Lessons From Martial Arts – Part Two

“Fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes.”

From Emma Kathryn

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As many of you may well know, I am a fighter. An actual fighter. I’ve trained in boxing, kickboxing, muay thai with a dash of grappling thrown in for good measure and I’ve had many fights. The truth is I like a good tear up. I know, it’s strange, well, to most people at least, but what can I say other than I’m a strange kind of woman!

I have written on this topic before for this site and you can read that article, the part 1 to this part two here.

So why a part two, you may well ask. As with most topics of interest, they become even more so when discussing them with others (that’s why I think community, or rather solidarity within communities is a good thing, and also why I like the open and honest discourse between people). So I was talking with an occultist friend of mine the other week, and the topic of fighting came up. I think I mentioned how fighting can have practical lessons in witchcraft as well as in life. Anyway, he asked me what it’s like to get hit in the face.

It’s a common question to those who don’t fight, even to those who might train but don’t spar or fight. The idea of putting yourself in that situation, with the full knowledge that the person standing in the opposite corner is going to try to hit you, to hurt you even, is so alien to people. It is a weird scenario to put yourself through, and no matter how well I might try here to explain it, unless you’ve gone through it yourself, it really is hard to comprehend.

I think he was quite surprised with my response, because I told him that getting hit in the head, or even the face doesn’t really hurt. Yes, you might get rocked, or even knocked out, but the actual blow usually doesn’t hurt all that much at the time, thanks to our amazing bodies and adrenaline. The real pain comes when you take a body shot, a punch, or worse, a kick, to the liver or to the floating rib. Oh my goodness that pain!

So why a part two? Well, the answer is that fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places  left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes. I honestly believe that my training (over ten years!) and my fighting have given me good insight and experience to extend that fight into other areas.

Stepping into the ring, or even the gym might not suit everyone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share those lessons I’ve learned in there with others who might put them to good use. I often like to say that we should never choose to stop learning, to stagnate and that there are always new lessons to be learnt.

Start Small

Within the fighting world, when reputable fights are held, opponents are always closely matched where ever possible, including aspects like weight and experience. You’d never put your first time fighter in with a world champion. Why would you? It doesn’t make sense, after all, the aim of the game, or the fight rather, is to win, and it’s the same in real life when it comes to fighting, to resisting, to building that solidarity within your community, whether that’s the physical community where you live, or one you belong to because of some other shared feature.

It’s okay to start small. In fact, you have to.

I’ve written here before about how the state undermines communities so that people become disassociated with those others who are like themselves in some way, and how when that happens, the common feature they share, in this case, the land, is then attacked, usually for profit that will disappear never to be seen by anyone in the community.

In instances such as this, the first step is to get together with your neighbours. Talk and discuss but also laugh, have fun and build those connections, those links, friendships even. That is where true resistance starts, because it won’t work if we don’t stand together.

Just this evening, as the last of the open green community spaces is about to be stolen from this already poor estate where I live, I was talking to my neighbour, laying plans of attack. Attack isn’t always physical, at least not at first. It must start somewhere.

No Fighter is Alone

Before a fight, unless it’s a last-minute replacement, usually due to injury, you have an eight week fight camp. Every fighter will train on a regular basis anyway, three, four, five times a week perhaps, but eight week fight camp is something else. It’s eight weeks of gruelling training, six days a week, sometimes twice a day if you’ve got weight to cut. You’ve got tough pad sessions, sparring, conditioning, road work. It’s not fun (only kinda, in a weird way).

But in all of that, you’ve got your coach. My coach is the best coach! He really is a great guy who goes way over and beyond what’s expected of him for his fighters. Weekends and holidays spent travelling around the country, unpaid, cornering fights (many amateur fights too, amateurs do it for fun, unless you’re really something else, there’s no money for the fighter, and thus, the coach. It is a labour of love!).

It’s your coach who has your back. My coach is one of the old school kinds, but he will beast you and tell you straight when he knows you are slacking or can do better, but he does it for your own good.

Then there’s your team mates, your fellow fighters, your squad. These guys go through it all with you, the pain, the hours in the gym, the strict diets and tight weight cuts. They get it, they understand, and on fight day, when it’s a lot of hanging around going through the weight checks and the medical and the waiting, they are there and you can talk to them knowing that they totally understand what you are going through at that exact moment in time. It’s a kind of solidarity in itself.

