Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christmas Lights

In our household we are pretty enamored with christmas. My wife and I point out christmas lights to one another whenever we are in the car. Driving the other night with the grizzly in the back seat, I pointed out some christmas lights almost out of habit.
"Hey bub, look christmas."
"Ohhhhhhh Bee-YOU-ti-FUL!"

First, that is the best response ever.
Second, it gave me pause. I looked at the lights with a new perspective. They are beautiful, aren't they. Intellectually I knew they were just some LEDs covered in colored plastic wired up, and stapled to the front of someone's house. Kind of gaudy, and silly. But when you look at it from the kid's perspective, who the hell cares? they're shiny and bright and colorful and lovely. It's one of the few altruistic things people do these days. Spend an afternoon on a ladder stapling gaudy lights to our house for the enjoyment of others. A gesture of kindness.
I began to think of all of the other moments of beauty and kindness we overlook simply because they are so readily and often available to us. This lack of mindfulness is terrible.
Our experiences are finite. We don't go on forever. To look past these moments is to look past our own lives. We live in a time of incredible availability. The food, art and knowledge we have available to us at this time in history is incredible, and yet most people don't appreciate any of it. We blindly trudge through our lives.
I am asking you not to just stop and smell the roses, but to appreciate the beauty of the rose, and the thorns. To marvel at the diversity and similarity of all the roses. To think about your interactions with people.
This is one of the greatest vices that I have, and is the source of my greatest problems. I have pounded down food like it's an unpleasant chore. I have neglected books, and overlooked moments of beauty to get somewhere or move on to the next whatever. Living life like a skipping stone. I am breaking these habits. I eat slower. I walk slower with my head up. I stop and breathe deeper. What's more I pay attention to what I feel. When I talk to someone, how do I feel in their presence? Do I really want to have this conversation? If not, I don't. If so, why?
I've always been a good observer of the behavior of other people, but now I'm turning that lens in. Focusing on myself. It's not easy.
I am not suggesting you dive headlong into your own navel. To become absorbed with the patina of our interactions, but to actually seek some depth of your own experience. Sitting there right now, how is your posture? How are your feet positioned? What was the last book you read? Did you read it or skim through it? What was the last thing you ate? How did it taste? What did it feel like in your mouth? To whom did you last speak? Did you listen, or wait for your turn to ejaculate words at them?

I am not suggesting that I am a leading example of how to behave in this respect. It is something that I struggle to do, but it's one of the best lessons I've learned as a parent.
The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced.
-J.J. Van der Leeuw

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

UFC 167

This was a doozie.. but first some quick thoughts from fight nights 31 and 32.

Fight night the 31st.
(I'm skipping a lot of these fights and fighters, but this post is already going to be a monster and quite frankly lets just keep this train rolling)

Germaine De Randamie has some very clean and vicious thai boxing, but she is flat terrible on the ground. An AKA product after the exit of Dave Camarillo and it shows. She did not have any fundamental Jiu jitsu and got tooled.

Amanda Nunes looked great in the fight. In the brief stand up portion she did not look out of her depth against De Randamie, and was the better grappler by an order of magnatude. Nunes seems to be hit or miss. She has wins over Julia Budd and Vannessa Porto who are solid fighters, but has lost to Alexis Davis and Sarah D'Alelio. I'm not sure if she's inconsistent, or just not quite ready for the next level. Either way, at 25 she has time to grow into a very formidable fighter.

Steven Siler needs to work on converting submissions against guys trying to power out of them. He had Dennis Bermudez in trouble a couple times, but couldn't control the TUF 14 finalist.

James Krause vs Bobby Green fight.. good grief. This one is tough. When a guy has been belted in the groin twice he's going to be sensitive. So that even if the final kick grazed the top of the cup it would have felt like complete hell for Krause. However.. it was a technically legal kick. So you can't call it against Green (probably resulting in a DQ). So this is an unfair one, but sometimes life isn't fair.

Colton Smith is a rarity. A wrestling based fighter that I can't stand. I think he tends to fight cheap, and his non-wrestling grappling is terrible. Evidenced by his inability to defend the Harai Goshi by Chiesa, and his very sloppy back control and attempted RNC finish in the first round. Staff Sargent get thee in a gi.

Tim Kennedy looked great in his fight, and can be officially said to be surging.

Fight night thirty-duce!

Jeremy Stephens looks tough at 145. He has some serious power, and is going to be a problem for a lot of folks.

