Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Women as Commodity

I was all prepared to come home and express my misgivings about the meme below, but then I ran across this post from Georgette. It outlines yet another tale of rape by a BJJ teammate. This time unreported. It also points out how common rape is and, more importantly, raises a key question in this issue. Do women who train trust too soon? Are we conflating time spent together with trust built?

But the meme...yeah...I guess it's good and all, but it assumes that people who rape see rape as something that needs to be stopped. Make this list about eating meat (which I don't see as morally wrong...well, at least not this month) and it would roll right off my back.

I believe that there are many, many men whose primary issue doesn't start at the realm of the sexual and therefore, I don't believe the solution lies there either. There are men who see women as existing for no reason other than consumption--visually, emotionally, financially and, yes, physically. Rape is just one tiny piece of a very big issue.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Business in BJJ: Morality, Motivation and Business as an Excuse

The whole BJJ world seems to be abuzz with the DC rape. While I don't think the assault itself was anything surprising, the responses really have me fascinated. From formal ones like Ryan Hall's beautifully written, long-form letter and the Gracie brothers' thought provoking video response, to the comments of readers, the outpouring of response and immediate willingness to discuss rape as a cultural issue in the sport...well...it makes me proud to practice the art. That said, across the board, I've noticed a common theme...a rationale used to defend offenders and to detract from those who've spoken out.

"It's just business."

I read this in defense of Lloyd Irvin's morally reprehensible purchasing of lloydirvinrape.com (an effort to game search engines). I also read it as a condemnation of the Gracie video as nothing more than marketing fluff under the guise of acting on behalf of community welfare. In both cases, the claim being made is that essentially, the presence of a business interest negates the intent, ethics and morality of an action...Irvin did nothing wrong in trying to redirect negative attention away from his school--it was just business. Ryron and Rener do nothing right with their soul-soothing words--they just want your money.

I'll admit, I've become a bit of a Ryron Gracie fan-girl since interviewing him for GiFreak (the guy was cool enough to talk for a good 15 after the interview), and the fact that Lloyd Irvin chose to not only redirect attention away from two sordid situations, but also tried to capitalize on it turns my stomach...so I may be a bit biased...but I will go ahead and claim that business changes nothing. It's not some sort of moral counterbalance that can change the intent, or the effect of an action. It definitely can't change the culpability or credit of one practicing.

This is something I think about a lot and am still trying to work out...my day job is one where business and humanity are tangled and twisted on a day to day basis. Fiscal well being is pitted against human aid 24/7. I understand the benefits of business...the good capitalism and the free market can bring to people. I also know, all too well, the dangers of the free market and the siren song of private enterprise. I believe that business should exist ONLY for the betterment of humanity and never for its own sake or to satiate the vices of an individual or group. That is where I think the dividing line is. In both these situations I asked myself WHY is business being inserted...Why did the Gracie's mention their academy and online programs during a discussion of something so serious? Why did Lloyd Irvin post a page advertising a rape defense seminar? In both cases, I believe the answer is advertising...efforts to spread their product to the masses. After that, the only question is what do they hope their consumers will gain from interaction with what they sell?

I'm making a bit of a leap here, but while I cannot know, I do believe that the Gracies see their product as something meant to benefit the individual and community. Though I have a distaste for sales in general, I do not fault them for their advertising. Irvin though...I began researching his marketing WAY back at the beginning of the Branding series and...well...even the encouragement of Slideyfoot couldn't get me through the research to finish a piece. This blog isn't an academic or business blog, so I generally try to interview and review people and things that I enjoy spending time thinking about. His products...they passed that test on neither an aesthetic nor content level. The more I read about this situation, the more I realize my gut reaction was probably right.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rocket Fuel...DAAAMN!

Sorry for the lightly-salted language, but I couldn't resist a News Radio reference (see video below).

So I'm once again making an effort to up my training frequency. While sheer fear used to be my biggest setback, now, it's my job. Unfortunately, contrary to what every internet forum, blog and my cardiologist said, I still take forever to come down after class. That wasn't too bad when class ended at 7:30, but now that I'm in the advanced class and not leaving the gym until around 9, I'm blowing past my 10:30 recommended bedtime on the regular. No big deal on a weekend night...I prefer staying up until around 2 anyway, but on a weekday? If I'm snuggling in to watch an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I'm going to be wreck at work the next day...and sleep is very important for a person who doesn't drink coffee and works a desk job in a very, very quiet office.

Brought to you by Rocket Labs

Enter Rocket Fuel. I've never been a workout supplement person...pre or post...but at the behest of Brownbelt Instructor (who knows many things about such things), I gave it a shot. My first encounter was with half a serving after a night class and magically, I went home feeling like a normal human being and was asleep by 11. The big test though, was ginastica natural. When I first tried it, ginastica was leaving me sluggish and drained for hours after the class. The most I could muster was dragging myself mindlessly through the green market and then crashing at home with bad sci-fi and a pile of laundry for folding. Now, I no longer have to choose between becoming more agile and not wasting half my weekend on bad CGI.

