Thursday, August 21, 2008

goddamn am i inconsistent. didn't my ex girlfriend say that?

so yes... i am horribly inconsistent when it comes to blogging, what else is new?

my apologies dear readers for randomly showing up in your rss feeds after so long. i promise that i will be more consistent in the future... especially as i will be training for the nogi pan ams. as such, i will be doing everything i gotta do including diet and trian hard so as to be able to make 149 and be competitive.

today is day 44 till tournament time. i weighed in, pre-workout at 157.4 with cereal, raisins and milk in me. i started thisd whole escapade at 163 so that isn't bad so far.

training was good except that i still feel a little bit sick... for the past week i've had a trifecta of a sinus infection, a bronchial infection and an ear infection. that's on some jesus hates me shit i know.

but i'm mostly better now and i intend on training as hard as i can.

i've added kettlebells to my training and decided to really push working on the stability ball. working the stability ball has really helped me switch my hips back and forth as well as maintaining balance and thereby not accepting someone sweeping me. i feel stronger and more explosive and faster... which leads to one of the holes in my game.

i like to pass and move and sweep fast and loose, depending on my speed to get me where i need to be at any given moment, which creates problems with attachments. the ball has given my hips that little extra oomph it needed to really be whhere they needed to be when they need to be there, but i need to focus on where my hands are being placed at any given time, as well as my head.

more after workout.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

the 12th post. approprite considering i act like a 12 year old.

I realize how horribly awful I am at this whole updating teh blog thing. I guess writing becomes second place to life for whatever reason, maybe because I’m too caught up in the actual act to really reflect back on it all. which says something about my character.

or maybe i’m just a lazy little shit.

so i’ve just finished a week of playing jiu jitsu twice a day, tapping a bunch of dudes in street jiu jitsu and going to teh ultimate bullshido megathrowdown, playing frisbee at the park and hanging out at divey poet bars with sundry unsavory and sweet characters.

so basically, i’ve been living my dream life. a life filled with zhoo zhitsu and with a fundamentally new york quality. it’s been gorgeous even when the weather has been decidedly not. my body has been busted and bruised and i can’t imagine waking up without soreness. i feel pain every day, know it better than any woman i have ever touched. i’ve been writing long letters to girls far away, even as i dream about jiu jitsu after long nights listening to poetry at dive bars. i’ve seen friends from across the country and hit them in the face. there is nothing more ideal than the life i’ve lived for the past week.

which is why i know it has to end.

idylls are just that, and can never last. and now it’s over, i’m in boston for a week with my family, even as i try to figure out what the hell i’m going to be doing for the next bit of summer, trying to find anything and everything that will allow me to support some of my jiu jitsu habit. it’s insane how much of an addiction jiu jitsu becomes.

which reminds me. a girl i dated who i loved very much and who ripped out my heart when i was at my most burdened and weakest asked me before our breakup which was more important to me, jits or her. i remember not being able to answer. that’s the power that jiu jitsu has over my life, has over so many of us. jiu jitsu, as has been stated before, soaks into our life in a fundamental way beyond any simple understanding.

but yeah. going to the gym twice a day is an amazing experience, even if only for a week. it’s a type of fun beyond anything else when you know your entire life revolves around working out. i envy jits athletes that so much, that they can have that knowledge and that fun.

rolling with dudes randomly in union square was interesting to say the least. and wouldn’t have happened if these dudes weren’t so egregiously bad at teh jitz. but it was fun and proved to me and to the gathered crowd once again that jitz is for teh winz. jits mitigates size and strength advantages and allows a midget like me to take on much much bigger opponents and win by taking zi poseeeeshion and then applying zi submeeeshion.

the megatd was fucking amazing. it’s such a good experience to be surrounded by so many mma’ers and bullshido members. it really does help to create the large sense of community that i wrote about in my paper. the next section of which i will be posting after this.

for your viewing pleasure, the maskirovskamonkey fighting mma under pankration rules.

‘twas rather fun. makes you want to join www.bullshido.net/forums don’t it?

now onto more personal ramblings... i need to find a job in nyc that will support my bjj habit and will allow me to feed myself. i need to write more. maybe the discovery of my poet’s notebook will push me towards this direction. i NEED to get more shit on the page and i need to get my website up. woe is me nehz?

now for the next section of my final paper.

BJJ, for the most part, takes place within individual dojos and fight gyms across the United States and across the world, bringing together people from various backgrounds who share BJJ as a common interest. These gyms and the larger BJJ/MMA world is one of voluntary association, and as embedded in sports, are part of the largest category of voluntary associations in the world (Seippel 2007). As time commitment is fundamental to advancement through both ranks and skill in BJJ, it is not uncommon to find individuals spending significant amounts of their leisure time in the dojo, practicing, playing and discussing the sport and subsequently interacting on levels and in areas outside of the gym and BJJ. This is of course crucial to BJJ’s value as social capital, as well as contrary to the privatization of leisure that has come to be understood as the root cause of declining social capital in the United States (Putna).

