Thursday, 31 March 2011

On Masculinity

This particular blog post has been formulating and gestating within me for over a week. The topic of gender is contentious and can be quite hard to put into words, which is why I've left it a while since my last post, since I wanted to do it justice. Caveat: I am a somewhat priveleged, white middle class cis-gendered man. Bear that in mind.

When I first stared Muay Thai, I expected I would be 'less than', given that I am a gay male. My sexual identity is so tied up with my gender, that I do not necessarily think of myself as simply a man; rather, I think of myself as a gay man. This particular qualifying adjective has huge ramifications for my sense of self. Since I am gay, do I not belong in a typically masculine environment? Will someone 'find me out'? How will I deal with inevitable questions and locker room banter?

To tell the truth, these questions and fears turned out to be largely unfounded. My kickboxing class is hugely inclusive, with a large percentage of women training on a regular basis. I have a sneaking suspicion that one or two of them are also queer, as well as a couple of the men, but as yet I have no confirmation. However, I have not come out as gay to anybody in class, even though this is my third week of attendance. Like all other relationships in my life, how I choose to share my world with others should be my decision. If somebody asked me outright, I would answer, but as yet that hasn't happened.

One old wound that I thought had healed was my vision of myself as delicate. Being a sensitive child, I was frequently told to 'man up' and to stop acting 'like a girl'. I have since carried into adulthood the belief that I cannot defend myself physically, that I can't do sport and I'm therefore not a real man.  Since starting Muay Thai, I have felt something stirring inside me. I originally thought I would feel 'butch', but that's not really the case. It sounds strange, but I simply feel more human. The resistance and push and pull against others is exhilarating. I feel strangely empowered when I strike a blow, and sufficiently humbled when my blocking is sub-par. This is connection - vital and strong - and gender does not have anything to do with it.

Kru said to us last week that we seek to include, not divide. He said that we should not have issues fighting somebody of the opposite gender to us. As a man, I found that to be challenging, given that we are taught that we musn't hit girls, but I wonder how empowering it must be for the women involved in our class - they come in, we are all treated as equals and some of them can beat the shit out of a guy twice their size.

For me, God Herself is pre-gender, post-gender and all in between. There is no power that is not Hers. There is nothing we can do that did not originate from within her teeming womb. Naturally, there are Mysteries out there that cater to certain chunks of humanity, but how simple it would be if we would recognise that there are countless traits, talents and interests to keep us all busy, regardless of what is between our legs.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

On Practice and Choice

I am sitting on the train heading back home to London after spending the weekend with my family up North. I'm thinking a lot about what Kru said on Thursday during class...he said that we practice the kickboxing moves alone and with a partner so that when it comes to a real life application of those skills (i.e. defending oneself from attack), then we know what to do because we have practiced the moves so many times that it becomes second nature to block and punch etc.

This is also the reason why I practice the core rites of the Feri Tradition on a (almost) daily basis. I align my soul, make myself kala, meditate and pray to the Beings so that when I am in true need of those states of being, they should come quickly and naturally. That's not to say that we practice just in case we need them one day...constant purification and alignment have a cumulative effect on one's soul.

Kru also described the power of choice. He said that if we wish to be effective practitioners of muay Thai, then we need to choose how to live our lives outside of the sit. He said we choose not to drink alcohol at the weekend and we choose to eat well, as well as running a few times a week. So too, with Feri,we choose to bring ourselves into alignment. We choose to say daily prayers. We do not do anything from a state of obligation, for that gives away personal power.

We decide what life we wish to live, and this is true of kickboxing as well as Feri, and we strive for that as best we can.

Monday, 14 March 2011


This is the first post of my new blog - The Mystic Kickboxer. Let me introduce myself...

My pseudonym, my nom-de-plume, is Harlequin. I am a Witch, a mystic, a shaman, a sorcerer, a conjurer...part of each of these titles resonates with certain aspects of my Self, yet none of them is all-encompassing as a term. And do you know what? I'm okay with that. I practice the Feri Tradition of Witchcraft, which is a shamanic path of fey sorcery, with roots in various paths and religions from across the globe.

The main purpose of this blog is to discuss the intersection between my kickboxing training and my Feri theology and praxis. So, let's begin!

I had my first kickboxing class today. I had thought about starting a martial art for a few years (ever since seeing Uma Thurman in Kill Bill) and a few people recommended Thai Kickboxing as an excellent martial art for fitness, discipline and self-defence.

I arrived at the sit (the dojo or training room) quite early, so I was able to watch the more advanced class train. What struck me was that the men who were sparring looked like something from a Greek myth - they were so archetypal and had a timeless quality about them. I was in awe of their strength, their composure, their self-mastery. These are indeed qualities I wish to hone for myself.

The lesson began but it seemed quite haphazard. The Kru (the Thai word for sensei or teacher) did not seem that bothered about each individual student. When it was time to pick partners for pad work and light sparring, I found myself without a partner. This did not bother me in the slightest, which was very surprising. I asked Kru what I should do and he motioned for me to move to the punchbags to practice the different moves we had just learned (which were the basic knee, elbow, punch and kick strikes).

I went away from the class and had time to punch the bag on my own. I'd never done it before but I reveled in the sheer physicality of what I was doing. There was no thought involved, just presence. It didn't matter if I hit the bag correctly - nobody was judging me. There were a few very experienced men also training on the bags, but I didn't feel at all intimidated. Rather, they gave me something to aspire towards.

The class itself was extremely tough...I've never worked that hard physically in my life, as far as I can recall. There were a few theological issues that came up for me to ponder, and I think I'll leave them for another day.

  1. How does the ritual of the fight relate to the Divine Twins?
  2. How does learning a martial art inform my view of Feri as a martial tradition?
  3. Is kickboxing an effective way of achieving self-mastery with the body?
  4. How does kickboxing practice relate to the Four Worlds?
  5. What are my issues regarding surrender, power and coercion in regard to fighting?
These are some very deep issues, and I'm sure I'll get around to unpacking them and exploring them further at some point.

For now, I need to go to bed having just eaten a protein-rich snack and drunk a glass of milk. I'm sure I'll be aching in the morning!