On Making My Martial Arts School a “Safe Space”

A rainbow of boxing wraps at VWMAA

A rainbow of boxing wraps at VWMAA

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “safe spaces”. Between constant articles about coddled university students who want to be protected at all costs from the real world, a recent blowup in the online HEMA community about letting Neo-Nazis air their views in martial arts forums, and the needs I’ve seen brought up in my local community in the wake of a disastrous Women’s Self-Defense news segment, there’s been ample opportunity to reflect on how we’ve chosen to mold our own space at Valkyrie WMAA.

Continue reading

Mothers

Mothers. They’re so … tactful. I was a few days into the visit with my parents in June when my mother asked something that had clearly been on her mind for most of them. “So… why don’t you have a flat stomach? I mean, with all the exercise stuff you’ve been doing…” For the record, this is me: I gave her the short answer (“diet”), but it was one more reminder that people who don’t do “exercise stuff” and even most of the people do have pretty much no concept of just how much goes into turning a body into what you see in magazines or on TV. Everybody (with the possible exception of my mother) has seen that Dove timelapse cover girl video, and everybody knows that everything in the media is photoshopped to death, but it’s almost impossible to internalize the idea in the same way that we’ve…

Continue reading

Power and Evil

There will always be people who only see a sword as a means of ruling over others. They think less of the art of swordplay, and more of the visceral pleasure of watching someone cower before them. Tyranny is a brutal human disease that we seem to continue to let fester. Martial arts can be a home to the worst of us. Swordplay is no different, but you would think that maybe…perhaps…the slight more implied interest in things historical would give us an eye towards seeing the mistakes of the past and trying to not repeat them. I grew up in a generation that had a healthy disbelief that any rational, good people could have allowed nazism the power that it had. How could they not see the evil that was brewing, that was so obvious to us now? Couldn’t they feel the hate, the evil? As I got older…

Continue reading

Beauty and The Beast

  Being pretty means you win at life. That’s how it works. If you are born with the right genetics for the time, it’s like being born to the right family. You will have advantages in life. You will win where others fail, with no effort needed. The Stoics disregarded beauty, amongst other things. It had no value because it was a thing that was out of your control. No one has any say in the family they are born into, or the body and face they are born with. If you are born with physical gifts, you will have advantages because of the Cargo Cult mentality. People will believe they can somehow gain your advantage by supporting you. Vote for rich people, and you will become rich too! Because magic, I suppose. We are supposed to be modern people, educated and above such biases and bigotry. We are supposed…

Continue reading

Misconceptions

Back from five days on the road. And working my ninth or tenth day in a row today. Not as bad as it seems since I only work part time, but I’m tired. I’d hoped my brain would be refreshed enough to do some quality writing today, but I fear that’s not going to happen. Just a blog post today, nothing thought out. You can tune out if you want. I won’t mind. I keep running into things that should be dead.  Stupid ideas are the real zombie plague. A braying jackass can spout crap and five years later it’s common wisdom. Oh Internet, you were the chosen one. You were supposed to destroy ignorance, not spread it. We thought you would kill the old-wife-tale syndrome with the speed of rapid communication, shining a new light. Instead you just showed us that the darkness can outrun the light. The world…

Continue reading

Longing and the Art of Swordplay

I sat down [facing a sleeping] couple. Between the man and the woman a child had hollowed himself out a place and fallen asleep. He turned in his slumber, and in the dim lamplight I saw his face. What an adorable face! A golden fruit had been born of these two peasants….. This is a musician’s face, I told myself. This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beautiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this. Protected, sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become? When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it. But there is no gardener for men. This little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine…. This little Mozart is condemned. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry “A Sense of Life: En Route to the…

Continue reading