Today at work the idea of All Might/Toshinori dressed as Samurai Jack popped into my head and I had to draw it when I got home.
I added Izuku in there when cleaning up the details because I ended up imagining that it’s Halloween and Class 1-A just barely avoided Ashido trying to talk All Might into dressing as Dracula. So he’s giving Tokoyami and Tsuyu a thumbs-up for successfully distracting her.
On October 22nd 2015, 21-year-old Anton Lundin Pettersson walked into kronan school in Trollhättan, Sweden, with an intention to kill. Pettersson entered the school at 10:06:02 dressed in a black coat and a mask similar to darth vader’s in the star wars movies, and was armed with a knife in his belt and a sword.
Petterssons first attack was on a teacher’s assistant and a student. With a sword that was more than 3 feet long, he fatally wounded 20-year-old Lavin Eskandar, but failed to attack the student.
He walked up to the school’s second floor and fatally stabbed 15-year old Ahmed Hassan. Pettersson continued searching through the school, in search of a new victim. Here, the students believed it was a prank, as halloween was in less than two weeks, and asked to have their picture taken with him.
A third victim was attacked by the perpetrator as the 42-year-old math teacher Nazir Amso tried to take of pettersson’s mask, resulting in a fatal stab wound to the stomach, and passed away on December 3rd. 15-year-old Wahed was also wounded as he asked the perpetrator who he was, but survived the wounds to his left arm and torso.
Two police officers were by this time at the scene, and had entered the school. As pettersson made his way down the corridor to a set of stairs, he was met by the police who called for him to drop his sword. He raised his sword and was hit by two bullets at the same time at 10:16:39. They took of his mask and revealed a white-painted face with colour around his eyes and glitter. His sword was covered in blood and music was playing from his iPhone. As he was dying the police asked him to state his name. he answered: Anton Lundin Pettersson. The violence had ended after ten minutes of horror.
According to the police, the motive behind the attack was racism, as the perpetrator had deliberately chosen to attack immigrants, and chose that specific school for it’s high number of students who were immigrants. Pettersson had prior to the attack downloaded pictures and movies that the police describes as “racist, islamophobic and nazi” and had searched for depression tests, suicide videos, and had researched the school he would later attack. He did not plan on surviving the attack and blamed immigrants for his failures.
The attack was the deadliest school massacre in Sweden’s history and left the nation in shock. As a result, most schools banned masks completely from the building, and the tolerance for masks and fake weapons on halloween and in general has lowered around the country.
i never see anything on here about his attack so i thought i’d make a post. this is my first post of this kind, and i might make more about swedish crime (im swedish btw).
On 22 October, 2015, 21-year-old
Anton Lundin Pettersson, entered Kronan School in
Trollhättan, Sweden, armed with a sword. He proceeded to attack young students, killing a 17-year-old and wounding other younger students, who currently remain in the hospital. He then reportedly posed for the photo above with two students, who were unaware of what just happened and believed it to be a Halloween joke. A teacher saw the commotion and came out to tell him to go away or take his costume off as he is scaring the children - he responded by stabbing the teacher to death. Authorities were quickly alerted and shot him dead after he ran at them with the sword. It has been reported that he had very right-wing extremist views and had visited neo-Nazi websites.
About Sweden being a no-go zone, it's bc of whites. The last terrorist attack we had was in 2015 by white supremacist called Anton Lundin who murdered two Middle Eastern staff members and a Somali-Swedish student, he butchered them with a sword. Meanwhile Swedish men are involved in sex trafficking where they lure Thai, Russian and Polish girls and women into Sweden, take their passports and force them into sex slavery yet NOBODY mentions any of this.