BJJ is a combat sport that has a high attrition rate, with most people who join a gym not lasting more than three months. But out of those that last, there is a wide array of backgrounds represented, with stock brokers and finance consultants mingling with physical therapists and art students. BJJ cuts across many lines of race and class, as it, much like other sports, is itself a space of commonality upon which individuals can bond. In fact, the high attrition rate in the sport encourages bonding, as those that remain in a gym over a long period of time will, by dint of the commitment inherent in the sport, spend significant amounts of time together. This therefore shows that BJJ gyms act as spaces for the building of both bonding and bridging social capital, as the members of the gyms bond together, becoming socialized into BJJ/MMA culture, affirming their identities as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players and members of specific teams, even as they bridge lines of race, class and social background. Membership in these gyms, as in other sports organizations, generates unity, cohesion, feelings of togetherness and belonging that at once tie the members of the association together, even as they create horizontal linkages between the individuals of different backgrounds (Seippel 2007).

These gyms and BJJ as a culture also encourages norms of reciprocity and social trust, even as it creates bonds and bridges. The practice of BJJ is marked by aliveness, ie the application and practice of technique with a resisting opponent, so that there are no legitimate BJJ schools that do not have sparring as both commonplace and central to their activity (Danaher 2003)(Peligro 2003). The techniques practiced therein are also dangerous, focused on body manipulation in such a way as to put excessive force on joints, which creates the potential for danger. Aliveness and the nature of the techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu require, for habitual practice, the creation and enforcement of norms of reciprocity and thereby social trust. One must be able to trust that their partner will respect the ‘tap’, the universal sign in BJJ that the person has given up for whatever reason. One must be able to trust that a partner will not unduly explode into a potentially crippling technique, thereby causing extreme injury to another individual. The inherent intimate nature of a grappling sport requires that individuals not cross agreed upon social taboos, as well as that individuals will follow the internal rules of the sport, such as no punching or biting.

This constant need for practitioners of the sport to trust one another creates and reinforces norms of reciprocity wherein individuals trust that if they follow the rules that guarantee the safety of other practitioners, others will follow the same rules to guarantee their safety. Social trust is inherent therein, because this trust is applied to all members of a given gym space. These norms of reciprocity also initiate practitioners of these sports into an understanding of the ostensible knowledge of pain and of combat that separates them from those outside of the community, thereby adding yet another element of bonding (Downey 2007). Furthermore, higher ranking and more experienced members of the gym are expected to help the newer and less experienced members of the gym, even if they do not necessarily immediately benefit themselves. It is done in the belief that others someday, somewhere will help them in the same way, exemplifying the principle of generalized reciprocity. These various factors build ‘thick trust’ amongst the practitioners, a ‘thick trust’ that is expressed in the bodies of the participants. As Putnam would argue, this is the creation of and practice of social trust in action at its most basic form.

Gyms do not exist merely as activity spaces, but also as signifiers of identity, which emphasizes the space’s power as a bonding space. Members of a gym are not only people who go there to work out, but are also part of an actively competing team. BJJ culture is almost tribal in nature, so that while all BJJ practitioners are able to bond along that space of commonality, members of a specific team are much closer together and bond much more strongly. BJJ players’ identity, as members of specific teams and associations, are built through constant internal interaction. This identity is affirmed and reaffirmed in competitions which pit members of a team against members of other teams and through intense rivalries between different gyms/teams. One is not just a BJJ player, but rather, one is a member of American Top Team or of Straight Blast Gym or Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu, all of which act as distinct identities. As some players have described, teams often take on almost familial features, as they create senses of belonging that allow the members of the team to bond together, regardless of their differences outside of the gym space.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

dag nabbit, i get tre lazy

so. for one reason or another, i haven't been to jits until today. life conspires to do what it will to pull you off track here and there i guess. but fuck it. i went to jits today. and i did it twice.

i'm in so much pain, it's amazing. i'm so tired, i'm still shaking. my body feels like shit. i got my ass kicked over and over again.

and i've never been happier. my head hasn't been this clear in weeks. i've been a wee mite of an alcoholic for awhile now, between finals and people visiting and a uniquely pretentious form of self medication, i've been drinking pretty much every night. it's been kinda bad. i felt like shit, i was eating like shit, i was being emo, life sucked, blah blah blah.

but then i played jiu jitsu today at noon, and even though the day was overcast and shitty outside, it was really like the clouds had lifted truly and fundamentally, a mental cloud at any rate, and i felt soooo much clearer. there's a both a physicality and a metaphysicality to the pain we derive from jiu jitsu that re-attaches us to the world. this pain, along with the joy of pulling off a beautiful sweep, the MOMENT-ness, the PRESENT-ness that is the moving meditation of jiu jitsu, these things ground us in the now in such a fundamental way as to bring us back to reality, to reacquaint ourselves with life, allowing us to feel more authentically.

thank god, or allah or buddha or the powers that be or the aliens or helio or carlson or maeda or whoever for jiu jitsu. because without jiu jitsu i'd be a much bigger mess than i already am.

