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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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…

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)

 

Why daily martial arts matters to me…

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Mostly in the form of shadow boxing to music or doing circuits of pushups, burpees, and squats…but still.

It keeps me grounded, humble even. Has me dancing with my demons rather than fearing them.

But it’s tough to train every day. Just go ahead and try it. A week. A month. When you get past a year let me know what it felt like, then go for one more.

Then imagine doing it for life.

It is now necessarily part of the noble grind, shorn of romance but yet filled with perennial learning and hope.

I’m in that place now. Poisons and all. I’ve been making them count, and training every day for the last two years. As you can tell I’m proud but also see a long journey ahead and want to ensure there are more adventures to mark the endless path in front of me.

Every goddamn day. I’ve fixed it at a modest half hour (cos I walk a crap load too, what with a puppy now being my everything, including a daily 90 minute constitutional).

I prep for my training with the green goddess, me great healing plant. She has helped me be as successful as I’ve been in keeping it going these last two years.

Sure there will be days when stomach bugs and sabbaticals from said goddess change the “training” to basically messing around with easy drills while watching TopTenzNet on YouTube. Some shitty workout days will have to be balanced out with better ones.

It’s ok. I’m not aiming for perfection.

Just peace of mind and clarity of soul.

Wow…is Tyson Fury my homeboy?

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Tyson Fury is a heavyweight boxing star, a former world champion from proud, humble roots, who also happens to have said some atrociously sexist, homophobic things in the past that prove yet again why us men are truly the weakest of the genders.

Sorry, I’m one of those sports nuts who cannot separate the personhood of the athlete from their athletic achievements. Or whatever personhood I can garner from reading between the lines with cursory reads of articles on my phone.

So I kinda felt a little disgusted by Tyson Fury with my initial introductions to him from the media. But I also remember feeling a touch of pity. Toxic masculinity is usually interred with trauma and mental health struggles. All men know this to some degree or the other.

It was almost too easy to predict and eventually witness the inevitable fall once he reached his pinnacle. Considering the trauma he had taken in (and possibly inflicted on the world in a myriad ways), it played out like tragicomic theater.

For fame, wealth, status, and glory – unlike love and liberation – are but fleeting, no matter at what level they’re first experienced.

But they’re heady drugs nonetheless.

And fall he did from those highs.

Depression. Abuse. Deathliness.

Until he changed the script.

Embraced his vulnerabilities. Learnt to walk before he could get back to doing road work and train.

Paid heed to the knowledge of others but trusted his heart. Got his comeback title bid.

Fought like a dancer tossing away diamond-encrusted shackles.

And got up before the 10 count like he was waking up to an alarm clock – almost like he had trained himself to wake up, every morning, getting ahead of the dark clouds day after day in his comeback bid.

Tyson Fury came away with a draw that didn’t get him the belt but got him as deep a smile as I’ve ever seen on a man who’s really trying to dance with his demons.

And this time around, after the rush of the fight, he seems ready for the struggle to commence.

The righteous struggle.

The noble daily grind for love and liberation that all of us must find our peace in.

I think this sexist homophobe might just be a homeboy of mine.

(Well…as long as he don’t mind arguing while we spar.)

2-1 (or really 3-1) on the crystal ball fights

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At least Nunes won.

But so did that roided shell of a human being.

3-1 on crystal ball fights for me.

Yeah I’m taking the Donald Trump prediction as 2 wins. Especially after the equal parts elation-sadness with the fights last night.

Fine, I’ve lost my undefeated record.

But at least I got realization (which is the point of human existence if you think about it).

MMA, like politics, is seeped in bullshit, greed, and toxic masculinity.

It is an obsession I think I’m over.

Like any addiction for me I’ll never ever fully let go of MMA, especially the training part (and the pre fight press conferences).

But the misogynistic, racist, predatory machinations of promotions like the UFC? Gotta keep from supporting crap like that.

Good thing I believe more in the anarcho democracy of information access in today’s internet age over capitalism I guess.

After all, I have a mortgage to pay…

[Check out my previous post if you want to know what the fuck I’m talking about here.]

The moral, ethical bankruptcy that is the UFC – a psychosocial deconstruction of the UFC 232 Pre-Fight Press Conference (and predictions for Jones-Gustaffson 2|Cyborg-Nunes)

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[Published hours before UFC 232]

First off, as a test of mind against the chaos machine that is life, I’ve decided to use my personal blog occasionally to test my crystal ball skills.

I’ve done this before when I predicted, in May 2016, that Donald Trump would be elected president, further giving 9 scary reasons why. So I have a crystal ball fight record of 1-0, aiming to make it 3-0 in one night. (Though the Trump prediction was so bold and big at the time that I feel like I deserve to have a 2-0 record. But whatever.)

This time around, instead of politics, I’ve decided to go with another sociological obsession of mine – mixed martial arts, or MMA for short. And I’m predicting seriously against the odds. So if MMA’s not even marginally your thing, you might not be interested in this piece. But who knows? Maybe something about it will tickle your fancy.

Regardless, you do you.