So what's in it? It's got all kinds of great things like creatine and beta-alanine and glutamine...fast acting carbs and protein for muscle building and such...all I know is it gets me to sleep and I don't wake up at 2am drilling spider guard on my sheets. The taste took me a bit to get used to...lemon-lime with faint undertones of chocolate (I'm thinking most people won't notice that though), but on the very bright side, it kills my post-gym lemonade cravings.

Perhaps I'm a bit biased (the colors to match GiFreak afterall) but I honestly recommend it to anyone new to the exercise game who has a hard time regulating their bodies after a workout. (They're running a 25% off special right now, and if you buy any combination of 2 of the supplement products, you get a free shirt so it's a great time to give it at try.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Charlie's Soap: my gis' new best friend

I've reached a point in life where I'm over the olfactory onslaught that defines the world of women's products...I don't want mountain fresh, forest rain, lavender avalanche or peach apocalypse anything. I put a decent amount of money into my perfumes and that's all I want to smell like...so a few years back, I started a quest for unscented products. That lead me deeper into the world of natural products and started me on a mission to minimize polluting the environment and torturing my own liver (anything you rub into your skin eventually gets processed by your body...think of that next time you're putting on bug repellent).

So I've switched to Dr. Bronner's soap, organic hair products and natural oils for moisturizers...still though...there was the choking scent of the laundry--the detergent, the softener, the bleach--they all got me wondering not only what I was inhaling, but what my skin was being swaddled in literally day in and day out.

If I were a normal person who just wore clothes to work and came home, the hunt for friendlier laundry products wouldn't have been bad...but oh how BJJ changes things. So I went hunting around and ran across Charlie's Soap. Apparently it "cleans everything from false teeth to diesel engines". I...have neither of those so I will only be talking about its effect on my gis. I'll be comparing it against my previous favorite, Tide with Febreeze.

Cost- At $.13 per load (free shipping on Amazon), it squarely beats out Tide on cost, which comes in at $.20 per load. For both, I tend to toss in a bit more for jiu jitsu washes (you're not really supposed to with Charlie's), but you can definitely get by with the approximate tablespoon that the included green scooper handily measures for you. If you're really in love and want to go for the 1000 load, you'll get the price down to $.10 per washer run.

Scent-possibly my favorite part of the product. It smells like CLEAN and has left my gis smelling like...almost nothing really. While I do love a breath of laundry freshness while rolling with someone (nice assurance that the gi's actually been...ya know...washed), I know that people have allergies and, as with makeup and cologne, neutral is best.

Appearance-It's a fine, white powder. Not fin enough to be carried in the air, but not rocky/pebbly either. That's about it.

Effectiveness-Before I bought any, I ran to Amazon's reviews and found a story of a woman who now swears by Charlie's to wash her sanitation worker husband's grease and ick-stained uniforms. While I don't have any info on the grease removal, I give the soap a thumbs up for getting out sweat, funk, stank, grime and whatever else I pick up on the mats. No tests with blood yet, but we'll see. It also, as it claims, has removed the residue from the drum of my machine. Nice little added bonus there.

So yes...I like Charlie's so much that it's become my laundry standard, even for non-gym clothes. I really might pick up the ginormous tub. Also, if you have hard water (like the rocks we wash our clothes and hair with down here in Florida), their hard water treatment is a great substitute for fabric softener. Same deal...one little green scoop full and you're good to go. They've even gotten me exploring their line of cleaning products, with which I'm also very pleased. The "green" lines I've found in supermarkets either choked me with fumes, smelled too much like an herb garden (thyme? Thanks Martha Stewart.) or just didn't work. Charlie's has to soak, but it cleans really well. I might have to go hunting for a diesel engine or two to test out. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The rape of a teammate

You've likely read the reports already, but if not, here it is at the Washington Times. A couple of things to get out front.
  • Both of these criminals need to be prosecuted and punished as harshly as the law (which is likely too lax) allows. 
  • It wasn't her fault.
  • It's not too early to talk about it. Yes, legally the rape was alleged, but there was video and both men have been arrested. Anything left is technicalities.  
  • People should be able to have a few drinks and expect NOT to be assaulted/raped/attacked by anyone. 
  • As a community that constantly...and I mean constantly emphasizes self-defense, it would be hypocritical for us now to focus only on punishing the offenders and not discussing the situation surrounding the crime. 
I'm hesitant to even talk alcohol and acquaintance because it will inevitably come off with a hint of condemnation of the victim...but I'm going to try.

