I can remember the jeering, the cajoling and the pushing, a cacophony of noise and blurs as we got pushed together in the long grass. I can’t see the faces but I know I recognised most of them, I was first to get to the agreed place and then all of a sudden more faces and my opponent is before me and it’s all happening so quickly and I don’t really know what to do. I can remember the stomach clenching fear and nerves that made my skin jitter, and fighting the desire to vomit. Senses heightened, adrenalin coursing, fight or flight instincts pinging loudly around my brain. I did not want to be there but knew I couldn’t be anywhere else.

The challenge had been laid down that morning. I had reacted to yet another incident and snapped. The deed was done, the time and place named. My first fight.

I was all of 8 or 9 years old, standing in the patch of long grass just outside the school gates. Looking back now I wonder if it was parents that rushed over to split it up as I don’t remember much about how it ended.

All I can remember is standing there waiting, then he was there, and then it started and the sudden pain as I doubled up and struggled to breathe, one punch to the stomach was all it took. I fell to the ground to protect myself, a few kicks maybe landed whilst I was there but then somehow I was getting up and running away.

I’ve not been in a fight since.

I sometimes wonder how I would react now. Back then, as a weedy little kid, I wasn’t confident at all, being more of a book worm than an athlete. I still am, but I’m also a large man, just over 6′ tall, heavy built, and part of me hopes that’s enough to put off any random altercations because, frankly, if someone did throw a punch at me, I have no idea what I’d do.

In my mind I’d react with speed and precision, I’d block or duck out of the way, throw a counter-punch whilst simultaneously moving my weight to make sure my next movement would put my opponent on the ground with a simple trip. I’ve watched UFC, I know the theory of how this would work, yet I get the feeling that the reality would be very different.

In reality I’m unlikely to have the cat like reflexes that I imagine, so I’ll get hit, my body will freeze in shock and denial as the adrenalin floods my system at which point I’ll either turn and run or try and tackle the person to the ground so they can’t punch me again. Hopefully there my, er, superior weight will be in my favour.

But really, I just hope I never find out.