I saw the D&D post and thought of something. Some of The Others becoming DMs themselves, offering games with with true treasure, but also true danger. You can occasionally see students running to class after a session, still wearing armor, equipped with swords and staffs, bows and wands. Many return from their first session changed, sometimes it's only height, while others are now members of the court themselves (Part 1)
A group of high level and generous students offer to guide those who
wish to change themselves through a quick session, in exchange for all
of the rewards. Some students stop going to class entirely, Olson
themselves in a world made of paper, words, and just a touch of
something more (part 2)
Lesbian Day of Visibility is soon drawing to a close (well, in my time zone, anyway), so I’d like to very quickly make a short list of some anime with lesbian characters that I’d like to recommend! It’s hard to find anime with lesbians that aren’t just gross fetish shows, so hopefully this’ll be helpful to anyone who’s looking for more quality entertainment.
Fumi, a shy, bookish lesbian, is entering her first year of high school. She reunites with Akira, her old childhood friend from elementary school, and together they help each other through emotional and relationship-related problems.
Made a post about this show a little earlier today, so I’ll keep this brief. To quickly sum up what I wrote there, Aoi Hana is a beautiful, down-to-earth story that portrays lesbianism much more seriously than most other anime and its one I think anyone can get into.
Join the 4 members of the Nanamori Middle School Amusement Club as they have fun and get up to all kinds of antics!
Alright admittedly, this show probably doesn’t have as much… I guess substance as pretty much everything else on this list and it’s really here more for nostalgic purposes than anything. I have good memories of watching this with my brother and to this day I think it’s still one of my favorite slice-of-life comedy anime. If you’re looking for something cute, harmless, and funny, then give this a watch. (the OVAs and season 3 weren’t as good imo, but they were still alright I guess)
Gay bears disguise themselves as human girls and infiltrate a homophobic high school. After that shit gets weird. Like REALLY weird.
If you couldn’t tell by that plot summary, this show is… let’s say unique. But despite how strange it is, its overall message of accepting your sexuality is one that I think is a very powerful one. Of course this is probably the most out-there way to showcase it, but nevertheless it’s a great show if only to get that idea across.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
Utena Tenjou is a tomboyish girl who wishes to be a prince. One fateful day at school she meets a mysterious student named Anthy Himemiya. Anthy, as it turns out, is known as the Rose Bride and is the center of a dueling tournament in which members of the school Student Council compete in sword fights for possession of her and, by extension, the “power to revolutionize the world” that she seems to be the key to. Utena joins the tournament to protect Anthy from the other Duelists and in the process begins to unravel the secrets surrounding her school, the duels, and even Anthy herself.
I can hardly express how much I love Revolutionary Girl Utena. It has pretty much everything I love: action, supernatural elements, mystery, TONS ofabstract imagery that I can analyze, and, of course, lesbians. You wanna hear me ramble, you get me to start talking about this show. I could go on and on about all the symbolism and themes of Utena forever and probably never get tired of it. Heck I’m even writing a paper about this show for school; getting to nerd out over anime for actual academic purposes is literally a dream come true.
Utena is 20 years old this year and it still holds up as a true masterpiece and a classic 90s anime. I don’t even know what to say it’s just so good. It’s a must see, trust me on that.
Unfortunately this list is way shorter than I’d like it to be because I have yet to discover more good anime with lesbian characters! (And I’m talking actually confirmed, canon lesbians) So if anyone has any more recs, please add them! They’d be much appreciated!
Mabon (Also Mapon, Maponus)- A Celtic sun God of prophesy, he is associated with light and the wild chase or ritual hunt. As the son of Modron, he is the great son (sun) of the Great Mother. He is taken from her when he is three days old. Called “The Son of Light” or “The Divine Son”, he represents youthfulness, sex, love, and magick, and enjoys playing tricks. Associated with Myrddin and later Christ, his symbols are the boar, mineral springs, and the lyre.
Macha- A powerful Irish threefold sun Goddess of war, fertility, and ritual games, she was wife of Nemed and consort of Nuada; called the “Sun Woman.” Ancestress of the Red Branch, Macha is a Queen of Ireland, daughter of Ernmas, and granddaughter of Net. Her body is that of an athlete, and her symbols are the horse, raven, and crow.
