This blog is part of the Scáth na Feannóige/Shadow of the Hooded Crow project exploring fénnidecht as a practice to follow the War Goddessses, Badb, Macha and the Morrígan whose name is Anann. This is a less formal place for me to discuss various issues of interest to someone on a modern version of the Outlaw warrior path such as physical training, history, Old Irish literature, pop culture inspirations, werewolves, ecstatic trance (okay, I find that one tough to write about but I may try), gender issues the wilderness....


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting back "on program"

After an active rest followed by a deep blow to my life (if you're reading this in a personal blog, you know about this already...but this is cross-posted), I want to say that as of tonight I am returning to my fitness program. Other training, however, may still have to wait.

For the past few of weeks the only exercise I've had has been cleaning stalls, hauling hay (and not much), loading wood stoves and walking patrols at work. Tonight I did some chin ups, push ups and crunches. It's a start, considering I'm also not sleeping well and am just plain emotionally exhausted.

I'm posting this mostly because by doing so I know I gotta stick with it. And because, perhaps for the first time in my life really, I need motivation.

Time is going to be an issue for the running, but I might have to just add a small horse (with a choice of three, with a fourth one possible if he starts getting healthier....I'm not trying this with my filly right now) to my run rather than longeing them. That should be, um, entertaining? Especially for the dog.

Fight training of any kind, especially regular martial arts classes are just out right now. I had actually hoped that we might be able to swing once a week classes, but those are over an hour away from here and with our extra work load at home there is no way. I do have some firearms classes coming up next year and had planned to refresh my tracking skills a bit...however, the latter I might just send my mate to alone, as one of us does have to be here and, honestly, with a daytime schedule he'll be up for a multi-day workshop more than I will, and have him help get my skills back up. The shooting stuff I'll get too...one day classes I can do. I think...uh, not looking forward to the driving AND staying up all day.

I need to be back on track...this is part of my healing, it's part of dealing with the stress. I must remember Sarah in the psych hospital, still training against all odds.

Then we'll see about writing again.


cross-posted to my blogs, Sarah Connor Charm School fora, Hooded Crow and Women of Strength LJ communities....sorry not links, that means altering them for various fora and I'm just too damned tired for that.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Some great entertainment stuff from Athletic Women Blog

Rob Mars of Athletic Women Blog tells us about a really exciting looking movie coming up called Rigged starring Rebecca Neuenswander as a martial artist who is brought into the world of underground fighting taking on male fighters. Neuenswander may be one to watch, she's been given kudos for her acting as well as her fighting and powerful physique; she's a former TKD fighter so she knows what she's doing there and packed on 20 pounds of muscle for the role. She's also an executive director of HALO, which helps orphanages worldwide, so she has a great heart too. Check out Mars' review here, along with the video he includes, and I bet you'll be waiting for your chance to see it too.

Mars is rightly horrified that I left out the ever buff Jessica Biel in my list in my last entry....in my defense I will note that she's a tad too young for the main character but another who is perfect for a younger partner role. She is one of my favorite strong female actresses, but, you know, anyone who is born after I graduated from High School is just too young for the starring role in my TV series. *snerk* Another post shows a video of Biel's training, check it out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TV: Where are the women?

I'm dismayed, yet not surprised, that I have only noticed one new network action type show this season with a woman in front. Last year we got two, but they were dismally bad, with one dying a quiet death and the other getting renewed despite destroying the entire premise of the movies it's based on (I won't go into that more as I've said plenty about That TV Show here already). This year the offering is just as poorly conceived and written and starts off insulting me as a woman looking for a good fictional heroine right from the start. Our first meeting with the female lead of Fringe she's having sex with her FBI partner, bringing home a major point of those opposed to having women in such jobs. I mean, could we gift sexists anymore than that? Oh, wait, it's followed up by her new superior calling her sexist diminutives with no action by her to stop him.

Never mind that the show is just poorly done over all. It gives us a "heroine" who we can only look down upon. It's sad. The rest are male led, most with female "sidekicks," a formula that really needs to die. It was getting old in the '60s.

Fortunately, cable's summer season gave us a much better female led series in In Plain Sight. Even better, it's supposedly renewed for a second season so we can again get a physically and mentally strong heroine on TV. Mary McCormack's character is strong, complex, gritty, down to earth and probably the best female character on TV. But somehow not enough. Well, because how could, in a sea of male action leads, can one female be enough?

I keep thinking about the sort of shows I want to see, the sort of female characters I want to see. And even McCormack's Mary Shannon fails a bit for me. Not that there will ever be perfection but I can hope for more.

