so she and others can laugh at them. As the sage Joni Mitchell once sang, “Laughing and crying, you know it’s the same release.”

19 responses to “Gentle Way”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Your poem takes me into the fight with you, even though I know nothing about martial arts.
    Nicely done.

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks, Irene! I just realized the formatting is off, but I’m glad it still works. =)

      • Irene Zion says:

        e mail Uche and ask him what to do to format correctly.
        He knows all about how to work around the WordPress demons.

        • Nicole says:

          Formatting fixed. Uche rules. =)

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Yeah, this time the demons gored me, but I think I have them pinned. Ippon! 🙂

          Not to get too deep backstage, but my only worry is that if any editor should touch the piece in visual mode, it might collapse again. I did save a (I think) properly formatted HTML copy so that if that happens, I can make a hot fix.

        • Irene Zion says:

          It’s beautiful the right way!
          I told you Uche rules!

  2. Matt says:


    Uche, Erika Rae, Slade Hamm and I are all martial artists to one degree or another. We’re thinking about starting a TNB Fight Club. You should join us.

    • Nicole says:

      Dude, I would be stoked and honored! I’m in LA too, so that’s actually feasible…

      • Matt says:

        Alas, none of us are! I’m in San Diego, Slade (sorry about the last name, man, I watch too much Mad Men) is in Texas and Uche and Erika are in Denver.

        One day though, we’ll meet…and only one will walk away.

        • Irene Zion says:


          San Diego and LA are practically next door to each other.
          Get together and film the first TNB bout!

        • Nicole says:

          d’oh! well, someday…

        • Matt says:

          Unfortunately, Irene, circumstances have conspired to keep me from heading to L.A. next month, so I’ll be missing Simon and Zara and everyone else.

          This time.

          Besides, why do you assume I’d be doing the filming, instead of fighting for the title?

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Matt, you just had to bring the Don King, eh?

          TNB Highlander. There can be only one! Kumite…Jime!

          (disembodied voice): Feeneesh him (or her)!

          Or we could just go drop sake bombs after some heavily padded sparring 😀

        • Nicole says:

          Tekken 6: TNB. Sake and shoju bonus round. I totally dig it.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Shoju????!!!!!! Aaaaaiiiiiiiieeeeee! (runs & hides)

          Now that’s true martial arts.

        • Irene Zion says:


          I assumed you would get someone else to film you and nicole in a match!
          How little you trust me, grasshopper.

  3. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Anyway, this might be the best poem in English on martial arts I’ve ever read. Welcome to TNB, Nicole.

  4. Simon Smithson says:

    I love that this has become a subset of TNB, the martial arts discussions.

    And now we have a poem for it!

    Welcome to TNB, Nicole!

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