Mebd (Also Maeve, Mab)- A Goddess of sovereignty, she is the good queen call The Warrior Queen. She is the Faery Queen and Queen of Connaught. She runs faster than a horse, while carrying animals and birds on her arms and shoulders. She also carries a spear and shield.
Mei (Also Mai, Meia)- An Earth and sun Goddess, similar to Rosemerta, she is the mother of Gwalchmei.
Modrona (Also Modron, Madrona, Matrona)- A Goddess associated with Coventina, Morgana, Vivian, and Dechtire, she is an aspect of the All Mother. The Great Goddess and Mother of Mabon or “Light”.
Morgana- A Goddess of war, fertility, and magick, she is the Death Mother and Queen of Death. Born of the sea, she is the daughter of Llyr and Anuand, a powerful shapeshifter. She is beautiful and sensuous. Her symbols are trees along shorelines, especially cypress trees, seashells, ravens and crows.
Morrigan (Also Morrigana)- She is called the Great Queen, Sea Queen, and the Great Sea Mother. As a powerful Goddess of wisdom and the sea, she is associated with the queen’s rod of command, sand dollars, ocean vegetation, manta rays and whales.
Morrigu- A Goddess of death, life, music, and magick, she is called the Dark Gray Lady. She protects sailors and the shores of Erin and plays a harp made of silver, shell and pearl.
Myrddin- A sun and Earth God, Fire of Earth, he is a God of the woodlands, nature, and mirth. A Sky-God associated with stones, caves, crystals, and magick, as well as herbs, natural mineral deposits, and pure water springs, his symbols are the wild rose and sweet water springs. He plays a flute whose sound makes you want to dance.
Nantosuelta- A Goddess of abundance associated with Sucellos; she is a river Goddess. She holds a dove house on a pole in one hand, and carried a bakers paddle.
Nemetona- A warrior Goddess of the oak grove, she is the great protectress of the sacred nematon. Also a patron of thermal springs, her symbols are oak groves, a ram, and a spear made of ash with a tip of silver.
Nimue (Also Niniane, Niviene, Nymenche)- An Earth and Water Goddess and a young aspect of the Bright All Mother, she is a Goddess of lakes also known as the Lady of the Lake, maker and keeper of Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword. She is consort, student, and teacher to Myrddin. She created the river, Ninian, that originates in the Cotes-d’ Armor in Brittany. Her symbols are a white-silver sword, underwater caves, swans, swallows, and quartz and crystalline formations.
Nodens- A God of sleep, dreams, and dream magick, he is a God of the Otherworld.
Nwyvre- A God of the ether, stars, and space, he is also a God of celestial sciences, astronomy, and astrology. Consort to Arianrhod, his symbol is the nine-pointed star.
(Source: Exploring Celtic Druidism by Sirona Knight)
I want to know what the fae would think of me. I'm a chemical engineering student but I love all representations of art. Very creative and can spin glorious stories at the drop of a hat or recall a plethora of myths or story lines from my years of reading everything I can get my hands on. Probably a little too willing to get lost in a world others just call fantasy. So how would they approach me?
First of all, I really appreciate the way you asked this, because there’s no doubt at all that they would approach you. Something with bright, bright eyes would come demanding a story, and if you are clever enough to ask a price and wise enough to know when to stop humouring it, you could come out of this ahead. If not, pay more attention than usual to the colour of the stone paths between university buildings - stay off the white one at any cost. Or at the very least, don’t walk it unarmoured. Maybe one of the janitors will lend you their sword.
I am already exhausted when I take my position at the far side of the mat, still awash with the sweat of all the students who attended class earlier in the evening. I am alone here now; the distance between I and the four walls around me make up my whole world. I am reminded of the master’s wheel, the marked arena in which Anthony Hopkins’ Zorro teaches his successor to emulate his methods and adopt his creeds. “This [wheel] will be your world, your whole life,” Zorro dictates. “Until I tell you otherwise, there is nothing outside of it.”