In resistance, we are not alone either. Community is the key. Solidarity with those who face the same threat. Building links within your community can start with something as simple as going for a drink with your neighbours (does anyone in the UK remember the time before all the local pubs were shut down? Is it just me wearing the rose glasses of nostalgia that seems to think that something has been lost in the closing of such places, places where people could meet and drink and talk about the shit that affected them?).

I was just talking to my sisters the other day about the games of rounders people from the estate would play on those long summer nights when we were kids. Sometimes they’d start just by a dad taking his kids and their friends on the field for a quick game, but before long there would be about twenty or thirty people , adults and kids, having a great time, all for free. Hopefully, we can revive such traditions, because community links are important.

Every Fighter is Alone

I know, I know. But it’s true as well. Because, as a fighter, no matter how good the team behind you, when you step into that ring, it’s all down to you. Yes, you have your coach in your corner and your friends and family in the crowd cheering you on, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ve just got yourself to rely on.

In life, no matter the support systems we may have available to us, it is up to us as individuals to decide for ourselves the fight we want to fight. Physical fighting might not be for everyone, but there are other ways to join in the fight against empire, the capitalist empire that crushes all beneath it in the name of profit.

Last week, myself and around seventy others from the estate went to a meeting set up by the council regarding the proposed redevelopment of where I live (an excuse to build houses on the only bit of land left to the community). My neighbour, an elderly woman who’s lived on the estate for god knows how long, stood up to the council, and she uses her power and knowledge as a councilor to fight them wherever she can. Shes’ already responsible for making the council come out and say they will no longer look into the compulsory purchase of those privately owned houses, a minor victory in the scheme of things, but major to those who risked losing their homes.

Know your individual worth, develop your individual skill set, whatever that might be, because it is only by those individuals making those small lonesome acts that the community can then come together in a more organised way.

Keep Your Head

Finally, and perhaps most importantly is the very sound advice to keep your head. Don’t lose your cool because you have a set back, or even a loss. If you lose your head in a fight, it’s bad news. People who don’t fight think that anger in a fight helps, but it doesn’t really. It might spur you on to train harder, perhaps when you fail at something, that kind of anger makes you keep at it, but anger bordering on rage is not good. Once your head goes in a fight, everything goes out the window, the game plan, the advice from your coach, even your own common sense.

I’ve seen it happen, when fighters get so frustrated in a fight that they end up not fighting to the best of their ability and then lose.

The same is true in life, in every aspect of it. In the fight against empire, keep a cool and level head, even when things get hard. The opponent want’s you to get frustrated, to make a mistake , to lose pace and give them the lead.

How many uprisings never happen because those who would take part are too busy arguing amongst themselves on social media? You’ve seen it yourself, I’m sure, people arguing with those who really are not too far removed from themselves, over a word or phrase misused or misunderstood or some other minor miscommunication.

So there you have it, just this fighters tips she’s learnt in the ring and shared in the hope that they will help others too!

Resist beautifully people, in whatever way you can.


Emma Kathryn   

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.

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Lessons From Martial Arts

You can hear the crowd quieten down, hear the MC as he introduces the next fight. You’re in a corridor, waiting for your name to be announced. This is the quiet before the storm. When the intro to your entrance music starts, so does the adrenaline. You’ve worked out to this song, pushed yourself to your absolute limits, endured pain and sacrificed so much, and in those first few bars of the song, all of that, the grit that got you through it comes back. And then it’s time. You walk out through the crowd, not really seeing them, so focused are you at the task at hand. You climb through the ropes and get your gloves checked by the ref whilst your coach utters the last bits of advice, wipes your brow with vaseline, but not too much. When he leaves the ring, that’s it, you’re on your own. The stare down when the ref calls you and your opponent to the centre of the ring, then back to your corner. You wait for the bell to clang, to call you into action. It’s time.

From Emma Kathryn

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I am a kickboxer and boxer. People are always quite surprised, when on meeting me or coming to my home, that I am a fighter. ‘But you’re so ‘small’, or ‘so nice’ or ‘so quiet’, they say when they see my trophies or photos, but the truth is I just love to fight. There is something so addictive about it, about that whole world.

I’m so very lucky to have such a good gym in my town. It’s becoming world-famous and just seems to breed good fighters. My coach is the old school kind, the kind that’ll shout at you and beast you, but he’ll also do anything for his fighters, talk about going the extra mile.

As I write this now, it is Christmas eve eve, but now, as you read this it is NYE eve, and naturally, for many, as the new year fast approaches, we start to think about the year past, our achievements and failures, and we think of the coming year, and what we hope to achieve.

