By Mario Strong

As bodybuilders, we wear our earned masterpieces wherever we go. Our physiques are different from that of average mortals and most of the time we stand out in a crowd. In my mind, bodybuilding is more than just being a cosmetic form of art. To me, it also means being ready and able to meet any physical demands that may come my way. I have always been athletic. As a teenager, I played all sports and enjoyed the competitive edge that came with the games. Bodybuilding helped me excel on the field and made me somewhat of a dominant player within the teams I joined. In 1973, during my time in college, I found myself winning the intramural fitness championships. In my twenties, I was able to outrun NFL players in the 100-yard sprint while barefoot. In my thirties, I was setting pushup records while at the police academy in Albany, New York. In my forties, I was able to leg press 1000 pounds for ten complete repetitions. In my fifties I would frequently visit the Rocky Steps and run up and down for hours while listening to 'Gonna Fly Now.' And today, many decades since I first picked up a barbell, I am still training like there is no tomorrow and still able to excel on or off the field as the need arises. While physical excellence is important in the competitive side of things, it is even more important when it comes to protecting yourself or others from possible bodily harm.

My life has had its share of violence. Living and working in New York City, violence is sometimes hard to avoid. One night, during my early twenties, I was standing on a street in front of the home of my then-girlfriend, Denise. As we stood there talking, a car with four or five jerks drove towards us at a high speed. As we moved to get out of the car’s way, one of its occupants stretched his arm out of the back passenger window and grabbed onto Denise’s handbag, pulling it from her as she crashed to the ground. Shocked and enraged, I made sure she was okay and then yelled for neighbors to call 911 as I jumped into my car to catch up with the creeps. They had about a two-block lead on me, but with a fast car and great driving skills; I took off after them like a rocket. About a half mile down the road, I caught up to them as they swerved in and out of traffic. They drove over sidewalks and lawns while nearly killing several innocent bystanders. About five minutes into the chase, I pulled into the Midland Beach parking lot and blocked their escape with my car. As I jumped out of my car and rushed towards them, one of the idiots grabbed a metal sanitation can and threw it at me. As the can flew over my head, I heard it crash loudly against my car. Instantly I felt an enormous “hulk rage” overcome me. Steaming, I grabbed the punk that threw the can and body-slammed him to the ground like a splattered tomato. He screamed in pain and yelled for help. As his accomplices ran towards their car, they tossed Denise’s handbag towards me in hopes that I might leave peacefully. I picked up the same sanitation can that dented my car and flung it through the front window of their car as they hurriedly drove off. I left the parking lot as a curious crowd began to gather. Several minutes later, I returned the handbag to a shaken Denise and drove back to the parking lot with several NYPD officers that had responded to the incident. Upon our arrival, we found the parking lot vacant. Everyone, including the curious, was gone. There was nothing more to do so I said thanks to the officers and called it a night.

Another incident that required my muscles to be more than a showpiece occurred during the late 1970s, when I was talking to a friend in front of my house. A car carrying four unknown faces stopped next to us. These guys were in their twenties and looking for trouble. Without warning, one of them sucker punched my friend and sent him crashing to the ground. With brute instinct, I jumped in to help my friend and found myself in an all-out brawl with the gang of toughs. After a couple of minutes of trading punches and kicks the crew decided to run for their car as I continued to give them a smack down. As they sped off, my friend told me that the incident was mob related and that I was lucky I didn’t get whacked. After hearing that, I punched my friend in the head and sarcastically thanked him for getting me involved in his crap. Luckily, nothing else ever came of it.

Being a retired crime fighter for the state of New York, I have experienced my share of violent altercations over the three decades that I served. I have had baseball bats, chairs, pipes, punches, kicks, bottles, and knives directed at me in an attempt to do me bodily harm. Throughout my years of law enforcement, I rose from the ranks of officer to lieutenant. There have been dozens of very physical interactions with individuals who have had little respect for others, let alone the law. Some of these individuals have been quite big, strong, and intimidating. Although I have had my share of injuries while encountering such perpetrators, I have always managed to enforce a takedown and make an arrest, no matter how violent the battle became. Thanks to the combination of bodybuilding and karate, my physique is more than just a display piece. It is mobile, hostile, and agile! At least, that is what I use to tell my fellow officers and friends. But seriously, it is very dangerous out there and you never know when the call will come for you to encounter or respond to a violent incident. You can be in your house, on the street, or at the job. Living in these times, being physically fit is a requirement that should not be taken lightly because you just never know when trouble will come knocking on your door.




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