All the West Wing fans out there will know what I’m talking about by a Lemon-Lyman moment. In one of the early seasons, Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, discovers there’s a forum out there on the web dedicated to “all things Josh.” Never having posted on a forum, Josh blithely begins commenting and replying to the community, not realizing how seriously forum participants take things. By the end of the episode he’s made a fool of himself and the Press Secretary’s threatening physical violence if he ever posts on a website again. So I know better than to randomly post stuff. I participate in maybe two children’s writing forums, and before I click that comment button, I read my contribution fairly obsessively to make sure I’m not about to pull a “Josh.”
So why I posted last night on boston.com as the 82nd comment in response to Peter Funt’s article comparing Mixed Martial Arts to dogfighting, I really can’t tell you. As soon as I did it I was pretty sure it was a bad idea. Actually I do know why I did it: my leg hurt so badly I could barely walk on it, and I was working on a very strong martini I mixed up as a direct result of the sore leg. At the time, it seemed like the absolutely right thing to do.
For those of you who are visiting this page for the first time, I just spent the last six weeks or so completing revisions for THE BONESHAKER, my first YA fantasy. As a result, I skipped muay thai for six weeks–just didn’t have time, between my full-time day job and the almost-as-full-time writing that needed to be done. I went back to class on Wednesday for the first time, and back to sparring yesterday. It was so good to get back. A couple of people even commented that I seemed to have come back better after taking a break. My kru, Brandon, gave me a really high compliment: while sparring with him, he landed a nasty leg kick on me. One of the guys in class (who also instructs some students of his own) told me that was one of the meanest kicks he’d seen Brandon throw in a sparring class. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it sure felt like it. By the time I got home, I could barely walk on it. So I took my dogs out and hobbled around the block until I wasn’t limping anymore, came back in and mixed a martini. I got on Twitter and saw my husband’s re-tweet of fighter Joe Lauzon’s response to Mr. Funt’s Boston Globe op-ed piece: “The Disturbing Appeal of ‘Human Dogfighting.'” I read the article. I read Joe’s reply. Then I read the 81 comments others had posted to Mr. Funt. Then I wrote a reply myself and posted it. I got up this morning and re-read it, dreading what gin-fueled typos and mixed metaphors I was doubtless going to find in my post…and decided that I liked what I said. So here it is.
The nine preceding pages of comments have provided excellent rebuttals to Mr. Funt’s article, and UFC fighter Joe Lauzon wrote a great response on his website (http://joelauzon.com/blog/2009/07/a-poor-comparison/). I wanted to give my perspective, particularly to those who responded to the argument that MMA involves willing participants by asking why people can’t find something better to do with their time than fight, and who think MMA breeds some kind of culture of aggression, and to those who accused MMA fighters and fans of the sport of being “degenerates.”
I’m a girl. When I was 10 I played soccer and softball. When I was 14 I was a dancer. I have two bachelor’s degrees. I manage a boutique in NYC, working 40-60 hours a week. I’m a soon-to-be-published children’s author, (a second full-time job). For almost the last year (which anyone here that follows MMA will tell you is no time whatsoever) I’ve trained in muay thai, a centuries-old martial art that’s a cornerstone of MMA. Muay thai provides much of the standup striking MMA fighters rely on: punches, elbows, knees, kicks. I got into it because of my husband, who’s since taken up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which provides much of the on-the-ground submission technique in MMA.
I’m not a professional fighter, and muay thai isn’t MMA, but it’s fast and full-contact and it involves a lot of those shots to the head that seem to bother everyone. I spar regularly, with no more protective gear than a mouthgard, gloves, and shinpads. I take shots to the face. I take kicks to the legs and body. I regularly walk into work with bruises. One of these days I just might get a bloody nose, and if I do, I’ll tap gloves with the person responsible and tell them it was a really good shot. Then I’ll clean myself up and get back in the ring. I’m not an aggressive person. I have never been in a real fight. But nobody worries about me walking home late from work, I have less anxiety than I’ve ever had, and I’m in better physical shape at 32 than I was at 18. If I had the time to train for a real muay thai bout (and muay thai IS sanctioned in NY) I would do it in a heartbeat, not because I have a deep-rooted need to beat some other woman up, but because it is something I love to do and part of the joy of it is pitting one’s skill against someone else’s. As far as I’m concerned, MMA is just a bunch of guys (and some amazing women, by the way) who train in not one martial art but many, and have chosen to make this their livelihoods.
When I have a daughter, if she wants to learn a martial art, I will be delighted. Even if she just wants to play the piano, she’s still going to learn a couple chokes and a few decent strikes because in the same way that a girl should never be without spare change for the phone, every girl should know how to throw at least a good jab-cross-hook-uppercut combo.
If she wants to, we’ll let her stay up late with us to watch the UFC, too.