Booze, Sex, and a Bald Man: My Unlikely Romance with MMA
My husband smashed his nose and deviated his septum after face planting on a set of cobblestone steps in beautiful Carmel Valley. This must have been the late 1990s, and I believe the story goes he was drunk on daiquiris, or some other beverage we would later consider amateur in our late 20s. After this, his nose veered slightly to the right and I thought is was unique and fantastic for his face and personality—neither one of us are perfectionists—when I met him many years later. As an insomniac, the down side of his intriguing nose was a single working nasal passage that whined and snarled through the night. In his mid-30s, he decided to have this fixed…because of Joe Rogan. My husband was never interested in martial arts or UFC, but he was devoted to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and has probably listened to seventy-five percent of that prolific canon. My husband was distrustful at best of Western medicine, though he was exposed to a medical professional on a daily basis.
This was my first introduction to MMA. “Who the hell is Joe Rogan?” I would ask repeatedly with a confused expression through the pre and post-operative period. My husband would reply with the easiest thing I could grasp onto, “He’s an MMA announcer for the UFC.” I didn’t give a shit what MMA was. I was simply extremely enthusiastic for the prospect of a quiet man sleeping next to me. This was my first recognition that Joe Rogan was special. Now, I know he has a few other tricks up the sleeve of his rash guard.
Several years after Joe Rogan changed my husband’s nose and made my nights quieter, I began writing erotic romance. My stories are not like the usual Harlequin Romance or the emerging genre of more explicit mainstream erotica (50 Shades, Crossfire Series, etc). l conceptualize my erotica as magical realism with emotionally motivated, feminist porn. But I still read widely in the romance genre because its helpful to me as a writer. Sometimes its like junk food too. I relish those easily consumable stories that provide instant gratification. Some romance writers, like Katy Evans, are genius at initiating sexual tension that they superbly carry forward for three quarters of a book before they finally give you some satisfaction. In my perusal of the local drugstore racks, I found my first MMA based romance novel by Lori Foster, No Limits. I picked this up for the hell of it, because I was thinking a lot about dialogue writing and wanted a mainstream example. Simultaneously, UFC fight night was scheduled in Austin, Texas, where I live. I bought tickets to the event because of my romance novel. I didn’t know what MMA was and I didn’t know what the UFC was. I couldn’t figure out why the tickets were so expensive either. All I know in retrospect is that I was instantly intoxicated by the athleticism, courage, and determination of the fighters. The entire night felt like the bliss that I experience when I fall in love, recognize crushes, or have spectacular sex.
After this, I would sneak around the UFC gym that opened in north Austin, wondering if I could maybe try this sport too. I finally did and was overall shocked by the friendliness of the gym and the high I got from the workout. The more I watched UFC and hung at the gym, the more I became enthralled with both the language and moves behind muay thai. and BJJ. Not pacified by simply punching and kicking a 150 pound stagnant bag, I too wanted to learn clinches, sweeps, shrimping, and arm-bars.
So I find myself at a proper MMA gym and am doing muay thai kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu. I feel strong when I overcome my fears of burly men kicking and punching at me. The first time I got jabbed in the face for dropping my guard, I became giddy. I like rolling with giant, sweaty dudes twice my weight. The root of this obsession has something to do with embodiment. I see the thread of embodied spirituality connecting my past and future. Sex, yoga (non-dual Kashmiri shaivism), and fighting. Something within all of them is the same. The world is gone when I am fully embodied and this is the place that I crave to be. When I step to the edge of the mat to roll or kick box, I feel like a dozen butterflies have been born in my stomach and glitter has been dumped in to my blood stream. Before I step onto the mat, I consider the gods I worship: Shiva, the god of consciousness, and Shakti, the goddess that energizes that awareness. These are the fundamental elements for my embodied past times.
I tell you there is no was my obsession with MMA could have occurred when I was in my twenties. I was a militant feminist with a lot of second-wave academic influence and therefore cultivated snarky moralism and judgments. I would have called the UFC a patriarchal institution and been offended by its ritualized violence. Who knows how I loosened up these past five years, how I broadened my acceptance of individualized experience. Maybe it was my discovery of third-wave feminism. I honestly do not know how sustainable my new obsession with MMA is. It seems unlikely that a fickle thirty-five year old woman with a full time career, full time writing passion, and daily yoga practice can pull this off. And what is the end goal? I honestly don’t know. But I am willing to roll with it and see where it goes.