80% of rape victims know their assailant. That means that it's not just the creepy guy in the club or the stranger around the corner that are the risks. That means that even if you carry mace/pepper spray/a gun, you're likely not even going to be of the mindset/proximity to access those tools in a situation like this. That means that the fact that the she was raped by teammates and not strangers shouldn't be shocking. It's the norm for rape. As one commentor on the article put it "Contrary to popular belief, all criminals don't wear dreads, wear their pants sagging, wear hoodies, or live in the inner city."

Two men in my life...upstanding, educated, very conventional looking men--who have been convicted of rape--I would NEVER have suspected either of them. I'll never forget a male friend sitting me down afterward, looking me dead in the eye and quite chillingly telling me "If they got caught this time, they've done it before." (what that says about what men know about other men that rape out of convenience is an issue unto itself). Since then, I know...quite certainly...that the nice guy is not out of the question. I know that every man that rapes isn't driving around in a ski mask with duct tape in his trunk. Some are just taking advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. I'm a firm believer of being aware of when you're present that opportunity.

I don't believe that women should be running scared from every man they know...at some point we need to be able to relax and trust...but I do think it is important that we start being honest about the circumstances around this type of crime, especially as a community that teaches self-defense. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Business in BJJ: Crowdfunding and For-profit Entities

Would love to hear from a securities attorney on this one, but some of the recent activities of a few BJJ-related companies has me a little suspect. I haven’t seen more than a couple, but it appears that some apparent for-profit companies have decided to use crowdfunding to raise capital to make…whatever it is they want to sell. I get it…after seeing someone rake in $1M, a buck at a time, the idea of doing likewise to get your fledgling BJJ company off the ground seems like a no-brainer. I’m a bit wary of the process for a couple of reasons…

Does it work?-Not going to call anybody out here, but the companies I have been watching, well, they aren’t exactly raking in the dough, and I think that’s because people would rather pay a few dollars extra for a great product than donate some change in the name of potential and a side of altruism. Potential funders have to be wondering…is this how it’s supposed to work? Isn’t crowd funding supposed to be for breathtakingly innovative startups, charities, political causes, community based art projects and the like? That brings us to…

Branding-How are customers (and potential customers) going to look at a brand after a crowdfunding campaign? It’s one thing if you’re making mouthguards and donating 80% of the proceeds to the Save the PuppyWhales campain. It’s another entirely if, well, you’re flexing your entrepreneurial muscle and want the public to do the heavy lifting–nothing inherently wrong with that, afterall, that’s how the stock market works, but that brings us to my third puzzlement.

Is it even legal?-Turns out this issue has come up before. In the world of crowdfunding, there’s this grey area where nobody’s 100% decided whether soliciting donations for a capitalistic endeavor constitutes a contract. If it does, well, your little project on IndieGoGo basically equates to an IPO and you and the SEC might need to have a conversation or two. I doubt our niche of BJJ is big enough to generate attention at the level of SEC vs. WJ Howey, but flying under the radar doesn’t equal flying legally.

So yeah…gonna be keeping an eye on this one.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Safety Cat" Self Defense Keychain

A friend sent me this today. It's a key chain that can be worn around the knuckles for use in a self defense situation. I find the reviews a bit funny, since none cite use in an actual defense situation, but at $5, I'm considering checking one out. Even in a close situation, I can see it being useful.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"It's not a costume, it's a gi."

I remember hearing those corrective words resonate across the silence of the gym after a BJJ-ignorant woman asked Parrumpa a question about "the costumes they wear." There was a seething and disciplinary patience to his voice. She got the point just as clearly as if he'd screamed it to her face.

I was talking to an old friend of mine today about life things...we're in our 30s now and it's humorous to look back at some of the thoughts we had just 10 or so years ago--namely, thinking corporate jobs were something grand and glorious to aspire to. We used to happily shop at Ross, picking out suits and blouses, pants and shoes that we were confident were a healthy and happy part of joining the corporate world. A decade later, we're both disillusioned with the culture of stuffy business, both of us having forked off into unconventional paths of earning income. I though, still have to fake the funk from time to time and toss on a suit. "It's like a costume...they don't even feel like real clothing anymore." I'll admit, I pull them off well. I once had a boss tell me he envied how well I carried myself when dressed "professionally"...that I was a mix of poise and FBI agent. I think I enjoy my height at its fullest when I'm in merino wool and 4" heels. It does though...feel like a game.

Over the holiday, I was doing laundry and talking with my brother who's in visiting from Japan. I had a batch of BJJ laundry on my lap...a tangled mass of gis, Underarmour, balaklavas and sports bras with a periwinkle blue belt lazily snaking through. I love the feel of it all. I balled it up on my side and took a nap in the scratchy cotton mass. I find the roughness and faint smell of sweat comforting. I find it real. A gi may look strange, but it's come to embody some of the most genuine experiences I've had in my life...much moreso than the costume of the corporate world ever could.