Of course, I tend to prefer the supernatural and SciFi genres over straight cop shows, so that's what I'd like to see more strong female leads in.

However, no more female characters whose strength is "male created." That is no male mages giving the power (Buffy), no male scientists giving the power (both Bionic Women and others), in fact, let's not have her have any power. Just her own strength and skill that she's worked for. What ever the genre stuff might be, let's not have it be about where her strength comes. Because we want a message that women do not need to be given strength.

Therefore have her visibly physically fit, as well as weapon savvy, survival savvy and all. Let's even have training scenes to show this and inspire us. We can accept male teachers, we still live in a world where the majority of those teaching weapons and fighting are male, but let's avoid the mentor-daddy-figure.

And not a kid, someone at least in her thirties. And not trying to hide it, not angsting over it.

Let's skip the cliche that all partnerships have to me female/male if they're not male/female. If she has to have a partner/sidekick then let her have a female one. And not a femme to "balance her out" but also capable, complex and interesting in her own right.

Let's also skip all the dress issues that usually are played out. Neither have her dress femmy to try to make up for being tough nor have her phobic about wearing a dress. I'd want her mostly in tanks and jeans, showing off those muscles, but she should be able to pull off business wear when needed and not behave as if she's in a costume when wearing a classy dress. And never should she need to wear a trashy one.

Let's keep the private life private, no more than a hint perhaps. Certainly no sleeping with partners even if the partner is female. If we can't have an out gay or bi heroine, at least keep her sexuality ambiguous. Let her sex life be left to the fanfic writers, because they don't care what the cannon is anyway. And the show should be about her work or her cause or whatever.

She does not need to be emotionally shut off, however. Another cliche we can do without. A sense of humor is good, we need more of that. But let's not go over board on the warm fuzzies, again, there is nothing to make up for.

Of course, Rhona Mitra should be on the short list to star if we go on the young end. Followed by Gina Torres, Yancy Butler and Cynthia Watros. Linda Hamilton would be there but I don't think she'd have the remotest interest in this sort of role now, mores the pity. And McCormack is not included as I don't want this to replace In Plain Sight, I want that to go on for many seasons as well. Michele Rodriguez is apparently not too keen on long term TV commitments either, but if there is a partner she'd be a good choice as she's a bit too young for the lead.

These are just random thoughts of a frustrated physical feminist TV viewer while waiting for In Plain Sight's second season and to see if we have better luck with the networks next year. Of course, if anyone wants to act on them just let me know and I'll tell you where to send the check. ~;p

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Self-defense and acquaintance rape

One of the myths I've seen about women's* self-defense has been that it is only effective if the attacker is the "stranger in the ally." I've heard this, even, from some self-defense instructors which is truly sad (not the really GOOD ones, though), but it's most often heard from those giving reasons why it's pointless to bother to learn to defend oneself. It's usually the main reason, even, going along with "it'll make you take too many risks" and "a small woman with training is never going to beat a big man if he is trained too." The theory is that as most rapes and other assaults against women are committed by dates, long-term boyfriends, husbands, family members, supposed friends, business associates that either women are going to be unable to use such methods against someone they know and possibly care about and/or most of these assaults are really violent enough to warrant the abilities gained in self-defense training.

Why do these naysayers believe that a woman trained in self-defense is going to be unable to use it on a man who they know just because they know him? This seems to go back to the "nice girls don't hurt anyone" belief, that it's innate in our being as women not to cause anyone physical damage. However, we probably could, apparently, learn to hurt the unknown stranger in the dark alley. But never, ever, ever the guy that thinks he can hurt us even if he knows us.

I believe that part of self-defense training is that we learn that anyone who causes us harm is someone we can hurt in order to prevent ourselves from being hurt. It doesn't matter if we know him or not, if he's hurting us we have to get over any notion that we can't hurt him. This must be part of the process. Even if, ESPECIALLY IF, the abuse is long term.

But the notion that "date rape" and other acquaintance rape and abuse doesn't get violent has struck me as totally odd. Because battery and rape are always hand-in-hand. Yes, some date rape happens with only verbal coercion, but if that doesn't work it can quickly escalate. Even some situations where consensual sex is intended by the woman, things become violent...as is the case of someone I know whose date found himself on the floor after letting her know she had no choice in the matter, he liked it rough, on the woman, and fully intended to hurt her. She had full-impact training and she was not the one in the most pain by the time she walked out the door. (Remember, you can say "no" even after you said "yes," ANY time you no longer, for any reason, want to continue.)

