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.

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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

God bless the Tibbetts family

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It is easy in this day and age to fall prey to the baser compulsions of nationalism and parochialism. Especially for folks from majoritarian communities in a demographically fluid country. In America, for the most part, baser nationalist instincts often find a home with insecure, fearful white communities.

It can be particularly tempting to consolidate this fearfulness when faced with the bottomless anger and sadness that comes with the loss of a young loved one. I know this feeling well.

It is a testament to the Tibbetts family that not only have they valiantly resisted such baser instincts but have come out swinging against xenophobia and racism. I don’t know anyone with a heart who could read the  column written by Rob Tibbetts in the Des Moines Register and not be brought to tears. This is a dad I hope to emulate.

As a father to an angel of a daughter, a father who lives every day in mortal fear of something bad happening to her, I cannot fathom this pain. To stride beyond it and extend one’s arms to the Latino community that faces backlash over the tragic death of his daughter is a testament to the gorgeous humanity in the Tibbetts family.

I ain’t a believer in any patriarchal religion, but as a proud immigrant and in honor of this amazing, beautiful group of humans who have made the choice to face their tragedy in the bravest, most honorable way possible, I say this…

God bless the Tibbetts family.

To love and nurture without attachment?

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Off late I’ve been trying to mull over the Buddhist notion of attachment being at the root of suffering. It’s a concept that’s easy enough to grasp at a cerebral level, but remarkably hard to put into practice as a way of finding inner peace and all that other soulful shit.

For starters, the thought of attachment being at the root of all suffering is just that, a thought. It’s a ridiculously simple, and thus enormously complicated, concept that is in desperate need of actionable, day-to-day living suggestions.

It makes sense to figure it out. Who the fuck wants suffering in this world after all?

The hardest part for me in figuring out this suffering-laden-attachment is the deep, painful love I feel for my soulmate Sus and our daughter Daya.

I say painful because I can’t personally think of a greater suffering than the loss of one’s greatest loves. Indeed, the fear of that loss is a whole other realm of suffering altogether, the slow burning kind.

When you are lucky enough to experience a love so profoundly integrated into your spiritual being, it comes naturally with the flip side of crippling fear and anxiety.

I don’t like that fear and anxiety.

I think it makes me a shittier spouse and father.

It makes it harder to love with a true nurturing spirit. Because it ultimately draws back into that corrupted masculine need for control, for power to influence the lives of others.

And when I connect that to attachment, occasionally my eyes open a crack.

I’m attached to the security my loved ones bring me.

I’m attached to being needed by beautiful souls.

I’m attached to feeling like a self-righteous prick because I try in vain to fulfill all those needs.

I’m attached to the natural inter-dependency of family.

I’m attached to the health and longevity of my loved ones.

I’m attached to social norms, with nominal rebelliousness, of what perfect families ought to be like.

I’m attached to others seeing my loved ones as awesome people.

I’m attached to the easy sense of meaning and fulfillment that comes from being a committed spouse and father.

I’m attached to the respect I get from being a “family man”.

I’m attached to being able to say to the world and myself that I have real love in my life.

I’m attached to the envy it generates in people who aren’t as lucky.

I don’t know…

Maybe trying to love and nurture without attachment might just make me a less selfish asshole who can stay the fuck in the present, and be grateful for the love without getting his undies in a twist.

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.

Honorable MMA training buddies wanted in Twin Cities area

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This is an earnest call out for honorable MMA training buddies in the Twin Cities area.

I’m a 38 year old, lifelong martial artist who honors the core values of love, freedom, and humanity – an educator and counselor by profession, who’s obsessed with mixed martial arts.

I’m of the belief that fighting – as in unarmed fighting – is in our DNA. We come out of the womb punching, kicking, and screaming, covered in blood, shit, and goo.

Fighting with our bare hands has been present as a sport with every culture on earth, through the ages. (My own goes back to Adithada and Mustiyuddha from millennia gone by).

