Training gets political

Hi. Despite rolling in fashionably late as always it’s good to catch up. I’m pleased to say I’ve managed to see procrastination off earlier than expected and as always it’s good to sit down and write. I’ve been doing a lot of that recently, from blogging, to speeches and poems about racism  (Thanks to Tash Roberts for creating spaces for black voices and for the fantastic art )and so called “patriotism” it’s fair to say I’ve been keeping busy. I’ve even started working on my “Last of the good guys” project again.

Other than keeping the creative juices flowing I’m still training from home and running regularly. it’s good to know we’re only a couple of weeks away from gyms reopening (fingers crossed anyway) and although it’ll be a tough stitch filled return filled with lower back pain and lots of griping I have to say I’m looking forward to it. Seriously though, I’m not that old. In fact, I’m confident that a return to the gym isn’t going to be as half as tough as I think it’s going to be.

It’s been inspiring  watching global protests against police brutality and systemic racism over the past few weeks, and it’s clear that it’s something that will continue for the remainder of this year. But, You know something? It’s also been interesting, infuriating,  and sometimes shocking catching the ignorant, naieve and outright racist views fly across social media, in particular Facebook coming from those you know, those you kind of know and those you’d rather not have anything to do with at all.

They are highly charged often angry and sometimes deliberately antagonistic. More often than not they are incredibly right wing, which has always been my personal issue with that particular political sphere. It gets shouty quickly and if you don’t like what it says it gets nasty, tells you to respect our troops, the flag and screams “all lives matter!”  or “traitor!” because you know.. “patriotism”.

And that’s fundamentally the issue in the UK as it is in the US. Inequality, intolerance of difference and vicious systemic racism, all seemingly amplified ten fold as most of us have been locked away in our homes due to inconsistent and incoherent messaging from the powers that be. Tempers must be frayed and cabin fever is clearly setting in for some. From my point of view, this doesn’t however excuse ignorance. Attitudes may be changing for the better but we have a long way to go before we make real progress.

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Black Lives Matter London. I’m genuinely sorry I missed it… 

If your an angry vilifed member of the white working class reading this blog, I feel your pain, but in order to understand ours it’s time to unpack the napsack.  I really do think it’s in everyone’s interest to take ownership of a global situation and understand that right now the fight is against white supremacy, racism and dare I say it priviledge  

It’s something that emerges not just in day to day life but in training circles too, and as gyms are universal, multicultural and generally friendly microcosms of life tackling ignorance and racism when it emerges in the gym is just as important as tackling it out of it. I don’t believe in giving it space to grow any more than you do.

Runter Vonder Matte! Kein Handshake Mit Nazis  (Get off the Mat! no handshake with Nazis!) is a project that tackles hate politics  in martial arts, in particular the presence of the extreme right wing and Neo-Nazi movements that have taken hold not only in Europe but in the United Kingdom too.

“Neo-Nazis in sports are nothing new – but their style in the gym and in the ring is. Various actors and structures organize and network in order to spread their misanthropic worldview. With hip designs, the fashion labels try to make their ethnic, racist and inhuman messages socially acceptable. We fight for fair martial arts without racism and prejudice!”

If your sitting on the political fence, feel that gyms are  Apolitical spaces or are as anti-racist as White Tiger and Freedom Fighters I’d like to think that fascists are the one set of people we can all agree no one wants in our camps or dojos. As we head closer and closer towards to a return to training as normal (whatever that looks like these days) we should take note of the political climate we’ve been in for the majority of this year.

Although we say we are the same,  if our training partners  are black, POC or from any other marginalized group they are likely to be treated differently by the police and overall system we find ourselves in. When they are training with us it may be their only safe space from the abuse and harassment they face in day to day life.

Being aware of this doesn’t mean embarking on anti-racist witch hunts  it just means being decent humans and talking to those we train with if we can see something is wrong and calling out bigotry when we see or hear it.  It means we need to be decent martial artists and look out for one another.

Maybe if we can do this in our favourite places we can extend that mentality to the rest of our lives too. Martials arts can be an incredibly macho and intimidating place at points, it would be good to see gyms state that racist and bigoted views are not welcome. I think personally think we’ve got a lot of work to do.

It’s going to be good to get back to training. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hitting the sofa cushion heavy bag later and yet again shadow boxing round the living room. Have a fantastic week, train as hard as you can and click your heels and wish for July. We’ve got alot of graft ahead as fighters and a long way to go as a society. Black lives matter. I’ll see you on that road.

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