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i think this is not going to be a very long post today, or even very social science-ey. i'll post more of my paper later on. i'm bloody tired.

but i just wanted embed two of boondock's hl videos. he's amazingly sick.






now here is a man who understands the beauty in mma.... the sheer emotionality of it that allows what can often be brutal, harsh, violent and bloody be so completely beautiful and mesmerizing. fuck just the athleticism, even though that's such a crucial component to the entire thing and i say fuck it only because there's the same level of elite athletics in every major sport. but there's an emotionality in mma that i've only seen in really high level ballet or performance art.

it really is true that when you see two men by themselves in a cage, they have really been stripped down to the bareness of the human spirit and the human body. it is in THEM to win or to lose, to give up or to keep pushing with the last iota of their being. it is up to them whether they will allow themselves to put it all on the line or whether they'll play it safe. i feel that in fighting you learn a lot about the human conditions because a fight by its very definition stirps you down to a much more basic place. there can be no pretension in a cage. your personality shines through, or if not your personality, than the raw stuff of it, the human emotion that ties us all together and makes mma both poetry and combat.

and that's what boondock has done so well, he has captured both the fluid poetic motion of and poetic emotionality of mma. his highlights demonstrate an understanding of what makes mma such a fundamentally human and beautiful spectacle, that is both infinitely appealing and authentic.

and that is why i will ALWAYS be an mma fan.

btw, since i have loads more free time after the horror that is finals is done, ill be posting more than usual for the next while.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

in dj0ur library, subbing dj0ur bookz

So the next few blog posts will take a new format, leaving BJJ as family in a little bit of a lurch. the posts will be half about whatever i am musing on, whatever i am thinking on both within my life and within BJJ. the other half will be bits and pieces of my massive final paper on BJJ and social capital and civil society. which i will fucking hopefully get a good grade on. because you know, i’m a scholarship students, grades matter.

before i get started on my own musing, can someone teach me, step by step because i am a computer moron, how to get an rss feed so i can read all the blogs i want from one source and know when they’re updated?

school’s over in a few days, and after writing over 70 pages of various research papers, i am ridiculously down to finally be done with it all. but as my life has been a mess recently, sacrificing everything including my own sanity at the altar of academics, i’m going to have to do a lot of getting my life together.

firstly, i’m going to have to clean my room. yes, it sounds stupid, but because of finals, i haven’t had a chance to really be in my apartment except to occasionally eat, mostly to sleep and to change clothes/shower. as such, my room is a fucking wreck. much like my mind. so that’s priority number one.

secondly, more importantly, i need to get my bjj life back together. i’ve lost muscle and gained fat weight in equal measure apparently, as i haven’t really gained any weight. i have been eating some fucking disgusting things, whatever is quick and available and takeout. even the ‘taint’ occasionally, aka McDonalds, the evil food. i’ve also been drinking myself to sleep, which is a problem. that’s a lot of beer takes to put down this monkey.

it’s been about two weeks since i’ve been at jits, and for about two weeks before that i had started going very little compared to what i’m usedta because i needed to get a head start on school. i know for a fact my cardio’s going to be shot. my asthma’s going to totally fuck me. i won’t have as good movement, i’ll be weaker and everyone around me ill have a stronger game because they will have been in the gym. suffice to say, the first week of training will be teh suck.

and i know i’m going to love it. which is such a ridiculously beautiful thing about bjj, i know there’s going to be pain and going to be suck, but i’m still looking forward to it.

i’ll be trying to hit the gym pretty much everyday after i’m finished with finals. hopefully, that will make my coming back into full shape that much easier. since i still don’t have a summer job yet, which worries me to no end, i’m going to go to yoga in the mornings and doing jits during the afternoon, or maybe just jits/kickboxing twice a day. for as long as i can, i’m going to be living the jiu jitsu athlete life style. thank god i’m a student so that i have this opportunity to feel that good for a little while at least. i’m going to clean up my diet and try to put as much good food in my system as possible, do the whole protein shake and energy bars meals thing again. do more salad, but as i’m not really looking to drop hard, i’m not going to cut out carbs entirely. i’m going to live a much more balanced life over the next few weeks in an attempt to feel good and be good. now if only i could fucking find a job.

even if i have no idea where i’m going to find money to feed myself, i’ve paid for jits and THAT’s what matters.

