Thursday, June 27, 2013

Of Play and Promotion

PastorGrappler just got his blue belt!! I stopped by the gym to work some spider guard and a half guard pass that's been giving me trouble. Afterward, I checked my phone and saw a picture of his brand new blue belt.

Seeing friends promoted is such a great experience. I see see it on Facebook and blogs all the time, and sometimes I take it for granted, but tonight was a great reminder of how cool promotions really are. I don't know if there are many other situations where adults get to be so genuinely and regularly happy for, and proud of, other adults. I remember when BrownBeltInstructor went to black and how ecstatic I was...I was honestly surprised.

I've said it before, but training is also one of the few places where grownups get to just play with each other. Sure, rolls can be competitive, but they can also be light, friendly, polite, genuine, fun conversations. The world needs more BJJ.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jiu Jitsu taught me how to be a sports fan again.

It taught me how to trust sports. 

When I was around 11, I fell in love with the New York Knicks. This went beyond my burning pre-teen crush on John Starks. Somehow, the shooting, passing and ball-handling drills my father had me doing as a child had sunk in at some level. My blood ran strong with basketball, and while I never played, I appreciated it. My family, immediate and extended, didn't just watch basketball and cheer along, they discussed, analyzed and diagnosed. They debated technique, coaching strategies and player behavior. My father's and uncles' decades of experience poured into frequent protests over how the players of that day were losing their fundamentals. How athleticism was being pushed over technique. How Julius Erving's grace would never be matched.

When the Knicks lost to Chicago in the 1993 conference finals, my chest burned with anger. Michael Jordan was the bane of my existence. When they lost to Chicago again three years later in the conference semifinals...a tear rolled down my cheek and I realized I might have been too emotionally invested. I backed off sports, attending only one football game in college out of curiosity of Dante Culpepper, and one basketball game to watch my school trounce my parents' alma matter. I later risked my heart again with hockey, attending a couple of live Panther games...and then. Lockout. I gave up almost completely, only mustering the strength to watch the occasional Olympic competition.

Then came BJJ. I found myself last year, glued to the first Metamoris, focused and unmoving for the better part of three hours. The posters, the online and in-gym discussion of Ryron and Galvao, the all had me hyped like I hadn't been in years.

...and here I sit again, drooling over Metamoris 2, the Japanophile in my giddy at the very sound of Aoki's captivating voice. I'm trying so hard not to watch this again, but the awesomeness, man...the awesomeness.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My continually complex relationship with Joe Rogan

One of the things I've come to love most about training BJJ is the conversations you end up having.

I was talking with a brown belt that left my school and moved to Germany before I even set foot in the gym. Through the power of jiu jitsu weirdness and Facebook (aided by a couple of visitation rolls), we've still managed to connect as teammates and discuss all sorts of forbidden topics like religion, race, economics, know, fight starting stuff. He brought up Rogan because we were discussing people and movements being scared to take off the "training wheels" of their ideologies, and how common that is in conservative movements of various kinds. He didn't want to take credit for the "training wheels" phrase, and directed me to this compilation of some of Rogan's thoughts on religions, what's wrong with the world, etc.

Rogan poses such a conundrum for me. I agree with a lot of what he says, even to the point of occasionally admiring his thought process...but deep down, I think he's got a heavy axe to grind against some of the most basic elements of my existence...those being my gender and chosen faith.

Rogan, I do think, dislikes women for being women. I'm not talking about the references to "hot chicks" or whatever language he uses to refer to women he find acceptably attractive...that may be an obvious sign, but I'm talking about deeper things, like a point he made early on in that video.

He talks of the foolishness of ideologies, and starts listing religions. (The critique of religion alone while completely ignoring concepts like, say, capitalism or ownership of property, that impact our thinking and behavior on possibly deeper levels always irks me, but I'll move on.) He then, in discussing the ridiculous things that people do around their ridiculous beliefs, cites women in Africa that put plates in their lips...but they're not "women in Africa"...they're "African bitches." For their behavior? Their attitude? Something they said? Nope. They're bitches, and apparently ridiculous, because they engage in body alteration.

Let me just say that I am not the body altering type. I have one set of ear piercings that I didn't get until I was 19. I was done after that. Though I find them generally unattractive, I have no inherent problem with piercings or sub-dermal implants or whatever. This though is what gets me about his choice to single them out for simultaneous criticism and insult. He has paid someone to run a pigmented needle into his skin LITERALLY hundreds of thousands of times. He has tattoos. He, too, engages in body alteration, and I doubt he'd claim he's been ridiculous.

You could argue that his choice is based on personal expression and not cultural norm (debatable since those lines are far from clear and many of the women today choose whether they have another woman start the process for them), or because it's not connected to religious practices (from what I've read, neither is the insertion of a dhebi a tugoin). Even those thoughts would be based in the Western bias toward individualism. I think though, that it's nothing more complicated than the American man in a suit and tie (my personal preference) ridiculing the American boy wearing low-slung pants. "They look ridiculous! What a safety hazard!" laughs the man with the flowery noose-bib around his neck.

This is why I've come to believe that, while Rogan's got some good thoughts going on, at the end of the day, he is, somewhere deep down, a cultural supremacist disguised as someone who's willing to question culture. The kind of person who will loudly ridicule another for similar behavior with zero regard for cultural context. I can listen to and tolerate a lot of different views, but considering the evils that have been, and are perpetuated under that umbrella, that I just can't get down with.

Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.~Plato

All that has me questioning his overall intentions. He talks of wanting humans to just be "good people" and treat each other well, but still uses his platform to spread the attitudes that are the seeds of the war and persecution that he also urges these "good people" to leave behind. Wrapping a very subtle message of supremacy in one of human improvement...what is he really trying to accomplish? Maybe he just doesn't see it. Maybe he knows that the quickest way to get people to listen is to echo their cultural assumptions and he puts on a subtle attitude of supremacy that will resonate with his listening base and get him more fans. Maybe personal reflection just isn't his thing. Really hard to tell. All I know is that he's one of the many agnostic/atheists lately that have come to sway my naive thinking that bigotry was exclusive to the religious conservatives of the world.