Even in the most "charming" coercive behavior there is that threat that things could "get ugly" if the woman doesn't go for it. Many women who gave in to verbal demands, with no overt violent threats, have noted that even without it being stated they were afraid of being physically hurt if they didn't give in. In fact, I'd say nearly all. That "I'd be helpless if it got that far, he's bigger and stronger" message that is so prevalent in our society.

By having the knowledge that they have the ability to fight back if the man turns violent, women may be more confident in their "nos." Many times it probably will end there, other times perhaps they'll have to actually use those skills. But they'll have them. And either way, they're more likely to come out of it not having been raped.

Which makes me wonder...is that the sort of "risks" we're not supposed to want to take? Being more confident in the things we're doing, around the people we are with? I think if those are "risks" they're more than well worth taking.


*I'm maintaining the language that "he" is the attacker and "she" is the potential victim in part because this is a blog about physical feminism and mostly because these are still the higher odds. This is not meant to negate in any way that women are abused by other women, men by women, men by other men...or any possible combination. We do still live in a world where women are considered weaker, men stronger and this is the basis of much of the abuse women face from men and why the odds are still in favor of this mix. Physical feminism, in fact, seeks to remedy that by empowering women to find their physical strength....we do have it!

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Doomsday and my new girlfriend

We watched Doomsday today. I went into it expecting to hate it, due to many reviews. Now, normally, I don't pay much attention to reviews, but these included those whose opinions I do often agree on and many women who like strong female characters and those who love post-Apocalyptic movies. And they all hated it.

Okay, one thing pegged right is that it is unoriginal. But I always laugh at anyone expecting originality...seriously, there is no such thing. Not since the written word. Nothing has been original since long before writing, it's just a matter of story telling. I suppose what is meant is "I don't like the way this story teller tells this same old story." Fair enough....but I do wish people would stop using "unoriginal" in reviews. It's pointless.

Sorry...it's a pet peeve.

This is a self-admitted homage movie to begin with. So "originality" is even more of a non-issue. Yes, LOT'S of Escape from New York/LA in this...but I can totally live with the idea of a female Snake Pliskin. Yup, Mad Max is there. Personally, I do NOT get the references made to Resident Evil, other than it being a fairly recent strong female role offering, or, especially, 28 Days Later, other than a virus (but in this doesn't create "zombification" only death and all violence from the infected is response to the government and military treatment they get. Oh, perhaps anything about any disaster taking place in Britain has to be related to 28 Days Later? I don't get it...but maybe it was one of the movies Neil Marshall (writer/director, also of Dog Soldiers and Descent both of which had initially made me hopeful about this one) intended to homage...but I don't see it. Sorry.

Anyway. Of course, why I love it the most is all about Rhona Mitra as Major Eden Sinclair. She is a wonderful female action actress, having both acting chops and a great physique. She not only is muscular, with good arms but a totally enviable back, but is able to move and carry herself like an action hera. Her character has grit, something she's shown before (the physique I can't remember seeing, although I do know she did Lara Croft appearances, well, I doubt she needed it for that either actually...just the breast implants which, honestly makes me sad that she felt she had to do).

I also loved seeing Malcolm McDowell as a megalomaniac who takes over a castle and makes himself out to be a medieval king. I just know so many who would would do this if trapped in a disease ravaged Scotland. And, well, it's just such cheesily good role for him.

As an aside, I had a personal laugh from the Mad Max styled cannibalistic Marauders in Glasgow, when the leader, Sol (Craig Conway) is up on stage. Some time ago I wrote in a survivalist group meaning to say "fighting off desperate reavers" and left out the first "e" ...making it "fighting off desperate ravers." This led to many jokes about being bombarded with glow sticks and the like. But HERE was the reality...we do have to fear the ravers! At least when they get a taste for human flesh. Okay, not as funny to anyone else...but I must laugh for years over bad typos I make.

I don't know, I also found the idea of England locking off Scotland the way they did somehow pointed. And I like anything that shows corrupt government types. (and yes, I can see some Land of the Dead...but not the zombie movies usually mentioned...well, I guess there is the locking up Raccoon City in Resident Evil but not as much due to some of the general way it was done).

