big buts at the train tracks

Jon Henner

Jon Henner
November 26
full time father, full time deaf activist, some times writer, most times thinker, all times wandering.


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MARCH 28, 2009 6:06PM

High Stickin'

Rate: 37 Flag

  That's me on the right, shortly before heading out to the battlefield.

I like to hit people with sticks.  But, we won't be talking about my sex life.

There was a time in my undergraduate studies when I decided to reject everything considered masculine.  I had just started learning about feminist philosophies and the associated feminine ideals: pacifism rather than violence, gentleness rather than strength, and love and the erotic rather than pain and competition.  My readings convinced me that maleness was something to diminish rather than champion.  The patriarchal structure of societies seemed to be the root cause of oppression and warfare.  Matriarchal societies, as illustrated in my books, were about cooperation, farming, and a communal society of ideals.  Matriarchal religions, worshiping a feminine goddess or the sacred feminine, were more about love and the erotic, and less about hellfire and beating the loving snot out of heathens. 

Additionally, I had a thing for scarily smart women (still do) and a lot of them were getting into that avenue of philospophy.

I learned a lot about gender and women during that period of my life, but I remember feeling disquieted, like I was hungry and wasn't feeding.  Riding wildly through D.C. on my motorcycle provided some sustinence, but it wasn't quite my thing.  A ticket for reckless riding stopped that sort of nonsense quickly. 

One evening, while drunk, I received a text from a friend that set me off.  I don't even remember what the text was about, but I do remember pounding on my dorm door until it busted off the hinges and bounced off the opposing wall.  My hands hurt.  The door was trashed.  People were coming out of their rooms to find out what the hell was going on.  And, I felt good.  Real good.

I've always been a violent sort.  My mother used to joke that our phone number was on the principal's speed dial.  Weekly meetings with school staff about my fighting became routine for both my mother and I.  The kids in the school yard had a deal - they'd get to make my life miserable and in return, I'd get to beat the snot out of them.

My mother tried her best to channel this aggression into sports.  I played ice hockey, but preferred bashing people into the walls instead of playing with the puck.  In middle school and high school, I wrestled.  I also tried football, but found that my size hadn't caught up to my aggressive tendencies.  The bigger boys made short work of my knee and that was the end of my sporting career.

Hellspawn's birth sent my Bedmate into the maw of severe Post-Partum depression.  It was bad enough that some Psychiatrists labeled it a psychosis.  We weren't living with my parents yet and I was holding down a full time job while working on my graduate degree.  I had become thin ice.  The baby needed me.  The boss needed me.  My Bedmate needed me too, although any attempts at helping were met with gnashed teeth and a wounded stare.  I still had homework to do and keeping it a priority made life rather interesting for awhile.

I needed an outlet, otherwise I was just going to take Hellspawn, put him in the car, and drive off without telling anyone where we went.  Getting into tussles at parties helped a bit, but it ruined my clothes and there was always the risk of hurting someone badly and being on the hook financially.

While flipping through the net some time in the early morning, while taking a break from watching Hellspawn sleep and doing homework, I stumbled on some pictures provided by the Society for Creative Anachronism.  The pictures showed folks in full metal regalia pounding on each other with sticks. 

I looked at the pictures, and corresponding movies, for hours.  I wanted to do that.  I needed to do that.

A few months later, I found myself at a a local SCA fighter's practice, learning the safety rules.  Fighting in the SCA is inherently dangerous.  Fighters can be over 6 feet tall and 300lbs of solid muscle.  One fighter I know can put a dent in a 11gauge steel helmet with a stick of rattan.  Rattan is a member of the grass family, chosen as the weapon of choice by SCA fighters for it's softness and flexibility.  SCA fighters, at a minimum, need groin protection, joint protection, head and neck protection, and kidney protection.  Most fighters tend to wear leather and steel, much like the warriors in olden times.  Some idiots get by with the bare minimum of protection.

Being the competative snot I am, I decided to forgo chest and shoulder protection during one intense practice.  For weeks after, I enjoyed the pyschadelic colors of very large and very ugly bruises on my body.  And, I have always since worn the most gear than I can without looking like the Michelin Man.

Not my ass.

Fighting in the SCA is G-d's best stress relief.  There's nothing better for me to do than tear through a group of people, banging on each as hard as I can until I reach the other end, panting, exhausted, sore, and feeling alive.

Can you find the Jon? (Hint.  Look for the DEAF helmet)

At 26, I've come to terms with my violent tendencies.  But, I've tempered them, and redirected myself to the appropriate activities.  That's ultimately the crux of being a man - knowing the strength and dangeousness of the masculine and using them wisely.  A real man doesn't beat his wife and kids.  He beats other people with sticks within a structured environment.  A real man embraces his competative nature, but cautions it with humility and a bit of chilvarly thrown in.