Rony Bezerra needs to lighten up. He got caught with a head kick. You are not a rock star.. don't destroy the dressing room.

Brandon Thatch is 11-1 and hasn't lost in 5 years. It's time to get the guy a fight of some note.

I like Paulo Thiago, but I think he's past his sell by date.  He's 2-7 since he choked out Mike Swick in 2010 and he did not look like he was in the fight against Thatch. A good ground game and heavy hands just wont cut it in the twenty teens.

Feijao rights the ship all be it against a guy who has no wins in his last 4 fights (one no contest). It will be interesting to see if the UFC feeds him a couple more cans to build him up as a contender, or if they drop him in the deep end and ask him to sink or swim.

The Daniel Sarafian vs Cezar Ferreira fight was a beaut. I am happy to see both of these guys in the UFC. I was hoping the more wrestling oriented Sarafian would win, but Ferreira was just too big too physical. Be interesting to see how the UFC treats each guy coming off this fight.

Hendo.. you got nothing left to prove. Just call it a day.

Vitor.. at this point you have to say he's the #3 guy at middleweight. The guy irritates me something fierce, and it's not the TRT or the god bothering.. ok it's mostly those things, but it's also this air of entitlement. How dare you ask me about TRT and the fact that I popped positive in 2006, I am Vitor! Yecch.

ok enough of that.


Sergio Pettis makes his debut against the unspectacular Will Campuzano. Wins unspectacular decision. At 20 years old. The guy is undeniably talented. We shall see if he can convert that talent into success.

Brian Ebersole does nothing great, but he does everything pretty well. Too young for the MMA senior circuit I think he's one more loss from the bus leagues.

Rick Story looked great. The guy is very hot and cold, so it's hard to say if Story has turned a corner and actually gotten a bit more polish on his striking, or if it was just a good match up for him. I'm more likely to think the latter.

I was impressed by the resurgent Thales Leites. He's actually put a good amount of effort into shoring up his weaknesses. We'll see where it leads. Kim Winslow's stand-up in this fight was terrible. Leites was on top in half guard working to pass and fishing for an arm triangle when suddenly and with little warning Referee Winslow stood them up. A shocking display of grappling ignorance. This could have easily pitched the fight in Herman's favor. Just terrible.

The on again off again Cowboy is on once again. He looked great against Evan Dunham. The guy is
an enigma. I don't think the answer lies at 145 for him, I think it's underneath that cowboy hat of his.

I like Tyron Woodley. He has all the tools to be one of the top fighters at 170. I worry that he's not in a challenging enough camp. He need to be be at ATT training with the room full of killers down in Florida. Instead he's got his own affiliate in my home town of St. Louis, Missouri. It's too soon.

With four losses of his last 6 fights. Josh Koshcheck's time would look to be over, but he's lost to one of the most promising guys in the division (Woodley), a surging veteran (Robbie Lawler), the people's champion (Bigg Rigg himself) and the belt holding real deal champ (GSP). Is he going to be happy being at the bottom of the top? Probably not. At 35 years old, and having fallen out with the AKA brass. I believe him when he says it's time to retire.

Speaking of Lawler, the move to ATT has him nearing his potential.. FINALLY. At only 31 he's got a few more years of his prime left. As much as I think Pat Miletich is a good coach and for grappling oriented fighters (Matt Hughes) a great one. The MFS camp was all wrong for Lawler. He needed more technical coaching than the meat grinder of MFS. Now he's getting it and it shows.

Rory MacDonald.. where has he gone?  Where is the guy who battered B.J. Penn pillar to post? Where is the guy who knocked out Mike Pyle and literally and figuratively battered Nate Diaz into the ground? Before the BJ fight MacDonald was 12-1 with 1 decision (the aforementioned battering of Diaz). Dana White likened his last two fights to "staring contests." Warlike Ares has become Mercury. Look, I'm no Tapout wearing 'just bleed' MMA fan, but I'm still in favor of fighting. I'm all for being technical, but the most important and impressive part of 'hit and don't get hit' is the hitting part. Couple more stinkers like this and this young Canadian may end up finding another line of work.

Uncle Chael, why did you pick a fight with a guy who is better than you at the thing you do well, and is bigger, faster and more athletic? Just a bad idea.