Now, I’m not generally one for new years resolutions, so I thought I’d share some of the lessons I have learnt from martial arts, and how they can be applied to everyday life and the good fight. To any kind of fight or struggle really. Because nothing is ever given for free. We must take it, and we must do so through action.

Anything Worth Doing Is Going To Be Hard Graft

How many of us know this truth. When training for a fight, it gets hard. You ache all the time, sometimes you feel like absolute shit in the gym, like you just cannot do it, and the same is true in life.

When having to go out to work all of the time (and as I write this I am currently half way through five days of twelve-hour shifts), as well as fit in family time and all the other stuff we have to do, it can be easy to step down from our beliefs and morals. They get squashed out, or squeezed in when we get five minutes and in doing so something, quite a lot in fact, is lost. We become mere shadows of ourselves.

Sometimes even the most hardcore of us feel low, and might even question whether or not they can go on, whether they have the energy to do so. When faced with the giants  of governments and capitalism, it can seem like a colossus task, and we all have probably asked ourselves when feeling vulnerable just what the point is. It’s at this point when we must remember and take heart from the fact that anything worth doing in life is never easy. It takes time, effort and sheer will.

If You Don’t Believe, You Won’t Achieve

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My coach often says that, when preparing for a fight, if you don’t truly believe in yourself and your ability, then you will lose, and he’s right. You have to have the right mindset and attitude.

I’ve often heard people who don’t fight say that they think all fighters are cocky and arrogant, and in a way they are right, and that’s because in the fight game, you must have that kind of self belief and confidence. If you don’t think you can win, then why bother even stepping into the ring? I have lost fights before, and the main reason for doing so is a lack of confidence, for whatever reason, on that particular day.

We all have bad days, and that’s okay, but if you don’t have that inner belief and confidence in whatever it is you are trying to achieve, then you are already fighting an uphill battle. You’ve already beaten yourself.

So what can you do to foster self belief? Well it is hard, but it is something that builds up with experience and effort. Sometimes it’s only when we look back that we can admire our wins and achievements, that we realise, that actually, we can succeed. So whatever you want to achieve, start small. Find that small spark of courage within and tend it. Feed it. Keep at it and it will grow and burn bright.

Hard Work Beats Natural Talent

We all know those people who are good at anything they turn their hand to. Some folks are just naturally talented. They just seem to have that knack. But as my coach says, hard work beats natural talent any day of the week.

Natural talent can only take you so far. Anyone who trains in any kind of sport will be familiar with that one person who is just good at what they do. But what often happens, particularly as they get older, they spend less time in the gym. I can remember, at an old kickboxing club, at an interclub tournament, I was matched against this woman who everyone thought was the bees knees. Even to the extent where someone asked me if I was sure and had I agreed to this fight. But, I knew I had put the hard work in, trained hard and trained well and I came away with a unanimous win.

So the point is, work hard at what you do, at what you want to achieve. Don’t let things slack off, because it is easy, oh so easy to do. So many people whom I admire work seemingly tirelessly at what they do. One of my friends is always out and about, demonstrating and protesting against fracking, she puts me to shame. Another comes under fire all the time for standing up for what they believe, for sometimes saying stuff that they know is going to lead to another shit storm because others won’t like it. It’s hard work, but you know what, they are winning. And they are winning because they put the work and effort in, and in doing so inspire so many others in so many ways.

There’s No Such Thing As An Undefeated Champion

So, okay, technically there is, strictly speaking, but the point I’m making here is that those fighters who have lost and then come back to regain their title are often treated like heroes of epic proportions, fighters like Ali, for example.

Losing is shit, excuse the language, but it really is, in fighting and in life. So, over the coming year, do not get down hearted over workings that, well, just don’t work, for whatever reason,or setbacks in your environmental and political fights. It is how we deal with these losses that counts. Pull yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on it! Which leads on, naturally, to the next lesson.

A Loss Isn’t A Loss If You Learn From It.

And my coach is right about this one too.

I once lost a fight because my opponent managed to keep me away with side kicks. She was a lot taller than me, and I couldn’t get close enough to utilise my own skills. I was so pissed off afterwards, because I felt like I hadn’t really been in a fight, and lost anyway. It was so frustrating. So we went back to the gym, and we drilled getting in close, blocking, movement and other techniques, and you know what, I’ve never had that problem since.

So, whilst losing is crap, don’t get so down hearted that you don’t come back better and stronger.

