Combat sports in a collapsing world (and UFC 239 predictions)

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The allure is strong and yet not without intense self-reflection, even self-flagellation.

Combat sports is my escape in a collapsing world.

A world I have come to peace with because I have no choice but to do so. A world that somehow has contrived to provide a lucky bum like me a life of love, adventure, and realization. A world full of scary and glorious unknowns.

With that little intro, let’s dive into UFC 239’s crackerjack main card, while I dust off my crystal ball.

(Hey, way back in May 2016 I predicted that the comb-over rapist would occupy the White House. Now that’s one helluva start to my crystal ball gazing. Admittedly, my fight predictions haven’t been as on point. I lost my “zero” solely because of a sociopathic man-child who also happens to be the greatest light heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time…more on that soon.)

So, the UFC 239 main card takes place in a few hours today, Saturday, July 6th, 9pm central. I’m only doing three big fights of the main card because I have some sense of all the fighters and have seen a few fights of each – in addition to their styles, strengths etc.

Let’s start with the main event, Jon “Bones” Jones (the aforementioned man-child and fighting savant) versus Thiago “Marreta” Santos (whose nickname means hammer…he even has a sledge variation of the same tattooed on his torso). Jones is a -600 betting favorite, which for the gambling-uninformed means he is MASSIVELY favored to win this fight. Jones is the reason for my sole loss in the crystal ball gazing, back when I predicted Gustaffson to defeat him in UFC 232 in Jones’ title defense.

Well, I’m risking another loss by going with Santos. I don’t know. It’s just a feeling, most likely just hope. In addition, I almost always want the underdog to win. Mind you, he’s only got the proverbial puncher’s chance, which really should be changed to “striker’s chance” in MMA but what a chance he is giving himself. Brawling power with absolute fearlessness in the cage. And from what I can tell, he seems to be a really caring, honorable guy who gives back to his community without the usual fanfare. I like good human beings winning nice things for themselves and their people. Vamos Marreta, fight your fight and wrench hope from the bowels of darkness…

***Santos by TKO (and NEW UFC Light Heavyweight Champion)***

The co-main event is for the women’s bantamweight title with my favorite female fighter, the awe-inspiring, two-weight champion, Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (the greatest female MMA fighter of all time in case you were wondering) versus another all-time great, former bantamweight champion, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. This will be a stand up, striking battle unless one is getting thoroughly outclassed in a round and shoots for a takedown in order to survive. I think Holm will bring the fight to Nunes and it will go the distance, but I think Nunes will take a solid decision. Holm has phenomenal striking no doubt, great boxing and muay thai, with decent movement, but Nunes has two exquisite weapons that any striker dreams of having in tandem – sniper accuracy with serious power. She stalks, throws accurate bombs without going crazy, and then when she’s hurt her opponent, she has one of the greatest blitzes in the game. Her first round TKO of Cyborg, where she came in as a betting underdog only to became the first female two-weight champion, was a knockout artiste’s dream. The scary thing is that I think she still has a while to go before she hits her peak. Imagine a killer submission game along with powerful leg kicks added to her arsenal. She can keep those two belts a while and very soon, seriously lay claim to being the greatest MMA fighter ever. Even if Holm pulls off the upset (which would put her easily in the top two or three greatest female fighters of all time), Nunes still has the featherweight title, not to mention an automatic rematch for the bantamweight crown. She is in a rare position to stake a claim and continue her path to all-time greatness without losing too much of a step, even if she loses this fight. But I don’t think that’s gonna happen…

***Nunes by unanimous decision (and STILL UFC Bantamweight Champion)***

Prior to the two title bouts, is the apparent “people’s main event” (so dubbed because mindless social media traffic constitutes “people”). Nonetheless it’s a mouth-watering affair and I’ll admit that this is the fight I’m most looking forward to in the card. A welterweight fight and a possible shot at the belt up for grabs, with “Funky” Ben Askren and his scrambling-heavy, elite-level wrestling style taking on “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal’s street-fighting background and excellent, technical boxing skills. Both of these guys are colorful characters to say the least, but in very, very different ways. Suburban scholastic meets urban rough and tumble with all the internecine frictions. Masvidal needs to keep the fight standing while Askren will do everything he can to get the takedown and a submission or TKO. In the cage I love the strikers in stylistic matchups, but that’s only because I came into martial arts via striking sports like boxing and kickboxing and NOT because I think the grappling arts are any less effective (though they can be boring as fuck at times).