how does bjj have such an obsessive hold on me? why is it that when i don’t play, my brain chemistry always feels so fucked and my mood goes to shit? it can’t just be the endorphins or i’d be addicted to all sorts of other sports.

i will eventually write about bjj as religion, because in a lot of ways, i definitely feel that bjj takes on elements of religion for lots of players. but even more than giving us faith in some greater, it gives faith in ourselves, it gives us a sense of accomplishment and of being human. this is both from the competition that is inherent in the game, as well as, and more so i believe, the pain and engagement that jiu jitsu forces upon you. you can’t be disengaged when you’re playing jits or you’re going to get smashed into the ground. jiu jitsu, both in its physical elements, as well as in its more cerebral chess game aspects, completely engages the human animal. it causes us to throw away whatever bullshit is bothering us or has taken up space in our brains and completely focus on the now. on the moment, on being present. if anyone knows anything about Buddhism, this is a huge element in that religion and one of the central purposes of meditation. so BJJ can be then considered physical meditation.

bjj and the gong sau philosophy i’ve written about before makes it so that you know exactly who and where you are right then and right there. it affirms your identity and embeds it into your body. it gives you some sense of place in the world, can often be the moment of quiet in the storm. i’ve heard these elements used to describe religious experiences as well, and have friends who go to church weekly to reaffirm to themselves their place in the world, to renew, not necessarily their faith, but their connection with their faith.

so i guess my entire body and spirit is calling out for a reconnection with myself, through the medium of jiu jistu.

now for section 1 of my paper
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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Grappling with Social Capital and Civil Society

“All that I know most surely in the long run about morality and the obligations of men, I owe to football” – Camus

As Robert Putnam elucidated in his book Bowling Alone, social capital, social networks and their associated norms of reciprocity, and civil society, the sphere of civilized life outside of the government and the economy, have seen declines over the last few decades, as leisure has become privatized and people have grown more insular. But in the modern day, social capital is still being built, in ways that are both reminiscent of the past as well as existing within the globalized and networked contemporary world. As he brings up, the internet, though not without its own problems, serves as a potential space for a strengthening of social capital and a rebirth of a new global civil society, the social space that operates between government and the economy.

This paper seeks to explore how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts, two combative sports that often go hand in hand, can serve as an example of both how both social capital is built in the modern day and how civil society can operate in a globalized, internet-centric public sphere. It intends to argue that social capital, civil society and the public sphere are alive and vibrant today, though albeit manifested differently than it had existed in the past.

As a disclaimer, the researcher would like to come forward and state that he, himself, is a member of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Mixed Martial Arts gym and is a member of and contributor to the civil society that has emerged from it. Much of the information attained herein has been gleaned from the blogs, internet forums and chatrooms that have arisen to serve as discursive and social spaces for the practitioners of these two sports, as well as attained through an ethnographic immersion into the gym, the sport and the culture that has grown around it.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, herein referred to as BJJ, is a martial art that gained its notoriety through a variety of no-holds-barred challenge matches first in Brazil, then in the United States and eventually around the world. These challenge matches eventually evolved into the sport of mixed martial arts, which combines various forms of martial arts and combative sports to form a syncretic rule set that mixes standup fighting, such as boxing, with elements of stand up grappling, such as wrestling, and ground grappling, such as BJJ. BJJ has become a physical contact sport that has spread across the globe, even as MMA promotions and events have spread (Downey 2007) (Danaher 2003)(Peligro 2003). But the vision of BJJ/MMA discussed herein is not actually in reference to merely the sport, but the entire embodied culture/society that has grown around it, with its own memes, language and social norms (Downey 2007)(Hopton 2002).

The value of BJJ culture in building social capital is similar to Putnam’s bowling leagues or Tocqueville’s associations, in that, BJJ gyms and competitions serve as grassroots spaces for socialization, relationship building and the creation of norms of reciprocity that allow a diverse array of individuals to come together (Putnam 2000)(Passy 2003). Furthermore, these spaces do perform many of the other functions of a democratic civil society, in that they can develop recruit and train leaders and teachers, disseminate information, and act as a Habermasian public sphere.

Social capital, social networks and their associated norms of reciprocity, is the force that allows individuals in a group to bond together, as well as allows for the bridging of norms of reciprocity and social cohesiveness across different social groups within a given society (Putnam 2000). It is the fundamental, grass-roots element that allows for a working society. It allows for the solving of collective problems, promotes social solidarity and thereby promotes the growth and strengthening of democratic politics, as well as prosperity on both a global/national and individualized scale because it promotes social trust, a belief in generalized reciprocity and allows for bonding and bridging.

