A punchers chance is a lot more than you think (and other rambling thoughts on UFC 239 and MMA strikers)

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Imagine for a second that you are arguably the greatest MMA fighter to have ever been born (at least according to an MMA fan base and media community that tends to be more concerned with consuming the sport rather than learning the art). You’ve been convinced that you pioneered creative ground and pound – that most quintessential component of MMA striking, beyond the obvious standup craziness.

Imagine, if you can, that you are about to go up against a man, with admittedly shorter reach and height than your freakish genetic gifts, but nonetheless a man who seems to have power and fearlessness in equal measure when fighting in a cage. Plus he’s actually seen violence and pain in his life that you couldn’t even imagine. It’s a dangerous fight against a dangerous striker – albeit a fight in which you’re the overwhelming favorite – but a dangerous fight against a dangerous striker nonetheless.

Now imagine you are warming up for your title defense in the locker rooms fitted with large screens broadcasting the fights before your main event. Like all fighters, you’re warming up and getting rid of butterflies (or flying them in formation? Is that what it is?)…all while watching colleagues duke it out on live TV.

You’re probably hitting mitts or whatever, maybe shadow boxing to stay loose and warm. Coaches and cornermen trying to figure out what they think is the physical and mental zone you need to be in. The “people’s main event” is about to start. Then there’s the co-main where you’re good buddy and durable former champion is likely to take the defending women’s bantamweight queen through a five-round war.

You’ve likely got plenty of time, you tell yourself.

All of a sudden, a street-fighting genius nicknamed “Gamebred” decides to dial his adrenalin to somewhere between Madman and Rabid before imposing a vicious flying knee upon one of the greatest MMA wrestlers of all-time (and silver-tongued betting favorite for their fight to boot)…to end up with what?

A 5 fucking second KO victory.

The shortest in the UFC’s short, megalomaniacal, over-compensating history with profit and bloodlust at its core.

A victory that halted the breath and dropped the jaw of every fight fan watching. And that’s not even being hyperbolic or anything.

A sprinting, blasting flying knee as a trash-talking, undefeated, scholastic scholar-wrestler telegraphed a takedown attempt one second into his fight.

Forget the roaring crowds or the scarcely believable shock.

Why the fuck would you care?

You’re fighting far sooner than you thought for starters.

Gotta get your head back in the game after that shock knockout. Still plenty of time before they get Holly out for her fight. And there’s no way that ends in the first round. Amanda might still eke out a decision win, but she’s a boxer right? She’s not yet got that full blown, 8-limb, scrambling, parrying, moving, MMA striking that I have? Amirite?

But now at the back of your head is that flying knee and the knowledge that the only thing standing between you and the proper build up you probably envisioned is your training partner whose challenging the greatest female MMA fighter of all time for one of her titles.

Freeze this speculative moment and think about this now.

And really it’s only those who have been punched, kicked, elbowed, or kneed in the face at some point in time in their lives who might be able to contemplate this question in its entirety.

How hesitant are you going to be about shooting for a takedown?

Against a beast of a man with mad striking power and zero fucks given for your legacy?

When the elite-level-wrestling, betting favorite two fights prior to yours gets knocked the FUCK out by an instinctively brilliant, concussion-inducing move probably only possible in this glorious sport that you see yourself reigning over – childish lion emojis and everything?

Not to mention the fact that, holy shit, the greatest female fighter of all time just knocked your gym mate out with yet another blitz, in the first round, while you’re still warming up?

Only this time with a mad kicking game added to her boxing arsenal?

You gotta hurry up and fight.

You’re likely gonna take the safe way out and try to eke out a decision in a standup battle of wits.

(Probably banking on your history and aura a bit too much for it to be deemed truly honorable).

***end speculative imagination***

MMA striking is different than traditional boxing, kickboxing, TKD, Kyokushin Karate, or Muay Thai…though Muay Thai may come closest to providing a great striking skillset for MMA. I also think some fringe Southeast Asian sports akin to Lethwei or Muay Boran might be even better for MMA than the killer sport that is Muay Thai.

But no matter what we compare it to, and no matter how much coaches and pundits who have deep backgrounds in other striking sports might say that their chosen striking sport is the best, the fact is that MMA striking is in a league and specialty of its own, just like all other striking sports are as well.

MMA is its own fucking combat sport.

In my previous post where I gazed into the crystal ball to predict fights, I said this about MMA striking (minus the italics and bolding)…

“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.”

That was from the heart, especially the last sentence. I still thought the grappling gas tank was going to beat the mercurial striker.  I actually really like both Masvidal and Askren. But from a fighting standpoint, I still thought the grappling gas tank was going to beat the mercurial striking artiste. The simplicity of the grappling path to victory held sway in the early years, and this weighted history to the sport affected my prediction. As the sport has evolved, creative MMA striking is now beginning to hold sway. (There’s a reason why I think Tony beats Khabib more often than not.)