Usually when great MMA strikers are matched against great MMA grapplers, the grapplers have simpler paths to victory, based on grinding your opponent down to the point of tiredness and then getting a submission, TKO, or decision victory (Askren of course incorporates a lot more scrambling than just muscular grinding). Strikers on the other hand usually emerge victorious when they can match volume and power with great defensive wrestling, a slightly more complicated skill combination to master. Grappling cardio also holds up better than striking cardio in the later rounds. In the early years of MMA as a sport, the grapplers ran roughshod through the strikers for this main reason. Over the last decade or so however, one can see the tables turning. That skill combination I mentioned above is now integrated early on into training because people are starting to train from the get-go in MMA (which ultimately at its core, is a striking sport with some grappling, as opposed to the other way around – something grapplers in the early years tried). Indeed, I’d say we’re entering a new era of MMA strikers dominating the sport.

Having said that, I’m leaning towards the grappler here. I think Masvidal has great technical striking and defensive wrestling, but is not as powerful as many of the other welterweights around. He also likes brawling occasionally, which plays right into Askren’s game. From what I’ve seen in past fights, Askren can take a hit and keep coming. He is also a takedown artiste. I think Gamebred will catch Funky with some shots, enough to make this a serious fight and maybe even prove me wrong, but I think ultimately Askren gets the takedown and a submission win.

***Askren by submission (with a shot at the welterweight title as reward, or, wait for this – a shot at the inaugural title for the spanking new 165 pound division!)***

MMA is a sport where adult human beings, usually with families and responsibilities, get into a cage to beat each other up under controlled circumstances for performative glory and apparent reward.

I can appreciate that because I understand the fear and pain of getting hit.

But I also know I’m finding ways to rationalize my escape…

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I’m retired (from all boss work) at the age of 39 – here is what I’ve “achieved” and what I’m looking forward to…

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First off, what I’m looking forward to…

Spending as much time as possible with loved ones, human and non-human.

Spending as much time as possible working on family and community-building projects that have intrinsic meaning and universal purpose devoid of fiat currency exchange or capitalist market value pressures.

Spending as much time as possible enjoying life, working out, eating good food, drinking nice libations, doing interesting shit, learning new skills, making new friends, and of course finding spiritual nourishment from a myriad herbal products.

We’re at a financially stable enough place with strong enough community ties and good enough investments where I’ll only be working very part-time, one-off and likely one-day gigs as and when needed, mostly to stay sharp in the immediate labor market while constantly learning new, interesting skills. And primarily through community contacts and neighborhood networks, which usually make them much more enjoyable. I’ve also found one-off gigs really satiate my need for constant mental stimulation and are almost always interesting enough to make the day go by fast without having to worry about any douchey co-worker the next day.

But absolutely no more boss work whether that boss be a person or an institution.

From now on I only ever will work with people for fair wage or barter (including just for the lulz from time to time), but never ever for anybody.

And I will only work gigs that I can give a middle finger to at any point in time if the person I’m working with ends up being an asshole. Even if that person is someone I will buy a beer for afterwards to make up.

I’m really loving this retirement shit. It is quite liberating. I am feeling rather liberated in the midst of all this love and struggle.

As a little celebratory blog post and just for egomaniacal kicks, I thought I’d upload my highly embellished, constantly updated CV, not to mention the last iteration I will ever use (slightly modified and formatted for the post) as I don’t ever plan on applying for a “job” again.

Goodbye professional career, fare thee well and thanks for all the dark comedy.

Shree Varuna aka Sriram Ananthanarayanan aka Sri Ananth aka Warrior Clown

Email: forthematriarchy@gmail.com

Blog: https://loveliberationstruggle.wordpress.com

PROFILE

  • Status: US Permanent Resident (Green Card); Citizen of Canada; Overseas Citizen of India. Hold Canadian and Indian Passports.
  • Language/Communication Skills: English (native), Tamil (fluent), Hindi (fluent), Urdu (good), and Kannada (average).
  • Teaching/Education Skills: workshops (design and implementation), sessionals, online lectures and presentations, remote workshops, curriculum development, popular education, street theatre, discussion groups, and mass communication (utilizing newsletters, flyers, pamphlets, handouts etc.).
  • Computer/Publishing Skills:
  1. Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint) and various Adobe products (Publisher/Photoshop);
  2. WordPress and Blogger site construction, maintenance and management (including flexible usage of multiple templates, graphics, textual styles and design styles, mostly focusing on minimalism and simplicity);
  3. E-book and paperback POD publishing skills (Createspace, Smashwords etc.), including pdf/epub/mobi creation, book-blogs, and websites;
  4. Blog creation, maintenance, content generation, and taxonomy for informational/cultural sites; SEO best practices and blog promotion experience.
  5. Film/video editing software, documentary film-making, and camera work experience, especially for simple 5-10 minute YouTube videos and vlogs.
  6. Podcasting experience – via sites like Blog Talk Radio and with recording software.
  • Writing Skills: nonfiction essay/article, narrative journalism, reportage, fictional autobiography, research papers, position papers, creative nonfiction, and speculative fiction. (Publications below)
  • Editing Skills: Content editing and copyediting experience in multiple formats/media.
  • Committed to liberatory social change with anti-oppression principles, especially in my primary life endeavor as a parent and nurturer. Committed to peace, nonviolence, self-improvement, social justice, mindful self-reflection, and striving to live in harmony with the earth and all non-human souls.