The building of social trust and norms of reciprocity lies in the ability of social networks to have two interrelated and interconnected features of social capital, its ability to bond and its ability to bridge. These qualities are interrelated and are always co-present in any given social network, but the degree to which they are present differs. Bonding describes a social network’s ability to affirm membership and thereby the identities of those within a given group. This bonding allows for the building of solidarity and stronger norms of reciprocity and engagement between members of the group. This of course, can lend itself to an element of exclusion, as the groups tend to be inward looking and reinforce/affirm exclusive identities, even as they affirm intra-group cohesiveness (Varshney 2001). This is the quality of social networks that creates relationships that are strong, frequent and nested in wider networks, what is called ‘thick trust’ (Putnam 2000).

The quality of bridging on the other hand allows for a group to be more inclusive instead of being exclusive, creating linkages across cleavages, such as of race, class and gender. This therefore creates broader, more inclusive identities and reinforces these, even as they generate broader, though shallower, norms of reciprocity across larger groups (Putnam 2000) (Varshney 2001). Bridging is the most useful quality of social capital when one is speaking on a large scale. It allows for disparate groups to come together, work together and participate as a whole in a larger discourse, building social trust in a ‘generalized other’. It is crucial in any consideration of a civil society that can bring people from disparate races and ethnicity together (Varshney 2001). This category of the ‘generalized other’ grows as social networks bridge more, so that those that individuals considered part of those given the benefit of the doubt, those who receive ‘thin trust’ (Putnam 2000) with all the norms of reciprocity that this implies, grows with social capital that bridges.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

caffeinated blues. get it, i'm a blue belt, blues!

Alright. I guess it’s time to say fuck BJJ and family once again, as I’m in finals and I don’t have the brain power to really reify my ideas and ethnographic observations on any type of intellectual level. So instead, I want to talk about energy drinks, Red Belt the Movie and yet another blog about me bitching about my life.

I’ve tried just about every energy drink out there in the last few weeks, trying to stay awake in a vainglorious effort to get my shit together with finals. Suffice it to say, it has been a rough journey. And I haven’t been training, which blows massive monkey balls. Which considering I’m the maskirovska monkey, that’s saying a fucking lot.

Do Not Touch Monster Java. Shit’s amazing for a high, but awful for the low. The taste isn’t actually that bad, it tastes like a sweeter version of coffee, and as I’m Vietnamese and am always drinking both harshly bitter and amazingly sweet Vietnamese coffee, I actually don’t mind it very much. It works amazingly well in waking you up, gives you a super boost, but one that leaves you extremely jittery. You’re constantly on edge with this stuff which can definitely be teh suck. But the worst part of this drink by far is the drop. Sweet monkey balls, the crash is so massive, powerful and utterly devastating that I felt that I was going to die. Not only that, but the residual shit in my system from drinking it had me not able to sleep. So I was feeling like shit and not able to rest at the same time. Blows.

Red Bull doesn’t work for me anymore. Nuff Said. or Duff Said, as this statement has all the duff-like qualities except for size, stupid, uneloquent and with no understanding of any intricacy.

Monster Energy in general works pretty well, gives you a kick, and the crash isn’t too too bad. It just tastes like shit. I hate mountain dew, I hate it when my energy drink tastes like mountain dew.

5 Hour Energy shot = the shit. I love this like my first born child. it’s kept me going for 3 days straight with next to no sleep. The boost isn’t horrible, in that I’m not all twitchy and shit, but I do feel awake, alert and generally able to get my shit done. There’s no crash that I can really detect, with a much more gradual onset of being generally tired, as tired as I would be if I didn’t have anything in my system at all. This stuff is also probably ridiculously horrible for my body, but hey, it’s not like any energy drink is really good for me. The only problem with 5 hour, and this might just be me or my lack of sleep, but even though I’m teh hella awake, my perceptions gets a little screwy, I feel somewhat stoned or drunk sometimes off it, with my judgement being at least somewhat suspect, as I hit on a girl I would never usually hit on. The fact that I feel all floaty is just an added mite of shit.

red belt.

some people think this movie rocks, love its mamet style, love its character-drive narrative, love that its such an amazing character study, love that it loves jiu jitsu so obviously.

i personally thought the movie was wack. i felt that the plot was horribly contrived, but then again I like plots in my movies. i felt that the whole thing just felt contrived, with way too many plot elements all thrown together, that it was often difficult to keep track of everything. Ejiofor is a bloody amazing actor though, and he definitely carried the movie even through all of its plot holes and bullshit.