Look at Rhonda Rousey, MMA megastar, she really did so much for women’s fighting. Love her or loathe her, there’s no denying what she did for her sport. But when she lost to Holly Holmes, and devastatingly so, she never really recovered from that loss, at least that’s how it seems to the outside world.

So dismantle your losses. Look at what you did and learn to be constructively critical of yourself. Pick yourself apart and figure out what you did wrong, what didn’t work and why, but also what did work and why and how can that be replicated across other areas.

If you learn from your losses and defeats and come back stronger and better, then you haven’t really lost at all.

Be As The Elements

No shit! This is actual advice from my coach.

Earth equals stability, essential for balance and power.

Water equals fluidity, the smooth swiftness of a roundhouse kick, or the flow of a combination.

Air equals space, and the use of it is what separates good fighters from great ones, the ones who can slip and weave and find the space to get a shot off, then move again to avoid being hit.

Fire is, obviously, that passion, the fire that gets you through the pain and the tiredness and the sheer hard work and effort.

The sorcerers among us will already, no doubt, be familiar with the elements and their attributes. We can use this same philosophy in life, in our own fights and struggles. Stand strong, but also be fluid enough so that you don’t stagnate. Find your niche, your space, what you are good with, your talents and abilities, and use them in whatever areas you are passionate about.

It Only Takes Three Steps…

…To take the centre of the ring. When the fight starts, you come out from the corner. Controlling the centre of the ring shows dominance and puts your opponent on the back foot. Sometimes, that distance from your corner to the centre can seem like a mile long, but it only takes three steps to claim the centre.

Do not be ashamed to start small. Take those first three steps, start your own journey of resistance. Everything gets easier after that, or you get used to it, you’ve already gained your momentum. You just have to start. You’re already here, reading this, on this website and that can only be a good thing!

So there you have it, just some of the teachings given to me by my coach, and by martial arts. Of course, there are the more obvious lessons, like how to fight, because self defence is never something one should take lightly. At the very least, you may as well go down swinging, you might as well fight back when your backs against the wall because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Violence is often the last recourse of the oppressed and down trodden.

So a big shout out to my coach and friend, Dean, head coach and owner at Suggy’s Gym, and let 2018 be the year of Resistance!


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magick, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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So You Want to Fight Back

 

Mural commemorating the Battle of Cable Street – from Wikimedia Commons

The election of a fascistic demagogue to the Presidency of the United States is a crisis situation. Many people who felt reasonably safe before the election no longer do, and many people who were never safe now face even greater threats. A wave of harassment, violence and intimidation has swept the country, and many people who have never previously trained in self-defense or martial arts are now expressing an interest in learning how to defend themselves or others if they ever need to.

I’m not interested in telling any of you how to feel about this. If you hate violence and could never imagine fighting no matter what, I have no criticism. If you’re an active anti-fascist eager to confront white supremacists, I have no criticism of that either. What I do have is experience, so I’ve written the following guide for those of you who may be considering training for the first time. In honor of Macha, may it prove useful.

Self-Defense

Most peopleincluding many martial artistsaren’t really aware of this, but self-defense and martial arts are two different things. Martial arts are systemized methods of fighting. Self-defense is the art of keeping yourself and other people safe from aggression, which most often involves *not* fighting. A good self-defense program should emphasize personal safety policies, situational awareness, verbal de-escalation skills and that sort of thing. Any fighting techniques should be extremely simple, easy to apply under stress and geared solely toward creating an opportunity to immediately flee. Self-defense skills should empower you to intervene against a harasser using non-violent verbal methods, while retaining the ability to get physical as a last resort and then safely escape. Unfortunately, many self-defense instructors teach unrealistic, overly-complicated fighting techniques that cannot be performed easily under stress, and then encourage an overly confident if not belligerent mentality given that the techniques themselves are ineffective. Some of them also verge on victim blaming by emphasizing “what you should have done.” Self-defense training is definitely a case of “buyer beware.” Look for a program that emphasizes a broad range of skills and treats fighting as a simple set of skills for the purpose of escape.

Martial Arts

Martial arts can provide you with the physical skills you need to fight in your own defense or the defense of others. The most popular and widely-available martial arts include Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Capoeira, Eskrima and Krav Maga along with combat sports such as boxing, wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts. These are all very different disciplines, designed for different purposes and using different training methodologies. If you want to take a class in your local area, you should consider your own security needs (the most likely threats you face) and physical capabilities, then select from the classes that are available to you. The following guide is based on my 19 years of experience training in several different arts as well as my experiences in real life. Some of these comments may sound critical toward one art or another, but they are not meant to be disrespectful. An art may be beautiful, rewarding, philosophically sophisticated and well-worth practicing in every way without necessarily being appropriate for real encounters in the modern world.