 

EDUCATION + COLLEGE MEMBERSHIP

Degrees:

  • May 2004 – Masters in Public Health & Human Geography, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
  • Nov 2001 – Bachelors Degree in Engineering, Bangalore University, Bangalore, India.

Post-Graduate Studies:

  • Sept 2008 to May 2011 – Teaching Fellow at the Department of Geography, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN, USA. ABD thesis papers published in two different peer-reviewed journals.
  • Courses completed include graduate level courses in Human Geography, Political and Economic Geography, Feminist Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Research Methods, Research & Development, Urban Planning, Political Science, Cultural Studies, Subaltern History, and Sociology.

Completed Certifications:

  • Nov 2016 – Sexual Assault Advocacy Training, Sexual Violence Center, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Dec 2015 – Refugee Mental Health, CAMH, Toronto, ON.
  • May 2015 – Crisis Intervention & De-Escalation, Parkdale Community Health Centre, Toronto, ON.
  • Dec 2014 – First Aid & CPR, Parkdale Community Health Centre, Toronto, ON.
  • Nov 2014 – Techniques in Anxiety & Depression Management, Leading Edge Seminars, Toronto, ON.
  • Sept 2014 – New Approaches to Treating Traumatic Memory, Leading Edge Seminars, Toronto, ON.
  • April 2014 – Professional Practice and Jurisprudence in Psychotherapy, College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, Toronto, ON.
  • March 2014 – Post Partum Depression and Healing, Parkdale Community Health Centre, Toronto, ON.
  • Feb 2013 – Addressing Violence and Aggressive Behaviour in Primary Care Settings, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON.
  • May 2013 – Trauma-Informed Counselling and Therapy for Front-Line Workers, The Hincks Dellcrest Centre, Gail Appel Institute, Toronto, ON.
  • Nov 2013 – CBT Treatment of Anxiety and Depression, Leading Edge Seminars, Toronto, ON.
  • Nov 2013 – Mindfulness and Affect Regulation Approaches to Trauma Therapy, Leading Edge Seminars, Toronto, ON.
  • Past Certifications: Understanding and Managing Aggressive Behaviour (UMAB), HIV & Substance Use Training, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Fitness, Health & Nutrition, and De-Escalation Techniques.

Past professional college membership:

  • College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) in Toronto – Passed membership requirements via the grand-parenting route established by the Transitional Council of the CRPO.

 

WORK EXPERIENCE (HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND SOCIAL SERVICES)

Mar 2016 – present

Parent, Freelance Writer, Teacher, and Labor Artiste

  • Ever since our daughter, Daya, was born in March 2016, co-parenting with my partner Susanne has been my full-time life occupation. We made a conscious decision that I would make a shift in my career for a period of time to more flexible income-generating labor, like freelance writing, consulting, and substitute teaching, in order to share the parenting load while simultaneously cutting costs in our lives so we could live simpler, more intentionally caring lives with time for each other.
  • Past consultancy/writing projects have included advocacy trainings and violence prevention workshops. I also worked for 6 months with the Sexual Violence Center, where I completed and later conducted the 40-hour state-mandated Sexual Assault Advocacy training.
  • For a brief while I worked part-time as a freelance journalist for The College Daily
  • For nearly two years during this period, I worked as a Reserve Teacher for Minneapolis Public Schools, which was wonderful due to the flexibility of the position. I was able to uphold parenting responsibilities while generating income in a position that still gave back to society in many ways. But I eventually decided to stop and indeed retire completely from professional work following this position. I saw too much structural oppression going on in the public school system with nary a way of doing anything to dismantle, which was rather depressing eventually.
  • While a sub with MPS, I enjoyed working different full-time jobs that required physical exertion during the summer months when the schools are closed, including stone masonry, carpentry, construction, demolition, landscaping, and more. I like working out so try my hardest to incorporate it into work that helps me develop interesting skills while going into beast mode.