But on to what this blog is usually about, in depth sociological analysis of BJJ and MMA. Mamet loves him some GJJ, and you can definitely tell. He swallows their kool-aid, hook, line and sinker. Come fucking on, I train for t3h st3ets and not for competition? The gym is all? Honor and purity above everything else? Everyone in the MMA world is corrupt? The only red belt is Helio? Come fucking on. I come from a Carlson derived lineage, so fuck that.

if you can’t tell, I love me some BJJ. I, for the most part, believe in a lot of the shit that is espoused in the movie, up to and including that you should never bring dishonor on your camp or your team. your team is very much your family, and when you bring dishonor on them, you’re a fucktard. please go kill yourself. but to kill myself for the sake of my team? that’s above and beyond the call of duty boys.

the dislike for competition that Ejiofor’s character espouses is complete and utter bullshit. competition, the meritocracy it creates and the gong sau life philosophy that it engenders is what makes BJJ what it is, it’s what allows MMA to be such a study in human character and what makes it so compelling. Competition strips us down to our barest roots, to that space in ourselves that does not bullshit, that hides nothing, that shows us as we really are. the fact that Ejiofor doesn’t believe in competition made me want to throw shit at the movie screen.

Come on, not everyone in the MMA world is corrupt. That’s just depressing.

Yes, this is a samurai movie in a lot of ways; it’s about one man’s journey in facing adversity and powerful forces that are completely beyond himself. It’s about living the fight life as a philosophy.

Which is the only positive part of the movie in a lot of ways. It is inherently pushes this idea of a BJJ or MMA player living the principles that they learn through the game… that there is ALWAYS an escape, that one should never give up, that jits is really the gentle way and it’s not necessarily about facing things head on, strength to strength, but about going around it, using skill to get past and through shit. That’s dope. That’s true to life. I feel that we really do internalize the lessons that are learned from playing the game day in and day out. If we didn’t, BJJ wouldn’t be such a fundamentally transformative experience, it wouldn’t be an act that takes on almost religious significance. In that way, you can tell that Mamet definitely loves jits. And maybe that’s the only redeeming quality for this movie that can make me shudder in wtf moments and makes me wanta throw popcorn at it at other times.

now i just want to bitch that finals suck. which we all know.

i guess i just miss training. i eat like shit right now and it affects both my physical attributes, as well as my mood. not training is driving me crazy.

i’m having bjj dreams, everything from actually playing BJJ and pulling off crazy shit or getting my ass kicked, to street fight dreams where shit is oddly surreal and technical. I pulled off a flying gogoplata in a dream. Hopefully, I can practice it in class sometime and not knock myself out.

i keep catching myself day dreaming about jiu jitsu. i’ll be writing a paper and then all of a sudden it’s 10 minutes later and I’ll realize that I spent the last 10 minutes playing half guard in my head, or sweeping someone. I keep looking at random people at thinking about what it would take me to beat their ass in either a BJJ match or in an MMA fight. I keep talking about jiu jitsu online, to the point of annoying my nonplaying friends. I find myself procrastinating by watching jiu jitsu instructionals (Robery Drysdale’s rubber guard dvd is fucking amazing). I’ve never really been a member of the BJJihad, but I find myself pushing it onto people who have never thought of playing or have never heard of it. While this has been somewhat successful, in that I’ve gotten at least one person to sign up for a school, this can be considered at the very least obsessive.

BJJ is a fundamentally transformative experience that seeps into your life in ways that you don’t expect. I guess it’s like any other passion, from romantic love to religion, becoming such a fundamental part of your life that you can’t escape it. You take solace in it in days of adversity. You hold it close to you when you walk the darkest streets.

How transgressive is it that I assess random people on the street? As an intellectual exercise, as long as i don’t actually do anything about it, I don’t see it as that bad actually. They are very much intellectual exercises, in that I’m not actually going to tackle a 230 lb dude and roll into an imanari heel hook. No matter how funny that would be. I feel like this shit will only be truly problematic and transgressive if i actually act on it. I feel like jiu jitsu will only be problematic when it fundamentally takes over my life in such a way as for me not being able to do anything else.

which it kinda does almost become sometimes. there’s a big desire in me to just quit everything and play jiu jitsu for a living, looking to maybe fight mma some day. there’s two things that keep me from doing this, firstly the fact that i do believe in my education, in the American dream and in the community work that i intend to do. but secondly, and more importantly for the purpose of this blog, i honestly believe that i’m good enough to make it to maybe journeyman status and no more. i’m not a prodigy, i don’t look at a move and just get it. i’m a grinder, working day in and day out and getting a little better every week or so. i don’t have the most athletic genes in the world. i can’t compete at a top level. but i love the sport so much that i will continue to play, continue to dedicate myself to it even though i know i’ll never reach that level. and maybe that’s another place where jiu jitsu is amazing, in that it can call forth a dedication from me that almost nothing else can, certainly not the various girls that have come into my life, certainly not religion.

i guess that has always been the purpose of this blog, trying to understand, the best i can, what makes bjj so compelling, such a fundamental part of my life, without which i fall into depression, without which i don’t feel whole.

i’ll continue blogging here till i figure it out.

