Our spaces are inclusive

Afternoon all. Despite a busy Tuesday getting the better of me earlier today I’ve finally found the time to sit down and write. That, just like training is always a good thing. When it comes to all things martial last week was a good one. Training is heading rapidly back on track and the balance I was lacking last time I spoke is starting to find it’s home again in several areas of my life. As always training is the one constant that’s there when I need it the most.

It’s been that way since when I began and I think it’ll be that way for the rest of my life. Staying focused on goals is pretty much second nature it’s just that my plate spinning skills were getting a little rusty. I spent the best part of last week at the gym, and I feel like I put in a reasonable amount of work despite some sessions being slightly shorter than I’d like.

Other than seeing my business out of lockdown and towards what looks like recovery I’ve been spending a great deal of my time as always busy with volunteer work in particular support work. It’s good to help others and it’s rewarding but ok, let’s not forget to focus on what keeps the lights on too.

Being honest though, I’m very pleased with the team that’s developed over the past 12 months. I think we’re turning into a formidable police monitoring group. Good timing? maybe it’s poetic justice. It’s nice to be able to put it all down in the evenings and get myself to the gym however. Switching off often helps me to switch on and it wasn’t until last Thursday did I really feel that things are heading back martially to a place I’m really comfortable with.

It’s a work in progress and there’s a lot of improvements that need to be made but that’s part of the fun. Martial arts is a journey and self improvement is one of the rewards. Well, for me it is anyway. It’s designed to bring out the best in people.

Despite some of the ego fuelled “it’s about respect! Muay Thai is about respect!” comments I’ve heard uttered over the years it’s very clear that for me, Muay Thai is about being the best I can be and sharing knowledge. In other words, it’s about helping others. Also and most importantly it’s about remembering that when we train together our spaces are inclusive. Everyone should be welcome but that doesn’t mean we should let them become toxic due to bullying, bad or racist and bigoted attitudes and such like.

I’m lucky enough to have trained at camps that have always had decent people present, despite running into the odd ego here and there I’ve never felt uncomfortable or just not wanted to be there. It’s safe to say my current gym of just over 4 years now is my home. Settling into a new club or camp isn’t as easy for some however.

Our old gym before we moved next door. Ok, I miss the big ring. I miss those gloves too.

A few years back (2018 if memory serves correct ) I headed out to Europe for the Freedom Fighters martial arts tournament in Poznan Poland at the truly amazing social centre Rozbrat. I’d read about gyms of a similar Ilk such as White Tiger in Athens before my journey overseas and it was quite honestly refreshing to go to a show that was so staunchly anti-racist at it’s core.

For those who don’t know the issues faced in Europe with the extreme right wing be assured the same problems exist here it’s just that the NF boomer club would have you think it’s free speech that we’re all getting wrong. It’s fair to say that then like now despite many gyms claiming to be a-political in nature it’s more commonplace to find right wing view points in combat sports environments than not.

Combat sports have always been and always will be pretty macho in their nature, so you could argue that a degree of chest beating is to be expected. There’s a difference between ego and hate, which is why after visiting Freedom Fighters I took a look at Runter Von Der Matte which does an outstanding job of not only exposing fascists in martial arts but actively promoting against allowing these sort of politics to enter our world.

It’s very easy to scream “but training! it doesn’t matter!” until something that’s way beyond toxic emerges on the mat. If our spaces are truly inclusive we need to remember that those kinds of views should not be made welcome. This doesn’t mean launching moral crusades but it does mean being a good martial artist and calling it out when you see it or hear it. At the end of the day, no one wants to train in a space labelled the home of racists.

The current bee in my bonnet has emerged primarily due to the current climate we find ourselves in within the UK where a hard right government quite happily denies institutional racism exists, police are due to be given increasingly autocratic and disproportionate powers and many of us are still wondering what the remainder of the year holds.

It’s fair to say if we have a place that is truly our own where we can just train we need to make sure again that our spaces don’t become toxic environments but remain in the spirit of martial arts a place of learning, tolerance and kindness. To me, these are some of the ideals martial arts gyms should strive for and it doesn’t make us less tough for showing from time to time, it pays to be human. Have a good week and train hard, and just like the last time.. I’ll see you on that road.

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