Dec 2012 – Dec 2016

Counsellor/Therapist (Parkdale Community Health Centre, Toronto,ON)

  • Full-time. I provided trauma-informed therapy and healing support for clients dealing with numerous deep-rooted life struggles, including PTSD, Complex PTSD, anxiety, and depression. This included several clients dealing with severe childhood trauma. I was also the only man in our counselling team, which meant that I had a case load of about 80-90 clients, mostly men, 45-50 of whom had severe, complex trauma that brought with it accompanying struggles with violence and substance use.
  • Utilized a variety of therapeutic methods such as modified CBT, motivational counseling, general support, providing structures for daily living and life/health-management, helping to develop healthier coping mechanisms, and assistance in building stronger, healthier relationships. Strived to incorporate anti-oppressive principles and self-reflection that often ran counter to the prevailing frameworks of care.
  • Pursued a holistic method of providing care and support, with the aim of long-term health, healing, and happiness.
  • Utilized an anti-oppression and harm-reduction approach in providing advocacy and referrals to support clients in dealing with institutional marginalization, homelessness, poverty, racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and systemic abuse.
  • Ran low-intensity groups for people dealing with many of the above issues.
  • Conducted community outreach and popular education events in the area.
  • Developed partnerships with sister agencies and ran joint programs for marginalized groups in the community.
  • From March 2016 to Dec 2016, I was on full-time, paid parental leave. Yeah, the benefits with this job were phenomenal (plus, Canada).

Sept 2011 – Dec 2012

Community Health Worker (LOFT Community Services, Toronto, ON)

  • Full-time. Provided trauma-informed counselling and case management for clients in McEwan Housing and Support Services (Community Mental Health Program).
  • Engaged in community support and legal/social advocacy for marginalized, homeless people living with HIV/AIDS, and requiring support surrounding housing, physical/mental health, legal issues, fiscal management, and employment support.
  • Low-intensity counselling for clients dealing with PTSD, Complex PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
  • Advocacy for clients with government bodies like border services, immigration the police and court system, as well as state social agencies like disability support, city housing, public guardians etc.

June 2011 – Sept 2011

South Asian Community Development Worker (Parkdale Community Health Centre, Toronto, ON)

  • Part-time (14 hours per week, 4-month contract). Community-development, outreach/education, and advocacy on issues surrounding gender rights, LGBTQ+ rights, health access, food access, and immigration.
  • Ran an advocacy group for marginalized South Asians in addition to developing new support groups for newcomers, youth and the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Networking with religious institutions, community-organizations, and direct service programs in order to conduct presentations/workshops that address the above issues.

Sept 2008 – May 2011

Lecturer and Teaching Fellow (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN)

  • Part-time (20 hours per week). Lectured, developed course material, graded papers, and ran workshops for students as part of teaching fellowship.
  • Ran office hours for students, which included counseling them on their academic progress.
  • Courses taught: Globalization 101, Cities and Change, Biogeography, Human Geography 101, and Our Globalizing World.
  • During this time I was intimately involved in organizing around grad student rights with Grad Student Workers United. I organized on issues surrounding education/healthcare access, and fees reduction, while also coordinating the monthly newsletter for our group.
  • I was also an active member of the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign, a Palestine-solidarity BDS campaign that continues to be active in the state (and also happens to be where I met my glorious partner, Susanne).

Jan 2007 – Aug 2008

Co-Founder and Director (Jan Manthan, Gujarat, India)

  • Full-time. Co-founded a community-based organization in the state of Gujarat in northwestern India.
  • The organization was based in two poor working-class neighborhoods, having many survivors of fascist violence that targeted minority communities in 2002.
  • Jan Manthan was involved in running a women’s labor cooperative, building youth groups, running a civic rights movement, and advocating for the rights of survivors of violence.
  • My responsibilities included program direction, fundraising, networking with international donors, and month-to-month visioning with activists on the ground.
  • I worked pro-bono for the organization until December 2014, offering part-time outreach, networking, and fundraising services until the organization was stable.
  • While working on setting up Jan Manthan, I also freelanced as a writer and organizer on issues surrounding social disenfranchisement, economic marginalization, gender justice, and militarism.

June 2004 – Dec 2006

Outreach Coordinator

  • Full-time. Worked primarily on education, outreach, and violence prevention.
  • Implemented many education programs for youth/adults on violence prevention, gender rights, immigrant rights, grassroots organizing, and conflict resolution.
  • Was involved in coalition-building, community-outreach, and developed two curricula on preventing gender-based violence within multi-cultural settings and immigrant rights.
  • Duties encompassed direct advocacy, including running the shelter from time to time, conducting intake interviews, and legal support.
  • Integrally involved in starting an anti-trafficking coalition called Mata Hari: Eye of the Day.
  • Recruited and trained volunteers in outreach, education, violence prevention, fundraising events, and direct advocacy.
  • During this period, I was part of a month-long, solidarity delegation called Boston 2 Palestine. We travelled through occupied Palestine to participate in nonviolent direct action and learning about colonial occupation and apartheid, with the larger plan of strengthening the Palestine-solidarity movement in Boston. Upon return, we conducted multiple popular education events and plugged into campaign work in and around Boston, building cross-movement ties of solidarity.