Getting back to it…For the layperson, MMA is a combat sport – usually taking place in a cage but occasionally in a ring – that incorporates stand-up striking with punches, kicks, elbows and knees, as well as grappling, both offensive and defensive, on the ground and against the cage, with strikes incorporated whenever possible. MMA is essentially as close to a school yard brawl as you can get with rules and settings that favor bigger, stronger fighters (though, I do believe volume striking with great defensive grappling and a gas tank that can go on for ages is the future of MMA, which, with even a slight tweak in the rules can even the playing field between weight classes).

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC for short, is synonymous with the sport, not because it isn’t a reprehensible organization run by a reprehensible individual, but because it has the largest brand-name value in the current wild, wild west first few decades of the sport.

And yes, despite the fact that it’s a morally, ethically bankrupt organization (more on that in a subsequent point), I’m drawn to the sport like a moth to a flame and thus to whatever matchups I can access via shady Reddit stream links replete with NSFW ads.

UFC 232 takes place tonight (December 29th, 2018). In the main event, the sociopathic maniac who leaves his entire soul in the cage leaving an empty shell to walk the rest of his time on earth, Jon “Bones” Jones, takes on a rangy Swede, Alexander Gustaffson, going by the rather to-the-point nickname “Mauler” – for the UFC Light Heavyweight World Championship. Jon Jones is undefeated, considered by many to be one of the greatest fighters ever, and a heavy betting favorite at somewhere around -300 in the latest odds. In the co-main event, for the women’s 145lb featherweight world title, 135lb pound bantamweight champion, Amanda “Lioness” Nunes (one of my personal favorites, and also the first openly queer MMA world champion – completely under promoted by the misogynistic and racist Dana White in my honest and admittedly sharp opinion) goes up a weight class to take on Cris Cyborg, an absolute beast of a champion at 145lb, whom many consider to be the greatest female fighter ever. Cyborg is almost as much of a favorite as Jones is at -260 betting odds.

I predict that both Gustaffson and Nunes will win tonight. They will both be very, very close fights, likely great fights, and will both be won by the underdogs.

I’m laying my undefeated prediction record on the line for two predictions that both run against the betting odds (for the uninformed, heavier negative odds means a heavier favorite. Any fighter at -200 or lesser is considered a heavy favorite.)

I am of course, just having fun here and am more than happy to take the 1-2 record to my crystal ball bouts. But I’m just making some points for predicting against the odds; points that I’m straight pulling out of my ass.

I’m going by the age old adage of fighting being 90% mental and 10% physical, them being professional fighters and thus as close to each other in terms of physical preparation, as can be done in this age. All four fighters seem to have access to great training, and seem ready. I’m utilizing the pre-fight press conference as well as videos, interviews etc. as the most recent, kinda stressful events they have to go through to see who has the mental edge, and thus the fighting edge.

So here goes:

(1) The pre-pubescent sociopathy that is Jon Jones is matched by the pre-pubescent megalomania that is UFC prez, Dana White. Ok, this isn’t a great reason for Gustaffson winning, but let me just get this out of my system. It’s out. I’m not gonna dwell on it cos the UFC, White, and capitalism in general assigns value only on profit and couldn’t care less about humanity. They’re scum and they often don’t care if their star fighters are scum. Rant over. Onward.

(2) Jones is a nervous shell of a person, incapable of being a genuine human being and surviving on pure id. That shit eventually crumbles. Maybe not this fight. But eventually It will. It has crumbled all around him except in the cage where his outrageous physical gifts, talent, grit, and hard work keep the shell intact. But no fighter can just be a fighter, for it is nothing more than an identity. They have to be human beings whether they like it or not.

(3) His opponent seems chill, eager to fight, and focused on only what he can control. Whatever little information I’ve been able to glean from UFC Embedded videos, pre-fight press conferences and the like, Gustaffson seems chill and ready to rock. Even when the UFC pulled the outrageous stunt of moving the entire card on a week’s notice from Vegas to LA because the Nevada State Athletic Commission wouldn’t license Jones after he tested positive for steroids yet again (yeah, the dude’s a cheater in addition to being a fake-ass sociopath), Gustaffson seemed to just focus on getting what he wanted, a fight with Jones, and not on shit he couldn’t control. A fighter with that kind of a mindset is a dangerous fighter.

(4) I just want it to happen, both Gustaffson and Nunes to win, which is why I’m kinda spell casting here. I don’t really give a crap about Gustaffson as a fighter, I just want him to defeat Jones. Fuck, I want Jones to lose so bad so he can be less of a sociopath that I’m actually rooting for the white guy here. With Nunes, I actually want her to win. I think she’s a phenomenal and completely under-appreciated pioneer in the sport whom history will treat very kindly. I saw the same mental and energy differences with Nunes-Cyborg as I saw with Jones-Gustaffson, albeit with less intensity. Nunes seemed calm, ready to go, embracing the underdog status, while Cyborg seemed just a tad more under pressure.

But who the fuck knows, amiright?

Regardless, a change in my crystal ball record awaits in another few hours

I’ll follow this with post-fight post…all for myself and the larger universe…therapeutic blogging and dreamy shadow boxing.

PS: Ok, gotta get this out of my system too – Fuck the misogyny and racism in MMA…it makes the sport shittier by allowing scum like Dana White to rise to the top.

PPS: Up is probably on of the best animated movies out there on positive masculinity. I realized that as we saw it, as a family, for the fourth time last night.