but on that front, if there’s people reading this, if you could leave a comment or an email, i’d be appreciative. i’m not sure how much i’m rambling and how much other people understand where i’m coming from, and it’d be nice to get some feedback in general. furthermore, i wanta see if people want me to start adding technique tutorials onto the blog, or analysis of articles or of fights or whatever. most importantly, i’ve been blogging about once a week in a huge post, i was wondering if people wanted me to blog more often, or if this is a good speed, or if should be doing lots more blogging with smaller articles?

my aim is vinhthekid. hit me up sometime.

oh, the next blog post won’t be about jiu jitsu and family either, but will rather be me posting my final paper on civil society, bjj and mma from my civil society class. sometimes i wish i could transfer to a gender studies or an anthro major just so i could write my thesis on bjj, i love that shit so much.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

gong sau!!!!

i'm fucking exhausted. spent the night at the library, and i'm half-gone. so while i know i was supposed to write about BJJ, BJJ teams as family, fuck it, this blog is for my pleasure and processing, and i'm going to write what i want. you can gong sau me if you don't like.

i wanta write about gong sau, both as a philosophy and as a phenomenon, in relation to BJJ and MMA because of a host of a reasons. Firstly, I'm a member of Bullshido.com, the forum with the most gong saus on record with the tagline that we really will kick your ass for running your mouth. secondly, there's been a shitload of gong saus being thrown around lately, from the youtube gong saus between various martial arts personalities, the gong saus being thrown around on bullshido to nick thompson gong sauing some kung fu dude from that BET show Iron Ring. Thirdly, because i believe the idea of gong sau crucial to the rise of BJJ and MMA. and fuck, because i'm an ornery mofucka at this point.

to quote a friend:

The characters are 講手. It means Talking Hands, and is a euphemism for a challenge match. It comes from the old Cantonese kung fu saying, "無講口, 講手." Don't talk with your mouth, talk with your hands. The phrase itself is a condemnation of people who want to talk like they can fight, but aren't willing to back up their words. We call them "mouth boxers".

Gong sau becomes a way of life. It keeps you humble. You speak the truth because you know someone will call you out if you're lying. You never overestimate yourself because you learn exactly what you can do. You learn where you're weak, and you learn to face it.

You don't have to literally interpret it as combat. Look at it as the willingness to put yourself on the line, to do something about a problem rather than just talk about it. To be the man in the arena instead of the critic, to quote the old saying.

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I take gong sau to be very much about the willingness to put your body on the line for your beliefs. There is an element of respect that you gotta give for an individual who is willing to put his body on the line for his beliefs. Civil rights protesters who put their bodies in front of the dogs and the fire hoses, monks who self-immolated, the tank-man: all of these people lived the philosophy of gong sau, putting their bodies and their health on the line for their beliefs. i feel like there is something extremely human in this, as you don't really see any animals willing to put their fragile bodies on the line for an abstract idea.

i see it as a philosophy, one that i try to live, trying to take no position or say anything that i don't believe to be true and am not willing to back up. gong sau is about living your beliefs and being willing to put shit on the line for them. if you're challenged to a gong sau, it's not actually about winning the gong sau, but it's about having the internal fortitude necessary to show up to the fight or the protest or whatever.

but in the realm of BJJ, MMA and martial arts in general, gong sau takes on a realness and an immediacy that is divorced from the more abstract examples cited before. if you run your mouth, in the context of a gong sau, of a challenge match, you really will get your ass kicked. but even here, there must be respect given to those who are willing to show up. the early ufcs proved that you need groundfighting and that some martial arts, those trained alive, are more likely to be combat effective than those trained dead. but i can't take away from the balls that everyone of those fighters, even the ones who got their asses kicked, deserved for showing up and being willing to put their names and bodies on the line for the martial arts that they loved and truly believed in.

that's why i don't believe you can really shit on any fighter who is willing to step into the ring or the octagon or the cage or whatever. they had the balls, the internal fortitude necessary to show up and represent themselves and prove their belief in their skills and in their arts and in their trainers. winning or losing, in the case of the philosophy of gong sau, doesn't matter except in that it proves how true your martial declarations actually are.

there's been a fuckton of gong saus thrown around on the internet recently, and though to a certain extent this can be considered both childish and reaching to the most base forms of brute masculinity, i actually think they are kinda dope in that modern day gong saus actually have a very interesting professionality to them and harkens back to a time in the martial arts before mcdojoism and bullshido.

gong saus in the modern day, except for that one idiot from the netherlands, are negotiated out in advance, with terms and conditions agreed to by the combatants parties beforehand. there are contracts and waivers signed. there are neutral parties watching. and most importantly, there's fucking video, which prevents bullshit and holds folks accountable for their actions. furthermore, gong sau, in the MA world, is the only way to really measure 'martial' prowess, ie the ability to fight, as that's what MAs are about. it helps to either prove or disprove the validity of martial philosophies and techniques... which is why MMA has evolved to include the base arts that it includes today and doesn't include sumo-wrestling for example.