May 2003 – May 2004

Curriculum Developer (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)

  • Part-time (20 hours per week). Research, writing, and module/workshop-development.
  • Networking with educators and various departments in developing curricula for their distance education courses.
  • Developing and conducting “Train the Trainer” workshops for professors and teachers.
  • Curriculum development for courses in Public Health, Environmental Studies, Political and Economic Geography, Environmental Health, and Social Work.

April 2002 – Dec 2002

Emergency Aid Worker (Aman Samudaya, Gujarat, India)

  • Worked with peace and justice coalition involved in the relief and rehabilitation of victims of violence that targeted minority communities in Gujarat.
  • The first phase of the work was in relief camps, and involved shelter construction, procurement of rations and medical relief.
  • The second phase of the work, after the camps closed down, was community-centric, and involved livelihood-generation projects, house reconstruction and health advocacy.
  • The work involved extensive networking and research for human rights and justice campaigns.
  • Also involved in security and safety in the camps, as well as conflict resolution.

Sept 1997 – March 2002

Volunteer Organizer and Elected President (VISIONS Bangalore, Bangalore, India)

  • Volunteered in student-run AIDS awareness and sexuality rights group in South India.
  • Helped implement awareness programs, street theatre, a health advocacy network, and gender/sexuality rights campaigns.
  • Co-founder of the education/prevention committee and the health advocacy network.
  • Served as elected President for two years from Sept 1999 to Sept 2001.

 

RESEARCH/WRITING/EDITING EXPERIENCE + AWARDS/FELLOWSHIPS

Past Published Papers:

  • Conceptualizing Solidarity and Realizing Struggle, Interface: A Journal For And About Social Movements, November 2014.
  • The Politics of the Palestinian BDS movement, Socialism and Democracy (Routledge), November 2013.
  • Scheduled Tribe Status for Adivasis in Assam, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies (Taylor and Francis), August 2010.
  • SEZs: New Mechanisms for Imperialism in India, Socialism and Democracy (Routledge), March 2008.

Past Published Articles, Writing Projects, and Short Stories:

Current Writing Projects

Awards/Fellowships:

  • International Book Awards, Finalist, Multicultural Fiction for debut novel, Across the Sabarmati (2014).
  • Special Appreciation Award from community members of Parkdale (2015-2016).
  • Dunn Peace Fellowship, University of Minnesota (2010).
  • Teaching Fellowship, University of Minnesota (2008).
  • Achievement Award from Jane Doe Inc (Boston) for gender justice work among immigrants/refugees (2006).
  • Appreciation Award from South Asian Network (LA) for anti-sexism work in California (2006).
  • Department Scholarship, Johns Hopkins University (2003).
  • Commendation Award for AIDS awareness and sexuality rights work in Bangalore (1999).
  • Cultural Artiste of the Year, People’s Education Society, Bangalore University (1998 & 1999).

Hobbies/Passions and Sports Awards

  • Writing, martial arts, cooking and learning new cuisines, exploring different philosophies & spiritual teachings, cuddle-torturing my pets.
  • Gold Medal, 4×400, Bangalore Track & Field Senior Collegiate, People’s Education Society, Bangalore University (1998).
  • Double Silver Medal, 400 & 800, Bangalore Track & Field Junior Collegiate, SBMJ College (1995)
  • Silver Medal, 4×400, Karnataka Amateur Athletics Championship, Sports Authority of India (1995).
  • Most Improved Fighter, Bangalore Mixed Martial Arts Youth Tournament, Club Yuva (1995).

 References available upon request (fair warning though  – I keep company with some real wingnuts like myself)

 

What is it about combat sports that speaks to me? (Redux)

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During some restless teenage years in Bangalore, it was boxing and kickboxing with a dog-eared edition of The Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

Then ensued a long break where activist adventures and delusions of revolutionary grandeur across multiple continents held captivation for head and heart, with ciggies and booze emerging as two bosom travelling companions.

Now, as I come to the end of my significantly mellower and peaceable thirties (rooted in Minneapolis of all places on earth, whoulda thought?) – I’m back to being obsessed with combat sports.

(MMA this time around…and that dog-eared copy of Bruce Lee’s brilliant text still floats around our living room).

Funny.

As the glory and responsibilities of being a family man bless me with identity and meaning, there is still one part of me, a restless part of my soul that clamors for full realization.

