By Eddie Griffin
Friday, June 26, 2009
It is unfortunate that men in prison are not allowed to make a greater contribution to the sciences, because I witnessed some of the stunning acts of brilliance while incarcerated between the years 1972 to 1984.
You see, men in prison are given so much idle time to think, devise, and scheme. Unfortunately, most of their mastermind skills are devoted to criminal enterprises. Nevertheless, they often come up with some of the most inconceivable notions and ideas.
I learned a lesson from a prisoner at the U.S. Prison at El Reno, Oklahoma, who faked his own death and escaped from the morgue. Faking his own death required that he enter into a zombie-like Zen state, at the highest level. He actually made his heart stop beating and the prison doctor pronounced him dead.
We were in the process of mourning his death when the television news announced he had escaped. We were wondering how an inmate playing softball get hit in the head with the ball while trying to slide into home plate, all of a sudden dies.
The fact is, as he lay on the ground, pretending to be unconscious, he was thinking, plotting, and scheming, while his teammates and prison officials were trying to revive him. He was not responding because he was willing his heart not to beat and his body not to react to stimuli.
It was a great act, because he fooled the prison doctor, who happened to be a hippy-style female.
They carried him on a gurney to the infirmary and laid him on the table. The doctor was trying to detect a heartbeat. There was no pulse but, instead, a manly erection when he discovered who straddled him on the table.
“They stuck a tube down the canal of my penis, and I almost cracked,” he said. “It was the most painful thing I have ever felt in my life.” Still there was no sign of pulse or heartbeat. They pronounced him dead and later wheeled him into the city morgue. Later that night, he escaped and was recaptured about a week later at a girlfriend’s house, somewhere in Oklahoma, in the summer of 1980.
They returned him to the same prison and the same dormitory where I had met him before his escape. The above account was what he conveyed to me.
I had never thought it possible that a person could use the power of the human will to stop their heart from beating. But then I thought about the zombies of old folklore, and the supra-phenomenon known as the Zen state. It caused me to ponder how to reach this deep meditative state, where a man was totally oblivious to pain.
When I came face-to-face with a would-be assassin with a pipe in his hand, intent upon killing me, there was no apprehension at all on my part, because I had seen this movie before, Déjà vu. The pipe in the kid’s hand was real iron and as certain as death. What was uncertain to the kid was how I would react.
This element of the unknown gave me the mental edge. The element of surprise was on my side. I was going to do the unexpected. I was going to step to him, bum-rush style, take the pipe, and break his arm at the elbow. That was my intent. That was my state of mind. I had trained all my life for this moment. It was my epiphany, a déjà vu phenomenon that I saw coming before it happened.
I was mentally prepared to the letter to meet it.
Go into a crouch and give him your arm. My sensei would say during our gladiator rehearsals. He will be tempted to try to break your arm. Then, as soon as the club starts coming down, come up out of your crouch, straighten out your arm, and step into him.
During this training session, my sensei was preparing me to block a baton in the hands of a guard in case of another prison riot. Never did I think that, in real life, the baton would be in the form of a pipe, and that instead of a prison guard, it would be another inmate trying to crack my skull.
It happened at the same prison, U.S.P. El Reno, some time after the escape.
The kid with the pipe wanting to take my life was only 21-years old. He had been raped and humiliated by other inmates. A Muslim brother encouraged him to stand up for himself. “Eddie and I got your back,” so he said. In actuality, Eddie said nothing. It was just a silent assumption that I would defend a man who had the courage to stand up and defend his manhood.
So, one day the kid and his pimp paid me a visit and caught me by surprise in the prison shop where we manufactured army bunks. The pimp gave the kid an ultimatum.
I never will forget the words of the pimp. “I’ve had this kid since he was a little boy. Don’t you know that you cannot take anything out of the devil’s hand if this is what he chooses?” With that said the kid made his choice and came at me with the pipe.
No problem, I thought. I had seen this movie before.
... as soon as the club starts coming down, come up out of your crouch, straighten out your arm, and step into him. His arm will slide down the outside of your arm and you will have the inside position. Wrap your arm around the elbow joint and yank elbow upward and lock it under your arm pit. His arm is useless. At worse, he can only tap you on the back. But put enough pressure on the elbow and he will release the baton. You can break the arm at the elbow joint, my sensei instructed me.
Everything worked perfectly in practice, except on little minor detail. My sensei kept cracking me over the head with the rolled up newspaper that we pretended was the guard’s baton. The problem was that, in my haste, I exposed my head outside of my perimeter.
Always keep the adversary outside your perimeter. If you step outside of your perimeter, you can get your skull crushed.
Again and again, I failed the test, never thinking this minor flaw was a big deal. But, in real time, it was happened again.
I pretended to reach down for a trash can to fend myself and gave the kid my forearm for a target, as my sensei had instructed. And, as soon as he came down with the pipe, I stepped into him, as instructed, with my arm extended. But I stepped outside of my perimeter and took the full brute of the pipe crashing upon my head. I was shocked. I was hit, wounded, and bleeding profusely.
I did manage to hook the elbow and hang on for dear life until I shook the pipe loose. As I turned and calmly walked away, my adversaries did not pursue. From the shop to the infirmary, I left a trail of blood on the prison compound.
From the beginning of the ordeal, I had gone into a Zen state. Otherwise, I would have possibly taken the cowardly way out by running away. But knowing somewhat what was going to happen before it happened was reassuring and gave me a sense of cocky confidence. But I put too much faith in myself and my combat skills.
In the end, I called out in my heart-of-hearts, “Lord, save me.”
My power had failed me like Sampson, and here I was at the hands of the Philistines. The pipe fell on the ground and the Lord allowed me to walk away still alive. From that time on, I began reading the bible, non-stop, trying to find the Lord I had called upon so many times, the same One delivered me.