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Inside the Mind of an Accidental LarperOn Bullshido, it's easy to get used to the mantras: aliveness, resistance training, pressure-testing, and so on. For anyone with even the slightest experience of genuine martial arts, these things are self-evident. They make the difference between practical, well-conditioned fighting and fantasy-land patty-cake.
But what's so disturbing is how quickly these assumptions can evaporate. For even the most accomplished fighters (to say nothing of the rest of us schleps), it doesn't take long for the mind to play tricks. There's something about the ego that tends toward self-aggrandisement; an urge to incorporate more into itself than it merits.
And in this, we can see the fool's gold of martial arts: the deluded confidence of the martial larper.
Recently, my own experience has reminded me of this. It's been over a year since I last trained Judo, and years since I fought in Karate (or on t3h str33ts). Seriously injured for eighteen months, I spent far too long sitting about, eating and...er...typing at the computer. I got fat - over one hundred kilos.
But over the last few months, I've been doing a bit more exercise, chiefly isometric kata for mild conditioning. I've stripped my diet down, and done more walking. I even took up Tai Chi (see here).
The end result of all this is satisfying. I've dropped twenty kilos, I can lift my son more, and do more handyman stuff. I've got more movement, strength and sexiness (don't deny it, you fanboys).
And recently, I found myself imagining my way into martial arts. Maybe I could try full-contact Tai Chi? Maybe I could even work my way into BJJ or Judo grappling? Maybe I could still use Judo in a street fight? I'm a martial artist, right?
I recently went to the Throwdown in Melbourne. While I knew I couldn't train, it was a visceral wake up call. I was reminded of what martial arts training really is: intense, painful, exhausting and violent. The mood of the throwdown was incredibly polite and respectful - there was no ego bullshit, no intimidation (well, not deliberately), no macho crap (except from Lily). But I would have been seriously hurt by the stuff they were doing. In even the lightest rolling, my neck would've given out. And in the stand-up, I would have been weak, slow and uncoordinated. The sheer physicality of it all was beyond me.
My very simple realisation was this: despite my experience with fighting and training, and despite my knowledge of training methodology and methods, I was still carried away by my fantasies. I knew I couldn't roll at the Throwdown, but I simultaneously began exaggerating my capacities.
To my mind, this was an important reminder of the larper's mentality. It's not necessarily idiocy or stupidity (although sometimes it is, in spades), it's really a healthy psyche in the absence of confrontation.
The essence of the martial arts is confrontation, in both senses of the word: physical struggle, and facing up to painful or uncomfortable reality. When you spar properly, you have to confront yourself, your opponent, and your mutual strengths and weaknesses. You can't pretend to be or do more than you can - at least not while you're on the mat (like a fisherman, you can always tell taller stories later).
Without this confrontation, the psyche begins the slow, insidious process of self-delusion - physical and psychological reality is quietly embellished.
I'm not suggesting this is big news - in one way or another, we all know this. But I thought it might be interesting to see it 'in action', so to speak. Even knowledge of 'the facts' doesn't always stop the slow decline into larpdom.