Ok.. lets get into it. I think Johny Henricks won that fight, but not by much. Knowing that the fight was in Nevada. Knowing that most of the judges are "converted boxing judges." I can see how round 1 went to GSP.. not that I think it should have, but how it did. 2 reasons. Thing the first: early takedown for GSP. Nevada judges tend to overvalue takedowns. Even though no damage was done and Hendricks got up quickly, he still got taken to the ground. Thing the second is more subjective and more problematic. In close rounds, with these judges who cut their teeth on boxing, the rounds tend to go to the guy who looks more polished. In this case you have the very classic GSP, and the clubbing Johny Hendricks, the round went to the pugilist and not the brawler. This is a major problem with the 10 point must system. If I absolutely clobber you for 2 rounds, and you eek out strategic wins of the other 3, you win the fight. It's not fair, but I don't know what a better system is unless you want to go back to PRIDE type rules.

As far as GSP goes. I hope his problems truely are as trivial as Dana White makes them to be, and I hope he does what he needs to do.  He doesn't owe me, Dana White, Hendricks, or anyone else a damn thing.


Monday, November 18, 2013

It is always now.. until it isn't.

This post is for me as much as you.. A reminder.

There's nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They don't honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. There's nothing left to die. -Charles Bukowski 


Thursday, November 14, 2013


I had a couple other things I wanted to talk about. Lots of fights lately, some training stuff, but this story hit me a little too close to home. I'm not going to comment on the specifics of the whole Martin-Incognito debacle, because I don't know them. What I do know is that I've seen a lot of bullying on different sports teams on lots of different levels of competition. I have also seen a lot of behavior that on the outside can be construed as bullying, but these are fuzzier.
First the bullying. When I was in high school, one of the senior members of the wrestling team mummified a freshman in pre-wrap for no reason other than the kid was small, weak, and he could. I thought it was funny.. but then I was 15 and stupid, and mostly happy because it wasn't me.
The senior member said he was "trying to toughen the kid up." Which was total bullsh!t. That kid didn't learn anything about how to be tough. He only learned that the senior could do things to him he couldn't do anything about. It didn't help the team, and it hurt the younger kid who was a pretty promising wrestler, and eventually quit the team. Net loss for everyone.
When I started playing rugby in college, I was one of the few guys coming in who had played the game before. The older guys on the team did not pull any punches. Especially the guys who played the same position I did. They were far easier on guys coming in who had no experience playing the game. This wasn't bullying. This was holding me to a higher standard of play. They didn't do anything personal, no insults, nothing outside of the game. They just tackled me and treated me like a teammate who should know better when I did things that I should know better than to do.
Friends gotta hug.
Similarly in a Rugby club, there are jerseys that get muddy and those things do not wash themselves. Some of the elite teams that I played on had a team manager who would take care of stuff like that, but for the most part this was taken care of by the first year players. This is where things get a bit fuzzier. The clubs that I came up playing for it wasn't done in a bullying manner. The laundry needs doing. It's not put upon any one individual, the first year players as a group are expected to take care of it by committee. If someone has an injury and needs treatment, or has some compelling reason they are usually excused from laundry duty for the weekend. It's fairly egalitarian. I have seen teams where the captain simply selects two guys to do the laundry. Sometimes this is done in a fair, and fairly random manner, but sometimes the same guy or guys keep getting laundry duty. They are called out in a derisive manner, or they only get called out after particularly muddy games (where the jerseys have to be hosed off and washed multiple times) this is bullying. It's inappropriate and it makes that guy feel like crap and makes everyone feel sorry for the guy.
The final situation is not bullying, but it can feel like it. In a wrestling room there are different intensities. It's hard to explain. There is hand fighting and there is hand fighting. Sometimes in practice you get matchday intensity. Sometimes you get what is called 'brother-in-law' intensity. It's up to the athletes to determine where that intensity lies. The coaches try to set it, but things escalate or deescalate depending on the wrestler.
Sometimes the more senior wrestlers will make a decision to give a guy more intensity than they give others. Sometimes more than they think the guy can handle. If this is done in a measured way a guy can figure out he can play/wrestle with the senior guys. He can hang. It builds the athlete up, though it is uncomfortable the athlete will be tempered by the heat and pressure. Sometimes he can't hang. He breaks. I have seen guys sobbing on their way home from practice. Someone applied pressure and instead of tempering the athlete shatters. This is where things get really fuzzy. I have seen guys in the room, or on the rugby practice field go after guys and then build them back up. It happened to me. A guy told me; "When you first showed up, I went after you. I tried to make you quit, but you're tough. You wouldn't quit. Now you're one of the best guys we have." That's not bullying. It's uncomfortable. It sucks, but ultimately it's about making the guy better.
However when you continually go after the same guy day after day, week in and week out and never build him back up. Just beating on him because he can't do anything about it. That is bullying. He never gets better. You're just being a jerk.
What I'd like Mr. Incognito to do is look at each thing he did to Mr. Martin. To ask himself: how did that make him better? Did I push him to be a better athlete and a teammate? Did I ask more of him than he had to give? or was I just being an ass because I could?