Now, I came up 1-2 with my predictions for the three big fights of UFC 239. I predicted Santos, Nunes, and Askren to come out on top over Jones, Holm, and Masvidal. I was going with the betting favorites in Nunes and Askren, while hoping against hope with Santos. In the end, Jones eked out a very lucky split decision win against a fearless, one-kneed Santos – a decision I obviously disagree with; Nunes out-struck Holm to take a scintillating first round victory while retaining her bantamweight belt;

And of course, “Funky” got obliterated in the ultimate, awe-inducing, flash KO by “Gamebred”.

I’m still glad my prediction for that fight went so awry.

Like I said, my heart went with the striker but my head went with the grappler.

But I’m glad that my head needs to catch up with my heart this one time rather than it always being the other way round.

You see, like so many other athletes who possessed average physical gifts but nonetheless competed hard when they got the chance, I’ve only ever stood a puncher’s chance.

In MMA (and perhaps life) I now understand that’s a lot more than one might think.

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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 – manhood, family, and MMA.

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My heart has been stolen by this most glorious and visceral sport that is MMA. I am truly quite grateful for it’s existence and my ability to access it in multiple forms.

And I often ask myself why?

Combat sports are without a doubt the closest we have in the sporting world to brute self realization.

And with that comes a brief glimpse into a larger realization of personhood…who we are deep down.

MMA is my guilty pleasure because it can sometimes provide battle theatre for the noble struggles of life itself.

Fatherhood and domesticity asks similar questions for myself.

Who am I as a man and a human being?

What am I made of to take on the struggles of tomorrow with as little whining as possible?

What do I stand for and what am I willing to die for?

***Kaliamman Vazhgai***

Training Diary – Time to be grateful again

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While on the job yesterday, I was inadvertently and fortuitously reminded that I had a lot to be grateful for.

It’s been a while since I put it out there and I know it’s a practice that helps deal with life’s tougher times. Since my training is just as much about balancing mind and spirit with heart and body, it feels like it’s time to be grateful again.

I am indeed grateful for the life the goddesses have blessed me with. For while life’s struggles will always present themselves from now till the end of time, I swim in an ocean of love while dealing with those struggles head on…

Every day I’m reminded of just how lucky I am when I see the brilliance of my partner’s soul, the glory of my daughter’s spirit, the impishness of my cat’s being.

Every day I am in awe of the plenitude of our first world lives even as I navigate the guilt of wallowing in it with nary an understanding of poverty or hunger.

Every day I live with the unbearable truth that tomorrow it could (and indeed, eventually will) all come crumbling down to the never ending march of time.

So I guess I’m grateful for the timelessness of today.

Kaliamman Vazhgai

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.

Towards a healthy engagement with monotony

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Life truly is a series of standout moments. Many of them in fact – all floating in a sea of monotonous reproduction in between.

I think we live in a culture that is consumed by an unquenchable desire, and thus unquestioning laboring, for the highlightable moments in life. Our pop culture is replete with neatly packaged moments – good, bad and everything else – that we are told constitute a life we ought to lead.

But we’re not culturally attuned to figuring out the monotony in between. (For starters, it would make for really, really boring television.)

The very fact that I call it monotony – as opposed to, say, journey, which I’ve been told might be a healthier way of looking at it – is a bit of an indicator already. Monotony means repetition, and repetition is a surefire path to boredom in this world of ours, dominated as it is by pop culture soundbites.

I’m not great with monotony for this reason. It’s the reason that one of my greatest life endeavors has been to entertain myself during the monotonous tasks often required for the sustenance of life and love – the monotony of taking care of business so to speak. I do believe this somewhat unhealthy relationship with monotony has been one of the reasons I have struggled in the past with alcohol and cigarettes as coping measures.

Monotony reminds us of the moments that constitute our life across the multiverse and the myriad timelines we exist in – good and bad. It is in getting mindful during the vast spaces of monotony in one’s life that I believe I might get a healthier engagement with those unforgettable moments – timeless joy from the good and endless strength from the bad.

Thus, in an effort to understand life better I am realizing the need to engage with the monotony of life just as much as I seek glorious mile markers. For it is indeed the boring and non-scintillating activities that are necessary for the sustenance and nurturing of loved ones who make those moments of true joy possible.

I believe a major factor in getting to a state of mental, emotional, and spiritual flow – not delirious joy and happiness but rather a baseline state of fairly mundane satisfaction – is a healthy engagement with monotony and boring activities.

Among other things I can think of that help in this regard is understanding the hidden good side to monotonous life activities (apart from any plant-based intoxicants that serve as reward that is).

And here’s what I think that good side is:

It’s safe to say that if one is engaged in these activities then it likely means there isn’t acute stress or pain in one’s life at that very moment. This might change in the future (or you might access pain from your past), but when your life is at a state where you are regularly engaging in day-to-day boring-ass shit, it is a likely indicator that your life isn’t in any immediate danger and that a relative amount of safety is present.

It’s a good thing to remember in this dance with our demons…