My hips, a perpetual source of noise since I began running again, made their usual protest as I folded my legs beneath me, sat back upon my heels, and waited for training to begin. I wring my hands in my lap. I am exhausted, but the fraying sinews of my body are alight with an fiery determination to leave it all on the mat tonight. As well I should be so purposed - after all, my instructor this evening will have nothing less from me.
The Monkey emerges from the back of the school, nondescript in the billowy black pants of our school’s uniform and the green tank he seems to reserve for occasions only as special as what we now fondly refer to as Late Nite Kung Fu. Taken out of context, it could be the title of a post-dinner, weekday talk show, or maybe a sitcom. The thought stabilizes me some. If I couldn’t maintain some sense of humor while running these gauntlets, I doubt I’d make it through intact.
Well, mostly intact.
I stand as he approaches, already maneuvering one foot to the rear in anticipation of what is always the first drill of our sessions. He doesn’t even feel the need to give the order before he takes his position alongside me.
My imaginary trajectory rockets forth like a firecracker and I steel my legs. In a lot of ways, this is the hardest part of training with Monkey: his unrelenting focus on fundamentals makes no one exempt from drilling the body mechanics of our most basic stances and techniques. I try not to let my body remember that this is the week I chose to get back into the gym and my muscles already feel somewhat gelatinous from pushing myself on the machines. Sure enough, it is not two lines in before my thighs begin to burn and my body encourages me to break posture. I straighten my legs, seeking momentary release from the rushes of discomfort attacking my thighs, and it is then I am reminded of who I am dealing with. Monkey snaps a quick order to retake my position and continue. One more line down and back. “Rest,” he instructs, and my left knee meets the mat. I breathe out hard.
We go again, progressing through the four walking stances: mǎ bu (horse stance), sì liu bu (four-six stance), gōng bu (bow stance), and xi bu (false stance). Sixteen total lines, thirty seconds rest between each set of four. I cringe, recollecting how long it’s been since I trained this way, and how much strength had waned in the meantime.
Prior to earning a black belt at Shaolin Wu-Yi, a student learns the four primary kung fu weapons: staff, broadsword, spear, and straight sword. Nunchucks, though not a weapon traditional to kung fu, is also taught. Generally, students are encouraged to choose the versions of weapons that best suit their ability to effectively wield them: for example, while I am adept with a nunchuck made of dense wood, I much prefer rhutan, as it is more responsive to my movements. However, given that my current physical goals involve getting stronger rather than honing my individual techniques, Monkey drives the weapons segment of our session down the path of most resistance.
As he scours the racks for the heaviest versions of swords, spear, staff, and nunchucks he can gather, I try to refrain from guzzling the gallon of water that’s going to get me through this evening. The Dragon’s voice echoes in my head, parting the bees like Moses in the Red Sea, don’t tank up. Monkey returns, and an armload of weapons meets the mat with a dull series of thuds and clanking of metal. He unsheathes his own straight sword and flips it over, extending the handle to me. I have always admired Monkey’s sword. Shaolin is inundated with weapons, and straight swords come in many colors: three types of metal, an array of tassels, and various designs adorn them. Each is balanced in its own way, some less efficient than others because of it. My own is spring steel, not as whippy as the wushu version, but not as weighted as combat steel. It sports a bright blue tassel, leather belt strap, and upon the hilt the emblem of a bat in a distinctly Chinese style of illustration. Monkey’s, though not sharpened, is completely rigid from the tip of the tang to the handle and due to its three-dimensional blade outweighs my own sword by a significant amount.
The task was simple enough: do my straight sword from (San Tsai, or “three treasure”) as quickly and as cleanly as possible. My first run-through is expectedly, inconsistently unclean. The weight of the sword disrupts my usual rhythm until I am both blending maneuvers and skipping them altogether as I attempt to muscle the weapon into the proper positions. Still, Monkey praises my energy as I retake my ready position and shake the sweat from my hair, breathing hard.
