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!”

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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.


Fanboy Slim: Donald Cerrone (32-7-0-1)

fan·boy
ˈfanboi/
noun
informalderogatory
a male fan, especially one who is obsessive about movies, comic books, or science fiction.
I will add to that definition – obsessive about a fighter.

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Fanboy Slim: Miesha tate (18-7-0)

fan·boy
ˈfanboi/
noun
1. informalderogatory
a male fan, especially one who is obsessive about movies, comic books, or science fiction.
I will add to that definition – obsessive about a fighter.

Continue reading

Fanboy Slim: Georges St. Pierre (25-2-0)

fan·boy
ˈfanboi/
noun
1. informalderogatory
a male fan, especially one who is obsessive about movies, comic books, or science fiction.
I will add to that definition – obsessive about a fighter.
In this series of posts, I will reveal (not that it’s a big secret to whoever scans my twitter or facebook feeds) who are my favorite fighters of all time. I do not hate any fighter. I respect them all and like most. But there are those who I’m just… well a fanboy of.
There’s no denying, GSP is, was and likely will be my all-time favorite fighter. He is also arguably the best MMA fighter of all times. This latter statement is forever challenged by people who dislike his style and I’m fine with that. To each his own.

Photo credit: gspofficial.com

GSP holds the record for WW title defenses, has only 2 losses, which he decidedly avenged, has fought a long list of the best WWs available, including previous champions in multiple organizations, and retired (semi?) holding a belt. Since recapturing the title, he lost perhaps a handful of rounds in the ensuing 9 fights.
GSP’s fights, following his decimation of Matt Serra to win back the belt, were quite predictable. As a fanboy, that didn’t comfort me until I heard Bruce Buffer say “And Still”. They were predictable not in the sense that you knew exactly what to expect. After all, he did outstrike and beat down strikers, outwrestled and controlled wrestlers and generally did everything his opponents said he couldn’t leading up to their inevitable defeat.
St. Pierre is not an “old school” MMA fighter, nor can he be considered part of what we like to call “New breed” (e.g. Rory MacDonald, Conor McGregor and others), but I do consider him a pioneer and an inspiration to this new breed of fighters. Those who may not be THE best at a specific discipline, but are simply very good in all of them. Being well rounded is an insurance plan, and GSP was admittedly safe. He was criticized for that, but as promised, I say it again – it is a sport. A career that ends at an age when a second one can (and should) begin. There really is no need to get hit in the face if you can – not…
GSP sets the bar when it comes to respect for the sport, his opponents, the fans. He sets the bar for consistency and success. He sets the bar for being a professional fighter and he is one of the best ambassadors for the sport of MMA.
If you want to have a blueprint of how to be a healthy (for the most part), well rounded, successful and respected practitioner of martial arts, Georges St. Pierre drew it. It could be expanded upon, elaborated and painted in many colors. But as a foundation, you will not find a stronger one than that of GSP.
Are you a fan of GSP? A fanboy? 
What do you like about him? 
What would you have wanted to be different? And why?

Stay tuned as more MMA legends take the stage.


Fixing MMA – Part One

MMA is an emerging sport, even if it’s a far cry from the obscure, underground kind of cage fighting it was only ten years ago. Even if many people who have no idea what MMA means, know of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.
Just think about the legends of some popular sports. NBA, Soccer, Baseball and such. Some of them are long gone, having died of natural causes at an old age.
Contrary to these, the majority of MMA legends are able to raise new families, should they choose to do so.
So why – you might ask – should we fix a sport that is just breaking out of its shell? And is it even broken, to begin with?

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The answers to these questions are “So it grows to be a healthy and responsible adult.” And “Not really, it just needs some guidance like any adolescent.” Respectively.
Having said that, there is quite a bit of work to do, if we (MMA fans, present and future) want to enjoy it for years to come.
In this short series of posts, I’d like to offer my perspective on what could be done to push the sport in the right direction.
First and foremost – I hope you’d agree – is the fighter’s health and safety.
A lot is done already, whether via the rules of the fight or through substance control imposed on fighters, in order to make this sport as safe as can be. The fighters assume certain risks, to be sure, but it is fairly evident that it is as safe as say, Hockey or American football (if not more in some ways).
What I’m offering is adding a couple of safe guards.
The first thing I suggest is the addition of 3 more weight classes to the men and one more for women. There are big gaps between the middle weight tiers, namely between welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight.
Adding 177 lb, 195 lb and 215 lb classes will achieve two goals (also 145 lb for the ladies).
1. Allow people of borderline “walking weight” to make weight easily and without taxing their bodies more than really necessary for a sport. And mind you, this is a sport after all. Not life and death.
2. Allow those small middle weights, large light-heavyweights etc. to find a home where they can be more competitive and not be at a constant disadvantage due to being too small for class A, but too heavy for the one under. Examples? Kelving Gastelum, Johny Hendricks, Charles Oliveira to name a few.
Another thing I think should be done is limit the allowed weight cut. Consult with nutritionists and other experts and come up with a certain “walking weight” that corresponds with the relevant minimum weight class. No one expects Roy Nelson to fight at Welterweight, right? How about Middleweight? What is too much weight cut? Let’s not find the answer out when a fighter suffers severe injury or god forbid more. Let’s make sure that no one even attempts to cut enough weight to risk more than is reasonable. You will hear me say that again and again – this is sport. People should not die for entertainment value or even for greatness (in whose eyes?).
I hope that makes sense, and if not, would absolutely love to hear what your thoughts are regarding fighter’s safety.
Are there more things that could (should) be done to protect the people we love to watch?


Money Talks (Fighter’s pay, or lack there of)

Hello everyone and welcome back,
It’s been a while, I know. I have a very good reason too. I will elaborate soon with a relevant post, but for now suffice to say – I’m writing.
While my creative juices are running, I take some methodical brakes to check what’s going on in the outside world and what I see there these past couple of weeks is the motivation for this post, namely, the increase in conversation regarding fighters pay.

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UFC 196 – Predictions

Hi everybody!

2016 Started with a bang and then a PPV that turned into a free card. But that’s ok, because once more, it’s a title fight between two of my favorite WMMA fighters – Miesha Tate and Holly Holm. And if that’s not enough, There’s that Mystic Mac fighting Nate Diaz. Need more? Continue reading