i feel like gong saus, as long as they continue to take place between consenting adults and are being done with a certain element of neutrality and professionality should be allowed to continue and hell, even encouraged as a form of weeding out the bullshit in the martial arts.

gong sau is inherent in bjj and mma, which is why these two martial arts are so popular and have such an emotive force. and why they have been constructed to be so masculine and thereby attractive to males who are going through what i believe to be a crisis of masculinity. willing to stand your ground has been, problematically enough, constructed to be a desirable masculine trait. but to go back to the first sentence in this paragraph and not go off on a gender studies track, gong sau is aliveness. and aliveness is inherent in bjj and mma among other martial arts, and is absent in the dead arts that are the most likely to make outrageous claims.

if you don't know what aliveness is, search up matt thornton, he's better at explaining it than i am. but i believe that the constant day in and day out testing oneself against resisting opponents, the emphasis on competition, the performance based meritocracy, all of these things are in keeping with the philosophy of gong sau and keeps one honest. someone who plays an alive martial art is likely to know what they can do and what they can't and are thereby less likely to make ridiculous claims. they KNOW they can pull off a given technique against a resisting opponent. they also know what they can't do. aliveness keeps you honest and pushes the gong sau philosophy in a real way that nothing else really does.

oh and i hope that the massive clusterfuck that is the bagua maoshan vs the goat gong sau happens. if it does, someone should give me a heads up.

next: bjj and family

Thursday, April 24, 2008

brazilian zhoo zhitsu, it is a manly sport, my freng

Bjj and Gender Studies 101

Bjj, as well are aware, is dominated by males... and not just any males, but some of the most athletic, fit and 'masculine' males there are. I here tend to define masculine in the sense of the predator or the fighter, with both archetypes having a strong sense of nuance internally. To explain the metaphor a little bit more... let me say it like this.

take the predator example... there is an inherent conflation in society wherein the hunter, the one who goes out into the world and takes, is masculine, even if this is not necessarily the case in nature. along these lines you have a spectrum of 'age' and the type of masculinity thereby performed. you have the baby puppy, who has barely understood anything, who is cute, but still moves with rather deadly purpose. you have the young wolf, who is cocksure and somewhat arrogant, has come into his own and the prime of his life and knows it. and then you have the old wolf, the alpha of the pack, the typical masculine leader figure, wise, grizzled, scarred to show the world that he is supremely confidence in his ability to take on all challenges.

BJJ players go through this, if anything, they embrace and reaffirm masculinities, entrenched not in 'academic/mental' pursuits like engineering, but rather in physical pursuits and athleticism. Masculinity has been constructed to be in line with explosive physicality. BJJ and mma take this embracing of the athletic physical masculinity one step farther than other sports by being less removed from the root of all modern day sports... combat. BJJ and mma embrace combat, hold it central to the core of their philosophies, thereby conflating themselves with a violent masculinity and reaffirming that as part of the male identity.

this is not necessarily problematic, even if it reaffirms violence, as long as this masculine violence is not transgressive. a really interesting article on this can be found at http://sfuk.tripod.com/articles_02/keel_mma1.html.

but in this reaffirmation of a violent fighter masculinity comes a host of other issues that must be addressed. i personally believe that a large portion of bjj's popularity across the world, especially within the developed world, with men from many, many different backgrounds is the fact that it does reaffirm a very basic, very old form of masculinity that is still socially acceptable within the setting of the gym. no matter how much debate there is, i really do believe in the concept of a crisis of masculinity in the face of the rise of feminism and the restructured economy. traditional notions of masculinity have been dieing away, so that an idea of masculinity must be redefined, reaffirmed or rediscovered... hence jiu jitsu and its embrasure of violence in a world where violence of any sort has been constructed to be at once masculine, transgressive and undesirable.

in this reaffirmation/redefining of masculinities though, we must be careful to not take this idea of masculinity in a negative direction. there is already examples of this, what with the casual homophobia that is found in the sport. bjj is a sport that requires close contact, a breaking of the 'personal space'... and as this breaking of personal space is a fundamentally intimate experience, coming as it usually does either from violence or from caring, there is a psychological need, in affirmation of more base notions of masculinity, to distance one self from any idea that the contact in jiu jitsu is not in fact unmasculine.

as homosexuality has been constructed to be 'feminine' in the united states, it is understandable then that there is a degree of homophobia that is felt in jiu jitsu... but as the general age of jiu jitsu players tends to be higher and because of the more cosmopolitan bent of the sport, i believe that jiu jitsu is significantly less machismo-driven and homophobic than high school wrestling. for fuck's sake, we have a few openly gay fighters in the sport... which as far as i know is unheard of.

next post: jiu jitsu as a family