“How much more do you have in you?” He asks. The question isn’t entirely left field. As much as possible, Monkey strives to reach a new level of depth in each of his students. I like to imagine he is an explorer in the deep recesses of some intricate network of jeweled caves, looking for something never before brought to the surface. It’s not a glistening gem or flowery shoot, he’s not interested in that. It’s a nondescript thing, I envision, like a chunk of coal. A piece of soul. A reason for everything someone does, including kung fu.
“As much as you want to take, sir,” I reply, without hesitation. When I had nothing left, I’d let him know.
“Eibei,”he orders. “Take three deep breaths, then explode.” I nod, feeling those alight fibers of my body and mind tightening into a glowing center. I trust Monkey implicitly, inhale deeply, and close my eyes, breathing out.
We proceed through two more run-throughs before he is satisfied, and move onto staff (an iron version that weighs 6.5 lbs), then nunchucks.
While my nunchuck form has a long way to go, I am continually proud of the progress I’ve made since I started learning them over a year ago. My dexterity has increased significantly and I am able to spin them much faster now than before. Monkey was happy with my initial pace and expressed as much by raising his voice loud over the mix tape playing in the background and commanding me not to slow down from there. Still, cracking yourself in the back of the head with a pair of the densest nunchaku in the school has a way of interrupting your flow. As I sit here narrating this story, I can still feel the bruise on the back of my skull. Anyway, I press onward, and only have to do this form one time.
Last was saber, following a rest period and some concentrated focus on straight sword techniques. Four weapons down, one to go. Seven Star Saber (performed with a broadsword) is a common form taught in traditional kung fu schools. Any search of Google or Youtube is bound to turn up videos of the various interpretations. Unlike straight sword, the broadsword does take some inherent muscling to maximize the effectiveness of the techniques.
Three deep breaths. On the first run-through, I feel a blockage of energy as much of it is redirected into my arms trying to work this heavy-ass piece of metal into the right positions. My strike extensions suffer, I finish with energy to spare, and my instructor is not impressed. Monkey picks up the staff that has been idling patiently on the floor at the edge of the mat and slings it across his shoulders. He indicates for me to go again with a warning, “if it’s not going to tax you, we’re going to do it until it does.” I nod respectfully, and go again. Three deep breaths.
You’re here, Monkey is fond of reminding me. You might as well do it right.
I have no perception of time at this point. My arms and legs are coated in a thin layer of sweat, making me feel feverish underneath the flourescent lights. My hair, recently cropped, drips endless beads of the salty stuff into my eyes; I wipe it away futilely.This was my idea, I remind myself. Monkey drew the staff - the prototypical Northern style, thin and made of flexible waxwood - away from his shoulders and held it at his side, the instrument with which he will make corrections to my form. Here, at the last leg of our session for this evening, training will test what little strength I have left.
In the days prior I had requested that during the upcoming training session Monkey coach me through my most basic white belt sequence (Lien Huan, the “continuous linking fist”) move-by-move, making intricate, detailed corrections to my form. But Monkey has a vested interest in another of my forms, Xiao Hu Yen (”small tiger swallow”), an intermediate Long Fist sequence that became a focal point of empty-hand training during our sessions leading up to my first-degree black belt test in August of last year. Xiao Hu Yen is a much more advanced, technical form than Lien Huan, and demands far more of the body in terms of raw strength, stance fluidity, and explosive energy. To go through it move-by-move will be no walk in the park.
“Eibei,” he orders, and calls for the first maneuver. Much to my surprise, he makes no corrections on my first move. Small victories. The next series, however, I repeat no less than ten times. By the halfway point, my legs feel like Jell-O, and after breaking my posture to go down on one knee more times than Monkey can tolerate, he begins counting down from three every time I give in to the discomfort. The countdown only expires one time before the the pros of breaking posture cease to outweigh the cons.