Oh, big personal pet peeve. Yes, as a female Snake Pliskin, Sinclair does have only one eye, her left. She removes and uses her artificial eye, which also serves as a camera, to see around corners and such. So, she's not got it in when she's running round with a gun..including with longarms. Uh, and there she is with in held right-eyed. Why the fuck can't anyone in the movie and TV world figure out that people actually can fucking shoot from their left side! This pisses me off! There is no fucking reason for this. Some people with two eyes are left-eyed (you probably aren't surprised that I am...hence my annoyance about this) so certainly someone who ONLY has a left eye should shoot from the left! With handguns it doesn't matter, with longarms it DOES. (btw, yes, this includes the makers of LOST...there's even an LOLOST type screen cap of Mikhail with the rifle lined up to his non-existent eye *sob*)

No, this is not a great movie. But it's enjoyable to watch if you truly love the genre and strong women...at least Aaron and I found it so. It may be too much of a cult homage to ever have a cult following itself. But Mitra really will should she get the right roles.

Because ultimately, it's Mitra who will get me to buy this movie to add to my "woman warrior" line up...although I'll likely wait until I find it real cheap (which I just tend to do). She seriously has to continue playing action roles, we need this! We need someone like this doing action. And this makes me so sad that this movie was so panned and flopped, that even genre fans talked other genre fans out of it (and, honestly I'm really disappointed in some writers that they didn't indicate being impressed by her, because she's worth raving about! FUCK!). Because I seriously want this woman to get these kinds of roles, preferably in really well done genre movies.

Mitra is totally my top vote for who should have been cast in a (far better written, of course) Sarah Connor TV series. She's got it all. The only problem I might see is that she does bear some facial resemblance to Linda Hamilton, not a lot, but enough that it might be seen as her being too much like her. But the real thing is that she's got both the physique AND the grit.

I am totally in love.

(Cross-posted in all my blogs, yes, including Championing Ourselves as well as Women of Strength LJ and all Sarah Connor Charm School fora.)

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thoughts on Weapons

A recent post on one of the SCCS fora about women and guns got me thinking about weapons and self-defense over all. Okay, I usually think about this a lot, but the past few days I've been thinking more about alternative energy and preparing for this coming winter instead.

When it comes to self-defense the first weapon is the brain. Train it. It really all comes down to knowing what you need to do and not letting your brain get in the way when the shit hits the fan. You need to be aware of what is happening, what dangers exist, what escapes exist, what methods will work and, very importantly, you have to not let your brain freeze you trying to sort it out. Which means you need to know how to get your brain to do this automatically, so it doesn't seem like a list of things to follow and instead all happens at once. And, if it comes down to it, your brain does have to get out of the way of the body when it has to do it's thing.

As it doesn't always have to "come down to it" remember that talking your way out is a good strategy when ever possible. So you must train your brain to read people not only to recognize threats but to find ways to dissipate threats that are happening. Conversational skills may not get you out of every situation, but they're not something to be dismissed as old fashion. If nothing else, they can buy you time, they can help you find weaknesses and it doesn't hurt in court if you say you tried to talk your way out first but were left with no choice but to do physical damage.

I'm not going to say "use your brain to avoid all dangerous situations." I actually hate that most "self-defense" advice tends to still start with this, even in an age where we have finally acknowledged that one of the most dangerous places for a woman can be her own home. And we do have a right to choose to do things and go places that might not be deemed safe, especially when we consider no place 100% is. Instead, I think it's important to always realize what dangers you face in any situation, in any location. If you choose to go to a isolated parking garage do it with your brain in gear, know what/who is around you, see everything you can, know where your best bets for safety are and know that you may well have to fight if the wrong person is in that van over there. And know how to.

Your second weapon is your own body. Train it. I think that full-impact self-defense training is vital for everyone, especially women and children. We need to know how it feels to hit full force, both so that we know that we are when we are but also to see what it can do. Martial arts training is great for long term conditioning of both body and mind for fighting, but it often involves NOT hitting other people full-force. I believe the best course is to combine full-impact self-defense, with refresher courses, and combat focused martial arts, but if you choose to only do one do the full-impact self-defense course. And practice it at home...preferably with a bag and not an unprotected friend. Think through the scenarios you are taught, get the body comfortable with the moves, practice them. Practice, practice, practice. And get the brain to stay out of the way!

Like any weapon, you should also keep your brain and your body in the best condition you can if you are going to depend on them. Yes, this means avoiding overindulgence in mind altering, which also affects the body, substances if you feel you may need that brain to protect yourself. It also means staying in shape. Getting and staying strong and fast enough to use what you learn, whether it's striking or running.

