Did You Hear The One About Robert Silverberg, Georges St. Pierre And Chris Cornell?

Ogres may be like onions, but so are we, people. You know – Layers. Our lives unfold (at least without the persuasion of Alcohol of other un-inhibitor agents) slowly, as we get to know each other. We introduce ourselves by name, sometimes by country of origin, our profession, family situation, and other generalities. As our connection to each other deepens, more layers may shed, and we talk about elements of our belief system (though, some of it, likely leaks through our behaviors before), opinions on current events, or other topics, which continues to expose the core. Somewhere in this process, we talk about what we like. It’s this kind of conversation that makes some people raise a brow, when I share some of my more serious interests.
“Oh, you write? How interesting. What do you write about?”
“Yeah, what kind of music do you like?”
“Wait, what? M.M.What? is that the cage fighting? Hey, I know Conor McGregor!”

Confused The Big Lebowski GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

At this point, some conversations seem to peter out. I thought about this for a while, and even to my brain, which is engaged in the general love of these three areas of interest, it did feel somewhat random. Literature and music are related as arts, but what about the people punching each other in the face?
Well, I could state the obvious (and I will) – M.M.A stands for Mixed Martial Arts. But this is not satisfactory. While musicians and writers create some “product” through their artistic process, the fighters merely meet inside the cage and try to beat each other, then leave. So, where’s the connection? Where is the deep meaning, that drew me, and kept my otherwise distracted mind engaged?
It started crystalizing, as I left the house for a walk the other day. I was more than a little irritated with the music (if you can call it that) my kids were playing on the computer. I won’t name names, but it was one of the more recent pretty faces, in skimpy clothing, bumping to some catchy, repeating computer-generated groove. I put on my earphones and hit play as soon as I closed the door behind me. Good, old Soundgarden for the rescue.
Bear with me people, I will walk you through my process.
As I listened to the wonderful progression of “Blow up the outside world”, I mused about what makes me like the musicians I do, as opposed to the ones I am not a fan of. And as I waited for a light to turn green, an internal one flash inside my head. It’s the tools of the trade.
Which musicians do I like? I can list many, but the point is – what do they all have in common? Well, the ones at the upper part of my list are musicians who write lyrics, play an instrument (or 5), sing and perform. I am not a huge fan of many “performers”, as in singers with great voices who “just” sing. Don’t get me wrong, I respect a great voice, but this alone does not me, a fan make.

Writes, Plays, Sings, Perform. Rest in peace Chris

This immediately resonated with the writer me. What makes a good story? Surely, it’s more than a good plot. It’s more than a relatable character. More than proper spelling. A good story is made, by using – there it is again – the tools of the trade.
And just like that, I found the connection. A mixed martial artist is another person, who needs to have the tools of his trade in order to perform well.
True. Art is not a competition – as opposed to MMA – but they are all arts. A writer, a musician and a mixed martial artist all present something pleasing by bringing all their capabilities, talents, training and passion to the table. If the musician plays the right chords, but sings out of key, or if the writer tells a plausible story about a flat and boring character, or if the fighter shows up with the skills but is out of shape… we will likely be disappointed with the outcome. But if they connect everything – and it doesn’t have to be perfect – we are almost guaranteed some fun.

Mixed Martial Arts

This was a nice little moment of satisfaction, in being able to identify something that links some of my main interests, logically. But it also started me thinking about the next question – can I use this?
Can I draw from what I’m learning of martial arts, and apply it to another? Can my appreciation to the martial artist inform my writing? Not just as subject matter, but as applicable knowledge?
Well, I begin by asking what does a good MMA fighter need? Skills in striking, wrestling, BJJ (That’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Git yer head outta the gutter). He needs stamina, mental strength, discipline, patience. Practice is a must. I will stop here. I’m sure there’s more, even if the list as it stands is enough to deter anyone from even attempting…