One day, Monkey hopes to open his own school. Once he acquires his third-degree black belt (he’s close), he’ll be permitted by the laws of our governing federation to do just that. When I was a younger belt, getting to know him, I considered him overly cold, calculating, and generally insouciant about his students’ mental needs. What appeared to the untrained eye an instructor who relentlessly pursued perfection at all costs was, I realized - once I’d been initiated and awakened - actually an incredibly cognizant instructor with an innate sense of when to push his students and when to back off. Even more surprisingly, his method of encouragement (which, in the background of a training session is so gruff and loud it more or less may as well be the primal chanting of some tribal leader egging you into the great wide world of your own capability) does not rub me the wrong way. I have always been the more mellow student, sensitive to harsh orders and susceptible to a low pain tolerance. I have worn the attitude of a defeatist and lost my mojo time and time again. But training with people who understand you and know what you’re capable of (and if you’re acting on it or trying to be sly and skimp) has a way of making all the suffering seem inconsequential. You obtain a willingness to suffer to achieve something invaluably great and begin seeking every opportunity to eat bitter.
Xiao Hu Yen comes to a close and I bow, returning to my ready stance and hoping for one specific order. “Rest,” he acquiesces, satisfied. Happily I return to the benches alongside the mat, holding the gallon of water in my lap and gently pounding my sore thighs with a closed fist.
“Let’s do another,” I grinned. Monkey smiles from the center of the mat and gestures for me to take my position.
Unsurprisingly, the next form Monkey chooses to correct is Lien Huan. Given that is is the form every student has known the longest, and the form most foundational to the rest of the curriculum, Monkey was neither reserved in making the most microcosmic adjustments to my technique nor hesitant to reprimand mistakes with a quick snap of the staff.
About a quarter of the way through, I perform a maneuver that, as it turns out, I have been executing in the incorrect stance nearly as long as I have been training the form. Consequently, I remain in this stance until it is perfected. Monkey circles me, making minute corrections to my posture, foot placement, and hand techniques. The horse stance I am attempting to maintain begins to take its toll on my legs again and once I venture to straighten them, breathing out a sigh of momentary relief and allowing my high block to collapse upon my forehead. Monkey doesn’t miss a beat, his countenance hardening. He gives but a moment’s pause to correct myself before slamming the staff into the mat and shouting “go!” I sunk back down, taking a deep breath as I did so. Come on, Goat, I encouraged myself, piggybacking my internal dialogue on how much I really did enjoy training the way one of my favorite badass black belts trains.
Mindset is such a fickle thing.
when your body gives out.
“Lower,” he orders.
My posting leg quavers, protesting against muscle fatigue, as I attempt to obey. It is the final two moves of Lien Huan when the previous two hours of leg strain begins to catch up with me. While I am typically acutely aware of physical pain, training with the Monkey has a way of dulling the din of pain in your mind until it is no more vociferous or pervasive than any other thought. Train long enough with him, and you forget altogether what your body is (or isn’t) capable of. While this may seem dangerous, I find the the greatest student-instructor relationships are those built on the premise of trusting submission to the instructor’s will. More or less, as Monkey does not allow for me to give less than everything I have, it is easier to persuade myself to keep going. Perhaps it is the taskmaster in him - indeed, it’s hard to listen to your own head when all you can hear are shouted orders not to quit, give in, or crap out. But muscle failure was impending, the magnitude of which I was not yet aware.
I sink lower in my xi bu, and a spasm of searing pain rips down my inner thigh. I clutch the area, and in a quick attempt to relieve the pressure, straightened up. Punitively, the muscle contracts again, and I collapse onto the mat. Following one more failed attempt to stand, the pain erupts into a continuous wave of the searing, I’ve-been-stabbed sensation that characterizes most cramps.
Monkey had been watching sympathetically while I was standing, attempting to do what I’d been trained to do when a muscle spasms (stretch it out), but upon my meeting with the mat he dropped his staff and came to my side, giving me calm, firm orders to relax as he massaged my leg. My response was not so composed - I writhed and cried out as the afflicted muscle was forced to loosen. Only one thought eked its way through the veil of pain: I was grateful Monkey was there and able to help. My pain threshold often presents itself as fairly unimpressive, and while I had, in the dead of night, been the victim of more than a few always-unexpected charlie horses, I’d never otherwise experienced a leg cramp.