Now we come to other weapons. I'm all for carrying and keeping in the home legal weapons for self-defense. No matter how smart and strong we are, we're not always dealing with bare-handed assaults and being armed ourselves is a right we must practice and fight for. Whether you choose guns, knives, pepper gas, blunt weapons or a combination, the first rule is know the damn weapon! Like the brain and body, it takes practice and more so because it's not been a part of you before. Keep it/them in good condition.

Weapons are all around you, I refer to them as weapons-of-expedience, just let your brain find them and your body use them. Anything you can pick up, or even shove, can be used to defend yourself. Anything. I once used shampoo (having years of sensitization to the idea of being attacked in the shower.thanks to watching Psycho at a young age ...it turned out to be a prank by someone who was particularly stupid). A regular mental exercise for me is to walk into a room, identify all exits, inventory all people there if any and inventory the weapons-of-expedience all around. What can I throw, what can I hit with, what can I pin someone down it, what can I drive through someone. How fast can I get to each object before others in the room, what would be the best way to weld it, how much strength will it likely take, what might it do to the human body. And, of course, at home and when otherwise able, I practice with various objects so I actually have some idea of the answers to these things imprinted on my body.

If you do have a third weapon, do not forget the first two weapons. You need to be very sure that the brain can handle the weapon you choose. No matter how good a shot you are are, a gun is not going to save your life if you realize you can't shoot someone when the shit hits the fan. Deal with this possibility, the reality of what it would mean, think it through, BEFORE you get the gun. Just because you feel you can't, however, doesn't mean that you can't change that. If you want to have a gun for self-defense but feel you might hesitate to shoot someone attacking you, find ways to train your brain to over come this issue. Or find a different weapon.

Also remember that you will not have any other weapons but your brain and body with you at all times. Therefore continuing your physical training so that you can use just your body or weapons-of-expedience if your weapon(s) is/are not with you or if you have to fight to get to them. Also be prepared that in tight quarters the advantage of some weapons may be loss unless you are able to fight to maintain control and possession of them.

What ever you choose, it is the brain and the body that will always be with you. Treat them well, keep them sharp.

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The abuse of thin = fit

Recently a friend brought up the fact that, after a long bout with illness over the winter, she wanted to start eating healthier and get more fit. She felt this would help her immune system fight off such illnesses in the future.

The idea of starting such an endeavor, however, brought up negative feelings in her. She didn't want to be focused on "losing weight" because she had come to realize how abusive pressure by family members, as well as the entire culture, was for her. This struck a chord in me, regarding how our culture looks at fitness, at least in regard to women.

That bad relationships with food, eating disorders from anorexia to binging, usually have roots in childhood abuse has been heavily studied and written about. Some of these studies do venture into the issue of exercise, typically the abuse of exercise to reach dangerous goals. What I haven't seen addressed is what the constant message exercise is only supposed to be about getting thin makes any exercise at all seem to be giving in to the abuse for women who have striven to over come the abusive messages that they must fit an unrealistic ideal.

What can we do to over come this message, that fit=thin and what it does to women who have indeed felt abused in various ways by the message that thin=beautiful/feminine/the-only-thing-worthwhile/etc.? Not only for those suffering from eating and exercise disorders because they internalized this message into self-abuse, but also those women who have managed to gain a healthy self-image, who have managed to become strong and proud within themselves, yet find that considering exercise to become healthier and stronger brings up the old voices. And, yes, also women who are naturally thin and have been told that exercise is wasted because they already fit the "norm"...and also suffer negative health effects.

Because thinness simply should never be the main goal of fitness. Being healthy should. You do not need to attain a certain size, you need to keep your heart strong and keep your body strong. Because strength is what exercise should give you. Losing weight may or may not happen, getting strong will as long as there is no medical reason keeping it from happening.

My friend knows this, but I believe it's not been without struggle to live it, with issues that it brought up for her. I'm sure this is the case for many women. And my struggle is how do we address this? How do we find a way to promote fitness without echoing any of those abusive voices that are out there?

This is not something I'm going to be able to answer here. Because it's really a long road to undo this sort of conditioning. Especially as I see more and more diet companies and gyms focusing on "we all have our ideal weight" in ways that fail...that still give the message that it's not about health but about being thinner than you are now, even if you fail at being really thin. That feeds the same message, as far as I'm concerned.

The thinness message should be the antithesis of fitness! As Colette Dowling points out in The Frailty Myth thinness is about taking up less space in the world. About having less impact in the world. Fitness should be about having more impact in the the world. Being healthy enough, strong enough to do what we need to do.

Copyright © 2008 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann