Thursday, April 26, 2012

How the Muppets are inspiring me at Battle of the Nations

I just saw the newest Muppet movie.

I am sitting on a Lufthansa 747 in cramped economy class on my way to Poland to fight in the Battle of the Nations, the world championships of medieval armored combat, and the first movie they showed on the in-flight entertainment was the newest Muppet Movie, and it affected me as no other movie has.

I suppose I have been getting a little emotional lately. I have a beautiful woman whom I love and who loves me, I have found  new sport I love in Brazilian jiu jitsu/submission grappling, I have found some new friends and creative objectives with my video work, and now I have embarked on the craziest, riskiest, most personally and culturally significant thing I have ever done with the Battle of the Nations. And this was the perfect time to see the new Muppet Movie.

This movie was about two brothers, one who wants to find where he belongs, and one who has to decide where he belongs. through the course of helping the Muppets put on a show to save their old studio, they each come to terms with their desires.

But also this movie is about how it feels to do what you love to do and be appreciated for it. In the film, the Muppets have all disbanded and gone onto success or failure in their various carer paths, but come together to raise the ten million dollars they need to buy back their studio from the evil rich oil baron who wants to tear it down to get at the oil underneath it.

First off, let me say that the movie hooked me early on by bringing out beloved muppet characters and cultural references rom the 1970's and '80's. The "'80's Robot" was particularly amusing. There were also many moments of "lampshade hanging," to get through ridiculous plot devices and film techniques characteristic of Muppet movies. There wee also lots of obligatory celebrity cameos. Since I already cared about these characters, and had familiarity with the jokes, I was emotionally vulnerable to their cares and passions, and the irreverent humor kept it fresh and entertaining.

Now the current journey I am on is a remarkable confluence of elements of my life, and there had ben significant episodes along the way. I have been doing medieval armored combat for 25 years with the Society for Creative Anachronism. I have won a few tournaments and awards, I have travelled to several events, and have had life-changing events occur as a part of my SCA life, but recently I had been less and less involved. Certain relationships (and their ups and downs) and the natural tide of social forces within the organization have taken some of the thrill out of the game for me. I do not have much realistic hope of accomplishing much more than I already have. I was also developing career paths and objectives that the SCA was taking me away from.

Then I met Maria. When I tad her about he SCA she was interested, and after king o her first few evens, and Pennsic, she was hooked. Now she is making it a big pat o her life, and that is giving my SC inerest a new lease n life. I shot a documentary at the last Pennsic War (a follow-up of one with which I was involved 20 years ago) and found out a lot more about the SCA and why people are part of it than I never knew before. Thus I gained a new appreciation for it.

At the same time as this was going on, I was getting more involved with BJJ. I had gotten into grappling through  relationship (that didn't work out) but used what that relationship had started to make a movie. Through this movie I got more involved in the world of competitions and training, and noe I make videos for East Coast United BJJ while training there, and am a sponsored competitor at ACOM Sports tournaments. I have found a whole new bunch of people who like me for who and what I am without the baggage of the past (however many) years of my life. I have broken out of several comfort zoned and done things I always wanted to do.

I have also gotten opportunities to be a part of the world of pro wrestling and discover new levels of fitness through my friendship with G.A West, who had been part of my grappling movie (see how it's starting to come together?). He was part of the new Pennsic War documentary.

I don't actually recall when I found out about the Battle of the Nations, or why I thought it might be something I would like to do, but I do know that once I looked at my resources and realized it was possible if I simply dedicated myself to it, then it was full steam ahead, no turning back! I went out to the training camp in Springfield Il. in February and surprised a lot of people with my courage, toughness, heart, brains, and lack of "quit," and I made it onto the third 5-man team a the Battle of the Nations.

I may have surprised myself a little, but really, I did not think that quitting was an options. I came there to fight, so I was willing to take what it took to fight!.

Now I m going to represent my nation in an international competition with the best and the toughest in a particularly rough and tough sport from around the world. From what I have ben hearing from people following myself and the team, there are people who appreciate this, people who are following this, and people who hope we do well. They want someone to cheer for, to make them feel proud to be American, to make them feel like there is someone willing to dedicate their time and energy and risk their body in the name of their country.

Why can't that person be me? Why shouldn't that person be me?  I have the love and support of a wonderful person of my preferred gender; I am reaching new levels of aggression, strength, testosterone, and badassery through bjj; and somehow my sword fighting has gotten stronger too. Dammit, if I can make other people feel good by challenging myself on the biggest arena of my martial art of greatest experience while I am peaking at multiple aspects of my life, dammit I'll do it!

And it doesn't matter whether I win or lose, I have already won something by committing this much so far. I am on a freakin' airplane to Poland! And so long as I leave it all out on the field, no one will be able to say that I didn't do my nation proud!

At the end of the Muppet movie, the Muppets do not reach their goal of raising the money to save their studio, but they did put on a successful, entertaining show for a packed house and national TV audience, won the charts of the nation, and exited the theater to the sound of thunderous applause from crowds that filled the streets. The brother who was looking for his place to belong found it with the Muppets (he was a muppet, after all), and the other brother chose life with his long-term girlfriend, and she came to terms with his relationship with his brother.

And I cried, even more than I did at "Role Models.`I started envisioning myself at the Battle of the Nations. Over the course of the movie I had found myself visualizing the fights and my performance and attitude in them in anticipation of the day (I believe this is called "psyching myself up"). This put me in a frame of mind to equate the action on the screen with the experience of the coming event. I could practically feel myself sharing the mount with my teammates, entering the arena to the cheer of the crowd, being saluted for our efforts by our fans, friends and loved ones. And the tears came streaming down my face.

Am I ready for this? You bet I am!