Monday, November 22, 2010

Ooo, Snow!

I love the way my mind works. Put me in a warm, toasty room and show me a snowstorm outside through the window and my puppy-like mind says "Ooo, snow, fun! Walk! Walk!"

Wait, I say. You know it's cold out there? I mean, really really cold?

"Ooo, snow! Walk, walk!" The puppy-mind whines eagerly.

Look, I say, see how the snow's not falling gently, but cutting sideways with the wind?


I know where this will end. It won't shut up about how much fun it will be outside. Or would be if I would just let us go out-out-out. Out where it's not merely below freezing but the wind is enthusiastically cutting delicate skin with knifetips of ice.

It's snowing, slippery, and the wind is biting. Sensible people are inside, toasting themselves in the bliss of modern heaters.

Those without puppies in their heads, anyway.

I know I'll lose this fight, so I wrap up as best I can, pull on boots and out we go, my puppy-mind and me. Outside, it's dark. The cold quickly sucks away illusions of warm-and-safe. We walk down a quiet, icy cityscape that suddenly seems odd and wild.

"Ooo, snow!" says my puppy-brain.

Then, a few minutes later: "Ooo, cold!"

And then: "Can we go back now?"

Yeah, that's what I thought. But at least the whining will stop for a while.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Myth of Self-Defense

I'm pissed again. This is why I don't attend martial arts classes any more, why my answer to "what martial arts have you done?" is "oh, this and that."

Because most martial arts talk is posturing and pretense and ego, not much to do with effective self-defense. Which I do care about.

I'm not going off on a rant how most martial arts practices have little or nothing to do with self-defense, or how most MA teachers haven't a clue how little they know about what they think they're teaching. Heck, I'm barely going to touch on how much worse than useless most "women's self-defense" training is. All that would take a book. This one is a good start.

But I will say this: if someone you care about really needs self-defense, give them a few critical basics:

1. No matter how much experience they say they have, your teacher can be oh-so wrong. They don't know what you know about your body, your mind, or your self defense situation. And gosh, if they aren't listening to you, they know even less.

2. Anyone who won't talk to you about why they teach specific moves, who can't answer "but why not just walk away?", does not know what they are doing.

3. Belts don't matter. Martial arts lineages don't matter. The name of the school doesn't matter. All those weapons on the wall? The big, lovely Japanese kanji? Irrelevant. Absolutely irrelevant.

4. You don't need lots of fancy moves. More techniques isn't the answer. You need one move -- just one -- that works. Okay, maybe two. Listen: if it's hard to do when you're calm, on flat ground, in a well-lit room, how hard will it be to do in the rain, on slippery pavement in the dark? Those moves should be simple.

If you want a good teacher, find someone who doesn't need to convince you that they're a good teacher. Find someone who teaches out of their garage. Find someone who, when you learn a bunch of moves, won't give you a belt.

And to the guy who tried to teach me women's self-defense tonight, who is probably nearly as annoyed as I am by the experience, who thinks pain and damage are the same thing, who told me that if I raise my arm over my head I'll be taller than my attacker:

I hope you find out how how little you know before you teach this stuff to any other woman who might actually need to use it. But I bet you won't.

We don't really live in a very violent place or time. Most of the women who learn these "self-defense" practices will never need them. I console myself with that.

And yet, somehow, I'm still pissed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Making Relationships Last

Do everything else first. Just kidding.

I have an answer to the age-old question of making relationships last. It's really quite simple. Two guidelines:

1. Hear what you want to hear.

2. Anything else is small stuff. Ignore it.

You have to get past the idea of right and wrong. Communication in relationships is not about right and wrong and it sure isn't about peace, love and understanding. As Mr. Shaw says, "The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred."

We don't communicate. We think we have, and that's all very well and good, but mostly we haven't. Since we're hallucinating about communicating anyway, let's hallucinate in a way that makes things work better. Makes sense, right?

A bit more detail:

Hear what you want to hear. This is easier than it sounds, since most people use lots of words when they talk and. You're smart -- just pick out the words that work best for you. Once you practice this a bit, it becomes surprisingly easy.

Ignore the small stuff. People get into fights because they think something matters a lot, but the fight is almost never about the subject in front of you. No, it's about some deeper principle or universal injustice. Sure, fight for fun if you want to, but don't fight the wrong battle. And when it comes to relationships, it's almost always the wrong battle. The actual thing in front of you? Small. Inconsequential. Ignore it.

There you have it. Go on, try these two guidelines. If in 20 years you're not still together with whoever, well. I'll give you your money back. Heck, I might even admit I was wrong.