A good friend of mine and I used to spar. He taught me some basics in boxing, or in just protecting your face while hitting your opponent, and at times we would work off steam and build upper arm endurance by gently beating each other up. The adrenaline of feeling that first sting on your muscles was intoxicating. It was after such sparring sessions that I better understood the allure of fight club.

The concept of a fighting club is best depicted in the aptly titled book and film “Fight Club”, where groups of underpriveledged and disenchanted men gather in bar basement and back alleys to fight in a tough but controlled setting. We may not all know the rules of fight club, but the underlying principles making this a believable passtime can be easily understood. First, there is that need in all of us to release a certain aggression. Then, there is a need for communion, and nothing provides more closeness than the experience of shared pain. And finally, there is the need for physical contact. For touch. Because if it wasn’t for touch, the men fighting could have just as easily shot each other with BB guns or dulled arrows. Instead, they link arms, hold each other in near-death grips, and lay curled, as if embraced, on cold concrete floors, struggling and feeling each others’ breath, warmth, and life pulsating.

In our cold, independently minded society, there is an enormous need for touch. So many husbands complain of not having enough physical intimacy with their wives. So many wives yearn for a gentle, caressing touch. Children rush to be hugged, patted, given fives to, cuddled and kissed. Single men and women give off a cool and confident indifference when all they need is a squeeze on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a hug. Judging by my own need for physical contact, I ache at the thought that some people can go days, even weeks without being touched by another human being.

This afternoon when we took the kids to a chess class at the instructor’s home, there was a very elderly lady there who needed help going upstairs. As I walked her up the stairs and to her room I couldn’t help but think about the warmth of her hand, about my arm behind her back, supporting her. I knew that there was healing, comfort in that, and thought about the many many elderly who do not get that basic need met on a regular basis. I also often think about a friend of mine who gives off the impression of being slightly aloof, strong-willed, and self-sufficient. But are times I catch her looking very sad, as if she is fighting tears. On many occasions I know she just needs a hug, and I wonder if she gets one. She tells me that most of her friends live out of town, and I can’t help but wonder when was the last time that she was touched and comforted in that way…

So, without further ado, I propose that we found Touch Club. And the slogan will be “Less blood, more heart” . This will be a support group that people can attend as often as they like. It will meet daily, at some locations in the morning before work, at other locations in the evenings. People will go there to touch and be touched. There will be head-patting, back-scratching, pulling of various limbs to untangle sore muscle groups, massaging of heads, necks, shoulders, backs, arms, hands, and feet, face touching, hugging, tickling, gentle nudging and playful sparring, contact dancing, various contact exercises (like trying to stand up back-to-back), ear pulling, hair brushing, cheek squeezing, hand-holding, and any other creative, non-sexual touching. Each club will have a mediator who will get the meeting started with some directed touching (“Now gently pull your partner’s thumbs…” and “Pretend you are lathering shaving cream on your partner’s face. Now move up to the ears and put a good lather on the back of his neck…”). After these ice-breakers people will rotate partners and work around the entire group in a matter of an hour or so, having brief contact sessions with each partner until everyone has touched everyone else.

The key will be to create a nurturing, inclusive, healing environment.

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