Hydrated as hell, it could only be due to muscle fatigue or, as Monkey detected later, once we were both home, a pinched nerve around my kneecap. Or both. That massage made the impromptu one during our training session seem like a cakewalk. Perhaps it was because I requested that he work on the muscle more (it still felt tight) or because the gentler he was the longer it would have persisted (and my pained cries were already threatening to wake the Dragon, sleeping down the hall), it was a quick but painful session, and a full recovery followed in the next two days.
Monkey massages the burning muscle for another few seconds while I attempt to obey his order to stay calm. Very anatomically-minded (a knowledge base that lends itself greatly to martial arts training), Monkey is as firm with his efforts to heal his students as he is to instruct them. That said, I don’t know of many of his students that have been on the receiving end of one of his patented massages. They’ve actually become somewhat of a commodity in our household - Monkey’s ability to knead out stubbornly tense knots comes at the cost of what is no trivial discomfort, but coupled with a day’s rest and an Epsom salt bath, the results are well worth it.
Back on my feet, the pain has all but subsided. I bounce on the balls of my feet and shake my afflicted leg, breathing out in relief and wiping my face on my sweat-soaked school tee, smiling abashedly at him. You need to stretch every day, Monkey would later command, knowing full well I’d been skimping on serious leg stretches. He allows me a few minutes’ rest before we finish the last two moves of the form, and break.
While Monkey runs through his own three-sectional staff form, I carry the empty water jug to the locker room for a refill and check the time. I know we are nearly done, but I almost want to admit to Monkey that I could keep going, that I’d be excited to keep going. But real life has to take precedence at some point - Monkey, a college student, will need to be up in a matter of hours to go to his morning classes, and I could do with some rest, myself, following the crippling muscle spasm. I return to the mat, and Monkey directs me to my position for one final form - Lien Huan, done at full speed this time. One, two, three, he counts my breaths.
While it was not particularly brilliant, and my stances weren’t nearly as low as they could have been, nor my techniques as clean as they ought to have been, I must admit that strangely, I didn’t much mind. When I was starting out at Shaolin three years ago, I thought that there was only one way to train: do your forms at their ideal rhythm, every time, until they were perfect. But Monkey has alerted me to the fact that you can take one form and use it as the medium to train all kinds of things, one at a time. You can do it fast, training your speed, explosive energy, and fast-twitch muscles. You can do it strong, harnessing your power. You can do it move-by-move under the watchful eye of someone who can spot your mistakes, improving your technique. Or - as it was while I flew down the mat, my maneuvers eliciting those guttural, passionate kias from my gut - you can do it just for the sake of doing it. Because if I had any energy left, it wasn’t in my body, or my mind. It was in my heart, my heart for this awesome thing that I do, that so many of us do. If you have a golden attitude about your art, if you truly love it, then of your mind, body, and heart, your heart will be the last to give out. No matter how grueling it is or how bitter it tastes, you’ll find something to smile about.
All I can say about that Lien Huan that is any definition of redeeming is that, man, I loved doing it.
The music cut, a silence had fallen over Shaolin. In the wake of a hard two hours’ training, the mat was littered with weapons and workout equipment. While Monkey changed clothes, I put things away so that in the morning everything would be prepared for Sifu to begin another day of classes. I imagined the students, young and old, pounding the same thick canvas that had been my entire world, lending their own blood, sweat, and tears to the tapestry beneath our feet.
I change in the tiny locker room, feeling chilly as I shed the sweat-soaked shirt and pull on my favorite blue sweater in its place. In socked feet I plod to the front of the school, hitting the lightswitches as Monkey sets the alarm and we exit the front door. As he slips the key into the lock and turns it, it sticks in the usual place. He muscles it into position and withdraws it, giving the handle of the school’s front door a testing shake.
“See you at home,” I smile, stepping off the curb into the arid night. I count my breaths on the way to the car. One, two, three.