MMA, despite its myriad limitations and drawbacks, is the closest we’ve gotten in sporting terms to unarmed combat in this current modern epoch.

Indeed, I believe part of the reason for my own obsession with MMA is because it’s the sport that comes closest to unarmed combat today. Like many reading this, I have faced violence in my past and was drawn to martial arts as a kid for both the right and wrong reasons. I’m trying very hard now to walk the path of an honorable warrior who puts his best foot forward for his family, community of loved ones, and the earth we live in.

One of the things I do to achieve that is a daily dose of conditioning tailored for MMA. I train for a half hour every day (in addition to watching what I eat, participating in activities that feed my soul, and trying to develop a sharp mind).

My half hour of conditioning work usually consists of fairly intense shadow boxing, sprawls, squats, lunges, monkey hops, striking combos (punches, elbows, knees, kicks), constant foot movement, and core/back work, while focusing on breathing, balance, and volume. In addition, and as often as I can, I bike, walk, do pushups/squats, dance with my kid, and occasionally workout on a long bag or a ground n pound bag. I’m fit, athletic, and quite strong; 5 feet 10 inches tall, walking around at ~155 pounds. I think conditioning is the most important physical, mental, and spiritual part of being a fighter. I also believe it should should be the first step for any martial artist and conducted lifelong as a daily grind with endorphin yummies for reward.

I’ve been to gyms before and have trained/sparred, but currently cannot commit to one. I’m a working man and my first commitment is my family, thus all the money we make goes towards the mortgage and family needs. In other words, I don’t currently have the resources to join a proper MMA gym.

Instead I was hoping to find some training buddies in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area who might want to meet once or twice a week, or more, to workout together and, eventually, spar together (ensuring proper safety, rules, intensity levels, and honor bound codes of conduct, of course).

Initially, I’m imagining just doing conditioning workouts together, discussing sparring ideas, and ways to lead honorable lives as warriors (no jokes, I think that shit’s important to growing as a martial artist). My ultimate plan is to get a good conditioning workout for a half hour and then maybe a few rounds of sparring for a half hour, with protective gear and low to medium intensity…so no crazy haymakers and then gassing in a minute and a half…I’m learning from past mistakes 😉

I’m seeking a symbiotic, supportive relationship to get better as fighters and live more honorable lives as warriors. It is thus absolutely vital that my training buddies also honor the deeper core values I’ve mentioned above of love, freedom, and humanity. The relationships we build are more important than our relative fighting skills or lack thereof. Martial arts, and MMA in particular, unfortunately attracts a lot of alpha-male-type assholes drowning in toxic masculinity. If you are sexist, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, or an intolerant bigot in any way, I do not want to hear from you as you are not a true martial artist and have strayed far from the path of the honorable warrior (no matter how awesome a fighter you might be). However, if you smiled at that last sentence, please do get in touch.

It’s easier for me to get my ass kicked in workouts and sparring by a fellow warrior whom I respect and care for and I’m hoping it’s the same for you. I also wish to emphasize that you don’t need to have prior martial arts experience – like i said, I truly believe fighting is in our DNA (and we’ve all fought or had our butts wupped in real life). All we need is a willingness to sweat, learn, and help one another get better at life. Maybe we can even document our ongoing success and failures on forums like this.

Finally, I’m also keen on exploring other warrior arts and skills apart from just combat sports – shit that might come in increasing use as our societies crumble for better or worse. You know, shit like hunting, sustainable living, bartering cooperatives, and organic permaculture. I just think doing strength and conditioning work for combat sports and sparring together is a great way to start. My ultimate (pipe) dream is to see this grow magically into a non hierarchical, anti-oppressive, warrior society based on love, freedom, and humanity.

Whatever…costs nothing to smoke up and dream after a workout.

Seriously though, if what you just read spoke to you, and you live in and around the Twin Cities, I’d love to hear from you. Text or email me please and we can chat.

kind regards and much peace,

Shree Varuna

612-636-9895

forthematriarchy@gmail.com