Muay Thai: a kickboxing sport from Thailand. Muay Thai techniques are designed to knock an opponent unconscious or otherwise render them incapable of continuing through powerful strikes with the fists, feet and elbows.  This art is realistic and effective, but may work best for someone with a high level of physical fitness and few restrictions on mobility.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu: a grappling art from Brazil. This is usually considered the gold standard for grappling arts. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is based on “groundfighting,” or grappling once you are already on the ground rather than in a stand-up fight. Some BJJ schools teach that 90% of fights end up on the ground anyway, which is not quite accurate. It can be a bad idea to bring a fight to the ground if you are under attack from more than one person, because the other attackers can hurt you while you are down on the ground grappling with their friend. However, BJJ techniques were specifically designed to enable a smaller, weaker person to prevail over a larger, stronger person through the intelligent use of leverage. If you are not physically large enough to use punches and kicks effectively, BJJ can give you the tools to defend yourself regardless. Judo and Japanese Jujutsu teach similar skills.

Mixed Martial Arts: MMA is a sport-oriented combination of elements from Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and wrestling. Many people are put off by the brutality of professional MMA competition, but for realistic self-defense purposes it would be hard to beat this curriculum.

Karate: Karate is an art from Okinawa, which is currently a part of Japan. There are many different styles of karate, and they are not all equally useful for self-defense purposes. All styles of karate are striking and kicking arts, but some emphasize solo forms practice or “kata” while others emphasize no-contact or low-contact sparring, board-breaking or full-contact sparring. Kata practice is intended for in-depth physical study of the classical Okinawan fighting techniques, but because it is solo practice it does not effectively teach the control of distance – which is the most fundamental point in a real fight. (This is not to say that kata training is not worthwhile, only that it doesn’t teach fighting skill unless combined with fighting practice.) No-contact and low-contact sparring do teach the control of distance, but the absence of hard contact prevents the fighter from getting accustomed to the pain, speed and intensity of a real encounter. Breaking boards is for public display, and has no relevance to real fighting. Karate styles based on hard-contact sparring are the most effective in terms of realism, but the macho atmosphere of many karate studios may be off-putting. Beware of “McDojos” teaching watered-down and ineffective versions of this art.

Taekwondo: Most of the comments about karate apply equally to Taekwondo, with the additional concern that the sport of Taekwondo emphasizes high kicking to an unrealistic degree. A high kick can knock an opponent out instantly, but it can also put you off-balance and leave you vulnerable to a throw or takedown. Taekwondo can be effective if you keep these points in mind.

Kung Fu: Kung Fu is a generic term for Chinese Martial Arts, including hundreds of different styles. Kung Fu is an endlessly fascinating topic with great depth and spirituality, but most styles of Kung Fu were designed and used in a very different context from the threats you may face today. Just to give one example, knowing how to use Baguazhang’s giant broadsword might have been very practical for a 19th century caravan guard, but it’s not so useful for a modern person being jumped on the street by a gang of bigots! Styles of Kung Fu that do emphasize realistic modern fighting skills include Sanda/Sanshou (Chinese kickboxing), Wing Chun (a kind of bare-knuckle boxing style) and Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s creation). Tai Chi – a popular style of Kung Fu featuring slow movements in training – is not a realistic option for self-defense with the exception of a very small number of schools that teach it as a fighting art. Many Tai Chi practitioners assert that they can “turn an attacker’s force against him” without any practical fighting training, solely due to the art’s superior movement principles. (Instructors of Japanese Aikido sometimes make similar claims.) To put it bluntly, this is not reality. Arts of this type can be effective for self-defense, but only when taught with a fighting orientation.

Krav Maga: This art is not likely to appeal to most political radicals due to its association with the Israeli Defense Forces. However, it is one of the few arts to strongly emphasize self-defense against random attacks using improvised weapons, and it was originally developed by Jewish anti-fascists in 1930s Czechoslovakia.