The sparring culture in HEMA really aggravates me. I always see people venerate sparring and tournaments as the pinnacle of skill - even seeing people from different clubs recommend having people come in and spar on the first day.
I first started looking at the sources in 2009. At this point in time the ARMA was still a bit relevant, at least to someone with no clout in the community like me.
Anyone who’s watched John Clements for more than ten minutes can probably figure out that his language is tinted with a weird strain of hatred for Traditional martial arts.
It seems to me, at least in America, that there are a few key reasons that HEMA involves so much sparring.
1. Western Pragmatism dictates we need something by which we can objectively grade a subjective quality - i.e. fighting skill, so we may test and experiment with things (If you can’t make your interpretation work in sparring, it may need work).
2. A strong aversion to Bullshido where “masters” hide behind stupid reasoning and refuse to prove themselves. Bullshido very obiously isn’t a uniquely american phenomenon but it takes strong precedence in a country where you have lots of people with the time and money to afford martial arts practice but live in a society too far removed from the source of a discipline and too ethno-culturally divided for meaningful exchange of high level abstract ideas across cultures.
3. By association, a strong aversion to traditional martial arts that do little or no sparring, because by association we can conclude that if A) sparring is a direct quantifier of skill and B) Bullshido assholes refuse to spar because it would betray their image, then C) Traditional martial arts must all be bullshit because they refuse to come out into the open to verify their skills in sparring.
Oh and let’s not forget
4. I’M A MANLY MAN AND I NEED TO HIT THINGS TO FEEL LIKE A MAN YEAH LONGSWORD UNF UNF UNNNNNNNFFF (but we’ll talk more about this later).
The internet was full of this rhetoric in the early ‘10s.
I’m not here to explain why various martial arts may not spar (that’s a post for another time, maybe tomorrow), but here’s the thing. Plenty of martial arts DO spar, or at the very least have non-choreographed highly-resistant free-form practice (the difference being it may be more of a restricted ruleset than sparring, or have a different training method or goal).
The thing is, many of them wait a long, LONG time (compared to hema-ists) before they start sparring. Oftentimes years before anything coming close the intensity of a HEMA tournament.
I’ll relinquish some information about myself. I practice Wing Chun. I wasn’t allowed to even watch people play Chi Sao for the first year or so. It wasn’t until after my first year (about 14-15 months) that I was allowed to start Chi Sao. I’m approaching 3 years of completed training. It’ll probably be at least another year or two (possibly longer) before I can look at Chi Geuk and a few years after that until I’ll be able to look at full contact, upper and lower body sparring.
Is that necessarily the right way to do things? that’s not up to you or me to decide. However, what I will say is this:
Sophisticated martial arts systems require constant dedication and practice to become fluent in.
Sophisticated techniques require months if not years of practice to be able to fluidly apply under pressure.
The addition of lethal weapons to a combat system further sophisticates the system as now extra dynamics must be taken into account.
Systems of weapon combat then naturally require years of training before a student is readily able to actually apply what they’ve learned (beyond the basics) in a high-pressure, dynamic context - and by apply, I mean cleanly - the right place at the right time.
It is true the overall skill level in HEMA is increasing. It is true you are starting to see more techniques in tournaments - however this is primarily only visible amongst the HEMA elite - the people who’ve already been doing this for a decade or more who get paid to teach seminars around the country/world.
Go look at an international HEMA tournament. Then watch an international karate tournament, an international kudo tournament, kendo, BJJ, sanda, Olympic-style fencing. Then ask yourself if handing a student a sword on day one
(or even on day 150)
and shoving them into sparring is a good idea.
Sparring is a skill. Two people with no unarmed experience engaging in a fun little back-and-forth aren’t sparring. They’re rough-housing. A couple of newbie sword students going at each other aren’t sparring. They’re rough-housing with swords. And that’s what I see in tournaments.
And of course, please know - I am also shitty at HEMA sparring - because I do not practice as much as I should ;) But I will at least be the first to admit to my own inadequacy here.