Friday, September 5, 2014

I'm a LARPer (and I'm okay)

For most of us, the martial arts are basically a hobby like any other.  For some of us, it's something we adapt into our daily life more than "casual" members of our community.

We are - well, most of us are - studying techniques generally intended to help us should violent conflict arise.

But to do that, do we really need to do everything we do while we study it?  I'm talking about the social customs adopted from eastern cultures, the terminology, the costumes, the art, the social order... all of these things we do as well as studying how to be the face puncher vs. the face punchee.

Yeah, so, not so much like Zach Braff.
I submit that martial artists consist of a fandom, much like the fans of certain films (for example, The Lord of the Rings or The Avengersor television (like Star Trek or Supernatural) or literary genres (big ones - now with films as well - are Harry Potter or the The Hunger Games] or music (Juggalos) or fashion trends (Steampunk) or model trains (The National Model Train Association), or vintage baseball (Vintage Base Ball Association) or glass collecting (Just Glass)... the list goes on and on.

There is literally a subculture for anything you can think of in this world. Anything at all.

Accordingly, much of what we do results in Live Action Role Play (or LARP).

Honestly, I don't think this image of a young man coplaying the anime series Afro Samurai:
Image found here.

... is so very different than this:

Image found here.
We might say, "Yes, but what we learn is meant to be used in real life." 

Sure, okay.  In real life.  In YOUR real life.  The one with the job, the family, the lawn, the dog...?
  • When do you expect to be in a sword fight of any kind?
  • Do work hard on mastering techniques for use on a battlefield (and you're not in the military)?
  • When are you actually going to get into a serious (non-tournament, non-sport) stick fighting duel with another skilled stick fighter?
  • Do you walk around everywhere barefoot?
  • Do you own more than one pair of camo or tactical pants, and you are not in the military nor a hunter? Ditto combat boots?
  • Do you own armor? Do you ever wear it?
  • Do you have a Bruce Lee quote for every occasion?
  • Do you study stealth and assassination, and you're an IT guy in the United States?
  • Do you spend an inordinate amount of time mastering weapons that are blatantly illegal to own, use or carry outside of a training context?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but you're just another variant of this guy:

Image found here.
The truth is, most of us will never be in the situations we are training for, unless we deliberately seek it out (being in certain jobs in the military, or security, or hanging out in bad neighborhood bars...) and even then, only a fraction of what we study will apply.

We are no different than the guy sparring with padded weapons out at the Renaissance Festival.

These guys have more combat experience than most of us do.
Image found here.

Of course, sport arts tend to be somewhat exempt from this statement, but even in there, there are sometimes elements of LARPing to be found.

We martial artists are Live Action Role Playing much of the time.

Now, I realize when you read that, you probably cringed and said, "Not me! Not my school, not my style, not my teacher!"

Yeah, you.  And me, too. And all of us.

Because this:

And this:

Image from here

And this:

And this:

... are essentially the same thing, call it reenactment, cosplay, or LARPing, or martial arts class.

I know we think, somehow, that we are different. We don't want to believe that, at the core, we are playing a game, like the guys who joust at Scarborough Fair.  There are fantasy elements in the martial arts for each of us, as the odds of actually using 99% of what we learn are slim at best.

So, I say, celebrate your LARPiness.  Embrace it.  It's the honest thing to do, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, if you enjoy it.

I'm a LARPer too, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

On that note... in the vein of Monty Python's "The Lumberjack Song":

I'm a LARPer and I'm okay,
I wear a gi and fight each day.

I punch the air, I kick and jump, I'm learning Japanese
I live in Bee, Nebraska, and I will never leave

I love my sword, I slash and cut, I love my martial art
I find this really useful while working at Wal-Mart

I grip my stick, I swing it hard, I can twirl it all day long
When I get pulled over, I hide my balisong!

Make up your own lyrics and post them in the comments!  Embrace your LARPing!  For Pete's sake, just have fun!