Capoeira: This is a unique striking and kicking art from Brazil, usually performed to music in a dance-like way. Capoeira’s  techniques include cartwheels and handstands, giving it a much different look and feel from arts like Muay Thai or Karate. This art is likely to be highly appealing to radical pagans for two reasons: it was invented by slaves fighting back against oppression, and it has deep historical links with Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomble. However, it takes many years of training to be able to use Capoeira effectively for self-defense purposes. For this reason, if you are interested in Capoeira I would suggest studying a more direct and simplistic art at the same time so that you develop the skills that will keep you safe.

Eskrima: Eskrima, Kali and Arnis are generic terms for the martial arts of the Philippines. Like Kung Fu, there are many different styles. However, most Filipino arts emphasize the use of weapons such as the stick or knife. They can be useful if you carry a walking stick and want to know how to use it for self-defense, or if you are actively involved in militant anti-fascist activities.

HEMA: Historical European Martial Arts, including historical weapon arts such as longsword and broadsword fencing, historical wrestling arts such as Ringen and more recent arts such as La Canne (French stick-fighting), Bartitsu (Edwardian-era self-defense skills) and so on. Many fascist groups have expressed an interest in these arts because they see them as “white martial arts,” despite the fact that Black fighters are clearly shown in some of the medieval German manuals, or that La Canne and Bartitsu instructors openly allied with the radical Suffragettes to defend protest meetings in the early 20th century. Like Eskrima, most HEMA styles involve the use of weapons. FAR (Fighters Against Racism) includes several prominent HEMA instructors.

Combatives: Combatives are simplified fighting styles taught without the cultural elements of traditional martial arts or the competitive aspect of combat sports. They began as forms of military training, so they were designed to provide realistic (and often extremely brutal) fighting skills that could be applied easily under pressure. Most Combatives are based on old training manuals from World War II or before, but some are newer systems. Although most of the surviving Combatives manuals are of military origin, skills of this type were also practiced by partisans and resistance fighters for the simple reason that they are effective and easy to learn. Definitely not for the squeamish.

The Fight Back Collective

Training in a martial arts studio may not be ideal for people who already feel vulnerable and threatened by the resurgence of the Far Right. Martial artists of all political persuasions can be found, but in general martial arts culture skews to the Right and martial artists tend to idealize concepts like strength, courage and “warrior honor” that can have fascistic overtones.. Many martial arts schools are run according to strict hierarchical ranking structures, and some instructors expect to be treated with extreme deference. Some abuse their position in various ways. If you want to study martial arts, look for a school that is openly inclusive and welcoming to all different types of people and that does not encourage macho posturing.

If you’d rather avoid these potential issues entirely, another option is to train with a few friends using freely-available information in a non-hierarchical context. You can focus on whichever aspects of training best fit your needs, and grow in skill together without worrying about ranks, tests, money or competition.

To help people do this, I have created a group called the Fight Back Collective. The FBC is a place where people can come for information that will allow them to train alone (if necessary) or in a small group (ideally) without any formal instructors or hierarchy. Anyone who has useful information can share it freely, and bigotry, posturing or intolerance of any kind will not be tolerated. I’ll be providing useful information and training tips for free to anyone who needs it, and I invite other experienced martial arts instructors to do the same. If you can travel to see me or help me get to you somehow, I am also available for free in-person training. I’m sharing this information to be of assistance to you, but I will not be anyone’s “sensei.” If you have something useful to share with me, I’m just as happy to learn as to teach.

The Fight Back Collective is meant to be as inclusive as possible, so if our material is not working for you in that respect then we will do whatever we can to create material that meets your needs.

The fact that so many people are thinking about the need for self-defense shows that these are dark times indeed. Most of us would far prefer to live in peace and many find even the idea of fighting to be repellent. However, the threat is real and we must respond to it somehow. For those who choose to respond by learning how to fight, the Fight Back Collective is meant to provide an alternative.

No ranks, no hierarchy, no nonsense. Just fighting back in solidarity!

Christopher Scott Thompson

cst-authorChristopher Scott Thompson became a pagan at age 12, inspired by books of mythology and the experience of homesteading in rural Maine. A devotee of the Celtic goddesses Brighid and Macha, Thompson has been active in the pagan and polytheist communities as an author, activist and founding member of Clann Bhride (The Children of Brighid). Thompson was active in Occupy Minnesota and is currently a member of the Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, an anarcho-syndicalist organization. He is also the founder of the Cateran Society, an organization that studies the historical martial art of the Highland broadsword. Thompson lives with his family in Portland, Maine.


Christopher Scott Thompson is the author of Pagan Anarchism, released earlier this month from Gods&Radicals. To get a print copy, go here. It’s also available as an ebook.