This need for the relief of realization, as I’m starting to call it, lies at the heart of that restless part of my soul, which for now finds a modicum of groundedness in seeing two cage fighters beat the crap out of each other for my entertainment.

Of course, my obsession with combat sports will not be without self-critique.

How can it be?

That will negate the quest for full realization.

Simultaneously, I celebrate the fact that it grounds that restless part of my soul.

I think one reason might be because it helps with fear – fear that resides in the pit of my brain, causing it and thus me to do dumb shit.

I go back to my many escapes, from what feels like lifetimes past.

And in this most blissful of life stations, happiness running over, struggle always coupled with joy, love in my life like never before, I now know that the relief of realization lies in inviting this fear – the fear of death and ending – into my life as an authentic friend and loyal travelling companion.

This fearful friend then makes me grateful for the life I’ve led thus far and whatever might lie ahead.

At a less pristine level, it also makes me very, very grateful for crazy-ass cage fighters like Gamebred and Showtime, defying the bookies against bigger, heavier fighters and knocking them the fuck out.

(Now, if I can just deal with the inherent toxic masculinity interred in MMA, we’ll be good…)

Training Diary, Week 5 – Do I just have a crazy goal so I’ll workout every day?

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I’m weak in a multitude of ways.

Like all humans I guess.

But I just don’t feel like I have the mental strength to workout every day unless I have some goal to commit to. And when I say workout, I mean something that gets that heart rate up, a sweat going, and some muscular stress. Even if it’s just for 15 mins. Hopefully more like 30-45.

Every day.

I don’t think I’d do it in a way that keeps me honest and true unless I had a goal to keep my lazy ass motivated. Because really, when I think about it, laziness and the need for relaxation is a critical baseline from which humanity operates from. If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we work the week to enjoy the weekend, we labor in order to enjoy the fruits of relaxation after, we sweat so we may later rehydrate with a crisp honey lager.

We struggle so we may feel joy in all its glory.

So then why can’t I workout every day just for the sake of feeling those endorphins and post-workout treats? Why this goal of becoming a pro fighter?

I really can’t say. What I do know is that unless I have a genuinely hard athletic goal in front of me (that also doubles up as a spiritual quest to figure out this toxic masculinity shit), I’m gonna get lazy with my workouts. And I haven’t exactly gotten the healthiest grip on all the pleasurable poisons I indulge in to help me with the struggles of life.

So I have to keep imagining a beast wanting to beat the shit out of me to get a good sweat in.

After all, we must dance with our demons to defeat the devil inside.

Training Diary, Week 4 to 5 – Loving the athlete’s grind

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Loving the athlete’s grind is in many ways a vastly reduced and simplified mirroring of loving the noble grind of life itself. There are brief moments of joy and euphoria, but always preceded and succeeded by vast time periods of the righteous labor that is at life’s foundation.

The athlete’s grind.

The one who trains daily goes to bed with varying levels of satisfaction. They might even feel a sense of spiritual oneness with the universe at large…depending on the intensity with which they pushed themselves during their workout and the endorphins released (not to mention the quality of their fuel).

A beautiful buzz.

Then they have to wake their rickety, lactic-acid-laden ass in the morning to figure out a way to do it yet again.

And that’s the athlete’s grind. We seek that daily buzz, but we have to walk through the muck every day to get there.

We all have our strategies of taking that first step through the muck. Music. Motivational videos. Maria Juan. Often all three.

Sometimes I’ll even commit the cardinal sin of training at half-ass intensity with my favorite show on.

Sometimes I’ll be pretty honest with myself to just get my ass off the couch.

“Do whatever is needed to get those first 5 minutes out of the way. Just do some push-ups and squats, and take it from there. Forget about your lofty-ass goal of becoming a pro bare knuckle fighter and just get some blood pumping through your depression-prone self. You have to get your ass to work the next day and cook dinner tonight, so you know you’re probably gonna smoke a cigarette on your lunch break and have a couple of beers while the onions are frying…

Make the poisons count asshole.”

I think the athlete’s grind keeps me honest in ways I rarely find elsewhere in life.

The only other endeavor that keeps me truly honest with myself is parenting (even the athlete’s grind doesn’t compare to that).

And so it goes on.

Day after day.

Sometimes I really don’t know why, even questioning the futility of insurmountable athletic goals when I look at the endless, winding path ahead of me.

Then I realize that life can be hard and that I want to feel a little better about myself. So I do whatever I can to get my lazy ass up to do some push-ups, and squats, and oh, maybe a few minutes of shadow boxing to get those endorphins going before I enjoy some whisky with my dinner, and a smoke before bedtime.