Robert Silverberg

The focus of this exercise is the writing itself. Not the writer (I hope we already agreed there are parallels between the three professionals). So, what can we take from this list of skills, capabilities and habits, in order to help a story work? I’ll start with patience. The reader may not have it, but patience is the ability to act when appropriate, and wait when necessary. It’s in the pacing of the story. We don’t want to spill it all in one hurried stream of consciousness (well, not in a novel I’d say) on the one hand, but we also don’t want to keep the reader waiting for something to happen.
But the story needs to move forward, right? Just like a fighter who wants to win. Here is where some other skills come into play. The first thing that pops to mind is the art of the takedown. Sometimes you want to “floor” the reader. There are ways to do it. One is to sneak up on him with great speed, changing the level of your approach, grabbing him and putting him on his back. Other ways to do it is by using the great striking skill call “fake”. A jab might do the trick too. The idea is to let the story throw your reader slightly off. Not off the story, but a little off guard. A red herring is a tried and tested fake. slowly, teasing action, foreshadowing, is like taking jabs, preparing the ground for a good power shot. This also helps with pacing, so it’s a win-win situation.
What about Jiu Jitsu? There are a few things it could teach us. One of them is the shift of the power balance. If the story has your hero on his back, trying to avoid submitting to the antagonistic forces of the story, there’s a way you can help him turn the tables. The magic is in the steps. Normally, the fighters don’t just trade places. There’s always a struggle, both of force but also – even more so – technique. If you want to escape a dangerous position, and reverse the balance of power, you have to know the steps, and execute them one by one. Sometimes it will work, and sometimes it may fail, as your opponent may (and likely should) be at least as skilled and powerful as you. Let your character learn these skills. In fact, it’s a must if you want a character that develop over time. A white belt will rarely sweep a black belt without proper training and practice. This is also where mental strength comes into play. Your character may not be very strong in the beginning, and even if he doesn’t end as a very strong character, he will need to “toughen up” some, in order to handle the multiple obstacles, you put in his way.
So, there you go. I love music, literature and mixed martial arts. Not only does it make perfect sense, I can even apply lessons I take from one and implement in the other.


The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (2017 Edition)

Happy new year everybody!

2017 is in the past and we’re all looking forward (well, we all should) to a great 2018. I wish you all the best and all the rest this new year’s day.
One last look at the last year before we move on. They’re all mixed bags, right? nothing is good if something isn’t bad and nothing’s really bad if… you get it. So on we go with:

The Good:

Though I moved here late in 2016, it’s 2017 which was the first full year in Mexico for me. En Serio, this was one of the best years of my life so far (and we’re talking quite a few years here…). A lot to be thankful for. GREAT people, amazing food, different work experiences, a continued cultural education, all of which leading to a really satisfying and gratifying year. México, ¡te queremos!

I also got the chance to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as Lima, Peru this year. Another one of those things I couldn’t imagine in early 2016.
2017 was also the year I got my back side in gear, gathered all of my courage and edited my debut novel (which is actually my second) and am in the process of submissions. This is very exciting for yours truly and I hope 2018 will top it by a nice acceptance letter (hint hint).

I started collaborating with and contributing to two very interesting websites. One is hazavit, which is a Hebrew sports websites managed and updated by true sports fans who want to have an interest free discussion about the athletes, teams and the sports we’re passionate about. The other is of course, combat docket, who I’m proud to share my MMA related posts with. A group of real MMA fans, and practitioners who also want a discussion of this sport, that goes past the hype and the chewed up material that circulates in many other outlets. Here are links to my articles on both sites. I hope you read them, then browse for much more content. There are brilliant writers on and I’m sure you’d like what you see.

Hazavit articles (Hebrew)

Combat Docket (English)

And just when I thought this year couldn’t get any better, came Georges Saint-Pierre, my all time favorite Mixed Martial Artist and after a 4 years hiatus, he took the middleweight title in a spectacular fashion.

There’s a whole lot more to be thankful for, but
  • Those are things I’m not going to spill over in the interweb.
and
  • I don’t believe in the saying “Count your blessings”. You shouldn’t count them. Just be thankful. So thanks 2017. You’ve been good to me.

The Bad:

On a whole other level, 2017 was the biggest bitch since 1994…
Numbers-wise perhaps, 2017 wasn’t as bad as say… 2016. But God damn it 2017, you took Chester Bennington. You took Malcolm Young. You fucking took Chris Cornell, and you took Tom Petty, you musical thieving whore!

And The Ugly:

Well, we still have wars raging, hunger devastating lives, greed and corruption everywhere. Nothing new. Just more of the ugly sameness that we can’t seem to break off of.

But I am an optimist, and I still (and forever will) believe that the vast majority of humanity is good. And I’m a hopeful person. I know that we’re far from done.

On that positive note, let me wish you all a happy new year. Don’t be strangers now eh? come back here and check up on me once in a while. Good times ahead!


Overdue Respect

Hi all and welcome back to my corner of the web.

Apologies for the recent slump. It’s due to some technical issues that are still ongoing (but being worked) as well as the flu. While I’m still not out of the woods on either front, I’m well enough to share a thought with you.

What’s on tap for today? Today is about a new-found respect. Continue reading