ready to strike

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I returned home Friday from the week-long Krav Maga training course. It was intense and difficult, and I won’t find out if I passed until sometime later this week. I am proud of myself, though, for completing the program – pass or fail, I finished the week without quitting and I gave it everything I had in me. I learned a lot from the course about teaching, about Krav, and about myself.

During the week, I received a publication acceptance – Clipper Ship Hauling Songs, a new online journal, took three of my poems, including “How You Learn to Fight.” I wrote this poem about 2 years ago, shortly after beginning my Krav training. I wanted to capture the change I felt, the strength and the sense of diminishing vulnerability. It felt so fitting to receive this acceptance in the midst of my Krav training.

You can read the new poems here.

so that one may walk in peace

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In three weeks, I’ll be departing for a week-long intensive training course in Krav Maga. The goal of the course is to be certified to instruct classes. If I am successful, I will be permitted to teach Level 1 (yellow belt) classes at the school where I train. 

My contract is signed. My hotel is booked. I have a handful of krav t shirts and plenty of gear (gloves, pads, mouth guards, etc.). I have spent the past several weeks preparing for the teaching portion of the course by attending a special class intended to reinforce our teaching skills. I will go to this class a few more times, in addition to the physical training I’m doing. 

All that’s really left to do is to go there. 

I have an idea of what to expect there. The week will be, essentially, 40+ hours of physical workouts, culminating in a 4(ish)-hour test on all the level 1 techniques, and a 2(ish)-hour test on my ability to teach those techniques. It will likely be one of the most difficult things I ever do in my life, both physically and mentally challenging.

I am excited.

I am terrified.

I know what I need to work on. 

I am confident that I can do this.

 

getting away, coming back

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This weekend was the 21st annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, hosted by Murphy Writing Seminars. As always, it was an incredibly fruitful weekend, during which I immersed myself in the work of four other poets as we helped each other de- and then reconstruct full length collections of poetry. It was a wonderful experience. 

On Sunday evening, Stephen Dunn and Tony Hoagland gave a poetry reading. I could ramble on about how amazing the reading was, but I won’t – if you have seen Tony or Stephen read, then you know that they are brilliant, top-tier poets, among the most talented and relevant living American poets. 

I will, however, say that Tony read a new poem that moved me in a huge way. It’s titled “The Roman Empire,” and in introducing it, he explained that it addresses a moment between a man and a woman – not a romantic moment, but rather the moment when a woman passes a man on an otherwise deserted street. She is nervous or anxious, and he can sense that his presence is the reason for this. The poem addresses this awareness by the man. 

The poem was lovely and necessary. I have spent so long being aware of (and focused on) the part of the narrative that acknowledges the woman’s fear and anxiety. So much of our cultural conversation is centered on the idea that women must take precautions, women must alter their behavior, women must be aware, always. My krav instructor even commented on this once – during a drill in which he acted as an attacker roaming the room, he noted that I always knew where he was. “Why is that,” he said, “Women always know exactly where people are.” 

But in being so focused on the female side of this dynamic, I entirely failed to consider the other side – the male perspective. It seems so simple, such a basic concept. And I’m sure one could argue that we shouldn’t worry too much about it, that living in the culture we do, where all types of violence are so prevalent, makes it excusable that I would lose sight of the other side of this dynamic. 

But this was a moment for me – a life changing moment. It’s so rare that we have them, and know that we are having them in the moment. But I felt that last night when Tony was reading. I was near tears, and I just felt like there was a window opening in my chest and all of this anxiety just fell out of me. 

i am working right now toward becoming a Krav Maga instructor. The plan at the moment is to go in March for a week-long immersion course, where i will essentially do nothing but train. If I am successful, I will come out at the end of the week as a certified instructor, able to teach classes. As part of the preparation process, I had to write a short purpose statement, explaining my motivation for training and for completing the certification. Among other things, I said this: 

 It is really important for me to directly acknowledge that Krav is a specific kind of mental challenge for me – it forces me to be vulnerable in ways that make me pretty uncomfortable, but I believe that I’m emotionally and mentally stronger for it now. I want to continue to push myself in that way because it represents for me a kind of healing that I don’t think I could have found in another discipline. 

I forgot, though, that poetry can be healing too. This weekend was a good reminder, and I will carry this poem with me as I move toward the Krav training. 

summer in review

Well hello blog.

The summer is over, and with it any vague ideas I had about blogging my way through it. Oh well.

Here’s what happened:
First, a road trip through West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee:

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Then, a really lovely birthday celebration with friends at Grounds for Sculpture, a local art park:

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These were the two big highlights, in between some other random and fun summery things:

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Will I be better at blogging as we move into the fall? Probably not. But that’s ok. 

If you’re really interested, you can see more photos from the summer, including my road trip and my birthday fun, at my Instagram page

Stop posting that viral video about the kid who wants to “Fitch the Homeless.”

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People. Please.

Here’s why:

In theory, this is an interesting idea.

Notice I said “interesting.” Not “good.”

In practice, it’s troubling. I think the kid’s intentions are not bad. But I also think he can’t get out of his own way.

The emphasis over the past few days/weeks since Jeffries’ statements hit the media has been on the “cool kids vs. not-so-cool kids” – so identifying the homeless as the “not-so-cool kids” that Jeffries intends to exclude only reinforces the stigma already applied to homeless people. It makes homeless people the butt of a joke, and that’s not ok.

I had this conversation with a friend this morning – she said, “What brought you to [the] conclusion [that he can’t see beyond his own privilege as a young white male]?”

This was my answer:

What brought me to the conclusion that he’s having difficulty stepping outside his own privilege is the fact that he doesn’t see a problem with using the homeless as a prop in his game of Takedown An Immoral CEO. That was the first tip.

Second tip was the fact that he made fun of Jeffries for the way Jeffries looks – attacking someone on their appearance when your problem with that person is that they attack people based on appearance is hypocritical and implies that he lacks a true understanding of appropriate social critique. It’s NOT, as I’m sure he believes, pointing out Jeffries’ own hypocrisy. Based on photographs I’ve seen of Jeffries, he is well-groomed, well-dressed, with white teeth, tan skin and a probably expensive haircut. I imagine he considers himself to be one of the “cool kids” that he intends to market to. So Jeffries isn’t really being a hypocrite there.

Also, did he really say “It was time to do some charity”???? I feel like “charity” is one of those words that isn’t *really* offensive, but it has a condescending connotation. You know who uses the word “charity”? The Real Housewives of Every City.

Then: “At first people were reluctant to accept the coats. Perhaps they were afraid of being perceived as narcissistic date rapists.” Ohahahaha let’s make a joke about how homeless people worry about being perceived as dbags and ignore the fact that the homeless themselves are at increased risk of violence of all types, including sexual violence. And let’s also ignore the fact that this is a population of people who suffer disproportionately from addiction, mental illness, significant health issues, and every day harrassment. I certainly would look askance at the white dude in nice clothes trying to hand me a random jacket.

But then! Suddenly! The heavens opened! And they embraced his charity wholeheartedly! And his expedition was a rampant success! I’m so glad that it was a success because golly if it wasn’t, how could he sleep at night in his warm bed?

And then the faux-modesty at the end – “I’m just one person. I can’t do it all, guys.”

And then I pointed my friend to this essay by Thomas McDonald, which is thoughtful and succinct and you really could have just read this essay instead of  listening to me ramble, so sorry about that.

More folks who thinking Fitching the Homeless is not awesome:
Feminist Killjoy
Jezebel
Yoga Out the Yin Yang

Want to do something awesome for homeless families in NJ? Check out HomeFront – volunteer, donate, be involved.