This noble grind is perfectly imperfect.

Training Diary, Week 3 to 4 – I now know I must become a bare knuckle fighter

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Well, it didn’t take long for my training to face some hurdles. Certainly the two-a-days took a bit of a hit once I resumed my duties as a pedagogical ninja in the service of Minneapolis Public Schools (you know, a proud, committed, full-time sub).

That’s the excuse anyway.

But all was not lost. Frustrating though the last couple of weeks have been, I kept up as best as I could and averaged a workout a day. I even got back to two-a-days over the weekend (but back to one-a-days during the more hectic week days…blah). I should clarify that my workouts usually never last more than 35-45 mins, but I try to keep them as intense as possible. I’m trying to lead the life of a serious, part-time athlete but also a smart one whose primary purpose in life is to be the best family man he can be. I like the fact that my athletic goals have to revolve around my responsibilities towards my loved ones and not the other way round. Training rarely becomes stale that way cos I’m fighting for it.

Getting to this sporting springboard itself has been a few years in the making. My 5’10” naturally wiry frame used to walk around at 200 lbs through my late twenties and early thirties, probably as a result of eating and drinking way too much while often doing nothing more than push ups and strength training. Following a fundamental shift in understanding food, addictions, and the need to get that heart rate up every day (as opposed to just building easy, useless muscle mass), I rapidly trained my way down to about 155 lbs, a weight I’ve been walking around at since my mid 30s.

After all, weight is everything for a fighter.

And now at the relatively ripe old age of 38, I’m ready for that next phase. Training for competition. I’ve already mentioned that combat sports is where it’s at for me, but which one?

For the past few years of general conditioning work, I’ve been struggling to settle down on one of traditional boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA), and kickboxing – catering my daily conditioning work to what was striking my fancy at the time. (Striking… get it? I crack myself up.)

But the ultimate resolution to that question has me traveling in a direction that pleasantly surprised me. To the point where I wrote it down as a goal on paper (and I rarely write shit on paper any more). Hell, to the point where I’m blogging about it for self accountability.

You see, I wanted to find something similar to the kinds of hard-sparring, fist fights I participated in as a teenager (the last time I was leading the life of a serious athlete). I also wanted to find a combat sport that necessarily needed wits and strategy in equal measure to strength and conditioning, while also minimizing mindless, brute power.

And I believe I’ve found it.

A sport that is as old as the ages but struggling for full sanction and acceptance.

A sport that just recently staged its first legally sanctioned bouts in the States in over a century.

Yes, I’m talking about bare knuckle fighting.

And no, I’ve not lost my mind.

These words got scribbled in my notebook a few days back to keep me honest:

“I want to become a bare knuckle fighter and champion.”

That’s a tall order. Practically speaking, I want to participate in at least one legally sanctioned bare knuckle fight in my adopted homeland and take it from there. (Did I mention that I get to define “champion” in my own head?)

Now, I still don’t know how I will do it. As already mentioned, the sport just garnered legal sanctioning very recently. And from my research it looks like the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) and the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF) are a couple of promotions looking to get some action going. It’s very likely more will follow suite as the sport takes off.

(Note that worldwide a lot of promotions claiming to do bare knuckle fighting still wrap the hands of their fighters, thus converting fragile fists into clubs, which as I suggest below is counter to the credo of bare knuckle fighting).

Now, getting back to me, me, me. I have some ideas on how I might do this, but bare knuckle fighting is a different animal. I best be prepared for the journey cos it’s a long road ahead.

For starters, it’s grossly misunderstood and there are absolutely no avenues for training and zero local fight circuits to participate in. Indeed, the fact that I must walk this journey alone is probably the most enticing and scary part of it. (Which is likely why I’m writing about it too – so other restless souls may bare witness to my antics).

Let’s begin with how it’s misunderstood. The term “bare knuckle” conjures up images of bloody, beat-up faces for the entertainment of boorish, drunken revelers in back alleys and post-blight warehouses.

Well, that’s actually quite accurate…but there’s a lot more to that narrative. I want to break down some of the finer facets of bare knuckle fighting I’ve discovered on my nascent journey.

1. Combat chess rather than power striking.

Bare knuckle fighting, done properly without wraps covering the knuckle is more akin to unarmed combat chess rather than balls to the wall power striking. The key difference being that in all the other striking sports I mentioned above, a general mantra seems to be “more power is better” which is why there are ridiculously stupid levels of weight cutting. From what I can gather and my own personal experience fighting without wraps, this changes to “more technical, pinpoint striking is better” simply because if you’re not careful and technical it can be so easy to break your hands in bad ways. Just look at what happened to “Felony” Charles Bennett in a recent bare knuckle fight. Now, I’m not suggesting some laughable notion that technical striking isn’t important in boxing, MMA, and kickboxing or that power isn’t valued in bare knuckle fighting. I’m just suggesting that wraps and gloves over knuckles make a huge difference in training, strategy etc. No concussion-inducing looping overhands to the dome of the skull for instance. A targeted focus on the meatier parts of the body and face is often what’s needed.

