How Can We Train When the Gym is Burning?

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2014 at 11:39 am



By Antonio Graceffo

My gym caught fire tonight. Just as I was finishing my workout, I smelled a wood fire, but didn’t think anything of it. I walked into the locker room, and it was completely full of smoke. I am such a New Yorker, in spite of the fact that I could neither breath, nor see, I considered taking a shower, before going home. When the firemen came in, I decided it would have been awkward to be naked, while they were working with their hoses, so I grabbed all my stuff out of my locker, and started toward the door. That’s when I realized you can only go so long without breathing. Then, the lights went out. I made it to the front desk, where everyone had congregated. I overheard some Chinese people saying the elevator was shut down. That made sense, but then, I didn’t know how to get out of the building. I took off my wrestling shoes and put on my street clothes.
Then it hit me that I didn’t see anyone leaving. Being that this was China, I could imagine there were no emergency exits. A worker came with a flashlight to help me get dressed. When I was done, I asked him how to get out. “You want to get out?” He asked in Chinese, as if he hadn’t thought that possible. “Yes, I would like to leave the burning building.” I said. By this time, the smoke was filling the reception area. He led me out a backdoor, past a fire wall and to an emergency elevator.
While we waited for the elevator he said in English, “I sorry this.” A midst the heat and smoke, and in the dim glow of his flashlight, I scolded him, and told him everyone has to talk to me in Chinese. It might have cost me my life, but I stick to my principles.
As I got in the elevator, I realized I was the only person leaving. I can’t imagine that in Chinese culture you just remain in the burning building…Chinese fire drill?
I kept remembering that Italian sea captain a few years back who was criticized by American media for getting in the first lifeboat, leaving all the passengers behind. In the interview he said, “I tell the people to leave. If they like to stay, that’s their business.”

Thankfully, I got out alive. Not sure about the woman I knocked down on the stairs. The police are claiming that she did get out of the fire alive. But my story is that she was already trampled to death BEFORE she got on the stairs.

Does anyone want to buy a slightly scorched gym membership?

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

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