Some teams have 'traditions.' The same rules apply. Good traditions are physical. They push an athlete's limits athletically. Good examples are the presentation of jerseys/caps in rugby. Or some sort of conditioning test (see the peg board scene in Vision quest).
However if you are humiliating someone, forcing them to drink, or embarrass themselves publicly or privately, you're just being an ass. Just because you wanted to play so badly that you were willing to put up with abuse doesn't mean that other folks should be put through the same wringer. It's stupid. It doesn't bond teammates. Just stop it.
The sooner we understand the difference, the better coaches, athletes, and teammates we will be.


Note about gender in this article. I am speaking from experience. As such I have no experience within women's heads and little within the social structure of women's teams. Hence the all male pronouns.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fit moms, fat shaming and inspiration.

Last week there was a huge internet crud-storm over a memetic picture posted by Maria Kang. (Jezebel takedown here) I have a problem with the picture. It's the epitome of N=1 thinking. I did it, so what's your excuse? Implicit in that is: for being disgustingly fat. Some folks called this "fat shaming" which to me is a stretch, but it is problematic.
For me, an after shot without a before is always a red flag. The second red flag is that it isn't a coach touting the transformation of a client, but an athlete touting her own appearance.. not transformation. There is so much variability in peoples fat storage and ability to change their physique that unless someone has several clients showing significant body composition changes they may not know anything. Some people have naturally low body fat.. even after 3 kids. It assumes priorities and means (of time, funds and resources) that many folks may not have.
Which brings me to fat shaming. There is a little implicit fat shaming in that photo.  Lets start simply.
Fat shaming: Weight stigma, also known as weightism, weight bias, and weight-based discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on one's weight, especially very large or thin people.
So there is the stated "What's your excuse" and the implicit "for being disgustingly fat." So there is that implicit fat shaming, but it's tricky. Fat shaming is usually directed. A person is shown or described as disgusting/a fat pig/shoving twinkies. For me that has to me more individualized. The reader/viewer/victim  has to see themselves in that body, and people's cognitive dissonance is a fairly strong barrier to that.
It is remarkable how prone to condemnations of other people's bodies we are. All one has to do is throw up a picture of someone with some muscle mass on to social media. If it is male you get "gross/steroids" and if female you get comments of "that's a dude/gross." Ultimately it all comes down to IT'S NOT YOUR GODDAMN BODY, NO ONE ASKED YOU!
This same mentality that obliges hetero-male internet users to comment on the "fuckability" of every female on the internet. It's stupid. It's dissociative, and dumb. No one cares, don't do that. Don't do it to people on the street (do you actually think someone is going to respond positively? NO) don't do it on YouTube, or facebook, or ever at all. What you'd like to do with your penis is germane to no one but you.
Don't tell fat people they are fat. Do not follow up with your disgust. You are not helping them, you are being a bullying piece of garbage. There has been significant research that this type of bullying behavior tends to keep people from losing weight.

Don't tell hot people that they are hot, and/or what kinds of sex you'd like to have with them. if you'd like to talk to them, talk TO them, not around them. You're not flattering her, you're threatening her. Don't do that.

In other words: Don't be an ass.

So what is inspirational?
I am inspired by a few things.

People working hard.
People who can do things that are beyond 99% of the rest of us.

People who get it done for a long time, and make monsters.
And People who only know how to be the best (tie here)

None of those people care what you think. None of these can be accomplished by picking the right parents. Those things inspire me. Those are the traits I want to emulate. They are encompassing. Women, men, children that are white, black, thin, fat, ripped whatever can work hard, can do amazing things, can continue to amaze well past the age that everyone else calls it quits, or can be the best ever at their sport. I would offer that everything else is bullshit on some level. Those are the things that have elements of choice. What is the point of being inspired if the inspiration lacks the element of choice?

Final thing.. probably the most important. Inspire yourself. To hell with these memes and social media based inspiration. It's hollow. Do the things you want/need to meet your goals. Yes you.. right now. Today.
You don't need some vapid figure competitor to ask you what your excuse is.. because her goals and her experiences are probably not your own. Inspiration comes from within. Find it and you won't need any excuses.