2. Bloodier but safer, maybe even purer?

Stemming directly from the previous point, I feel confident in getting behind the argument that while bloodier, bare knuckle fighting might actually be a fair bit safer for long term health because of a significant reduction in concussion risks (and possibly less emphasis on weight cutting). Sure, bare knuckles cut the skin easier, but they are also less likely to knock you out. A friend made a similar comparison between rugby and American football. The lack of gladiatorial armor in rugby makes concussion-inducing tackles and checks less frequent, but often makes for a bloodier, more abrasive sport. Personally I also believe bare knuckle fighting makes for an organically “purer” sport with less accouterments. Indeed, I think the next big step is bare knuckle MMA, which I think would be a safer, more organic version of the current hand-wrapped/gloved version.

3. Legally and promotionally in its infancy (so a bit, um, wild).

This is one of the reasons for some of the more morbid misunderstandings I’ve noticed floating around about bare knuckle fighting. It’s such a fringe, visually gory sport that there is much cultural fear with the average person and much skepticism with the average combat sports fan. This will change and change quite rapidly as it’s exactly what MMA went through in its early wild days. As the purity of bare knuckle fighting takes hold (and I’m of the opinion that there is more than enough room in the combat sports market for it) many of these cultural misunderstandings will melt away towards mainstream acceptance. I do believe the true combat sports aficionado will appreciate this amazing martial art.

4. Getting back to me, me, me.

Yeah, the egomaniac in me ain’t going anywhere. All the points mentioned above are the primary reasons I’ve settled on this weird and wacky journey. I’m trying to find a spiritual side to me that only comes with fear and adrenaline. Toxic masculinity has a better chance of being smashed with the humility that comes from any true right of passage. Bare knuckle fighting might just be one of many such passages for me. So I’ll try to rip this shit while being the best family guy I can be.

The rest is up to the goddesses.

My name is Shree Varuna and if you’d like to get in touch please email me at:

forthematriarchy@gmail.com

Training Diary, Week 1 – What is it about combat sports and athletic endeavors for me?

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Sunday.

Rest day.

After grunting my way through two-a-days for 6 days, I’m happy for a rest day. The body is sore, and the mind is figuring out how to get motivated to repeat the 12 workout-goal for the week ahead, starting with maybe some roadwork and shadow boxing Monday morning.

I’m trying to lead the life of a legitimate athlete right now. I’ve set myself some fairly difficult athletic goals to keep myself motivated because it’s hard as fuck and I don’t know why I’m trying to put my body through this. I work full time and have the most amazing family to care for. I could just exercise a little bit every day to stay fit and call it a day.

But there is something in me that I’m trying to find in the athletic grind. It’s a pain-filled journey that calls to me. A lactic-acid-flooded path I must navigate.

Right now, its boxing, which I hope to expand to other endeavors as well. I’ve had a love for combat sports as long as I can remember. I think there’s a rawness to the competition that makes it unique. Yeah, two white dudes can grunt for four hours tapping a ball back and forth across a net and call it competition, but everyone knows that the fear of getting legitimately hurt in a fist fight adds an edge to things in a way that just can’t be replicated in other athletic endeavors.

In all likelihood, my own inexplicable predilection for combat sports has something to do with toxic masculinity and getting the ever loving shit kicked out of me as a kid. In my current situation as an immigrant man of color married to a white woman and nurturing an inter-racial family in alt-right-influenced America, I guess it’s also a way of blowing off some steam.

The endorphins you get from the training sessions are pretty cool too.

So, I’ve decided to dive headlong into it for a bit.

The last time I lived like a part-time athlete was over two decades ago, when I was 15-16, training for the 400-800 like someone possessed. Two-a-day workouts. Competition. Dreams of Olympic stardom. The works.

Then I had to throw it all away to focus on my studies. I guess I’m happy I did so. A decent, fulfilling career in health and social services. A condo in Toronto. A house in Minneapolis. Both nice, progressive cities with diverse populations. Family fairly well set. Easy, fulfilling job now. Pretty sweet life with loved ones, friends, beer, and weed.

What more could a man ask for at the age of 38?

That’s where unrequited childhood dreams of athletic glory come in to keep one from going soft.

And week 1 was successfully, albeit painfully, completed.

Whoop dee fucking doo for soreness.