I'm grateful to the SCA for keeping me sane. 

Hellspawn shows some of the same affinity for violence that his ol' man has.  I intend to teach him to balance his feminine and masculine - not allowing either to dominate the other.  And, when he's old enough, I'm going to put a stick in his hands and show him how to pound other people into the ground.  Lovingly, of course, and without breaking any of the safety rules.






A view from a field battle at Pennsic 36

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Boys will be boys...I won't hold it against you for being testosterone laden and wielding a stick. Plus, you have had more women' studies classes than I have since I have had none. Rated for effort and surging testosterone.
You are so cool. Unrepentant blog-crush.

I went back and read a bunch. I hope that your writing has made you a wealthy man.
Suppression/Repression always seems to lead to bad things. Re-direction, on the other hand, seems to help things stay in balance. Rated not just for getting out there finding something to hit, but for sharing it with the rest of us.
Very very on the mark. What you practice isn't violence, i don't think... it is expression of pent up hostility, nothing more...

re. feminism: it is of the other species. As you have learned. We cannot understand it, we can only watch in wonder as they make up rules and voice objections to a world
that we, as evolved men, never wanted a part of tho begin with,
because, well, we were raised right...

it simply doesn't apply, most of it, to us. I have no desire to dominate or opress women, nor do you. I want them to flower, because then: they give me the space to expand too. simple as that. why can't they get it?

re matriarchal societies: they sacrificed young males...they encouraged young males to cut off their genitals & offer them up,
which they did willingly. Not for me...

well!...i made several misspeaks in that comment. I admit it. I would be laughed out of the room for claiming to be evolved. I want to amend what i said, so as not to cause offense. And that is the problem, isn't it? Between the sexes...I amend, and explain, and explain to her,and get a smile eventually. But i never get the feeling that i am heard . ach.But...

it's driving me crazy, this war between the sexes. There simply is no war, never was, it's all a lie...perpetrated by whom, though? By...well, people over whose behavior i have no control: the previous generations, the throwbacks in ours...

etc etc...i'm going to call it a night on this issue..

jim again...
Leonde: Appreciate it.

Vera: Thanks for reading and crushin'. I'm afraid that I'm still broke and unemployed. It's been a rough job market, eh?

James: Interesting. I never knew that matriarchal societies abused young boys. I know the Greeks wrote about how the Amazons killed their male offspring, but always thought that was legend rather than reality.
This might be one of the greatest lines I've ever read: "A real man doesn't beat his wife and kids. He beats other people with sticks within a structured environment." Amen!
I love that you do this. Little mini battles and all. I like to watch these exchanges. When I lived in Nashville, they were in the park every Saturday.
Sometimes, you just gotta pummel.

This is really awesome. And such a surprise!
But I thought there was only one rule in stick club. Don't write about stick club.
Sandra and Aaron: I think it’s great that two fantastic writers like you two found a line that pleased the both of youse.

Verbal: Damn straight. Some times, ya just gotta.

Sao Kay: Don’t get me wrong. I meant masculine and feminine in their abstract terms rather than any connection to specific dangly bits. Women can have masculine energy, too. I’ve seen it mentioned on OS as “Butch Energy.”

There are a few female fighters in the SCA. In fact, if you look at the mosh picture where I’ve asked everyone to spot the Jon, the fighter with the checkerboard helmet and shield, and the fighter carrying the flag are both female.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, men grossly outnumber women on the field. I think some of that is biological. There are more male wrestlers than female, for example, although I had the pleasure of coaching a female one. Some of it is societal. Women are conditioned to feel that kicking the shit out of something isn’t exactly lady-like, even though the urge to do so is very human. My sister kicked my butt until I was bigger than her. Some times I deserved it.

I also think women try to approach fighting like a man. It’s just not going to happen. Men typically have size (which translates into reach and other nifty forces), strength, and speed in their favor. Women have to use their brains more when they fight to counter physical differences in individual combat. But, once a woman figures out how to fight, she’s beautiful like that.

Yes. I’m 26. Luckily I stopped sucking my thumb not too long ago. My dentist was really bugging me about that. Thanks for the other adjectives, too. I hope they one day get me a job.

Kerry: Thanks for reading! Always an honor.

Juliet: That’s fight club. We in stick club advertise our bruises. The more people there are, the more diversity in the hitting!
ahoy matey. cap'n can always use a good stickman on the SS Margaritaville. they don't hand over the booty fer nuttin', know what i mean?
Sandra beat me (pun intended) to it on the favorite line:

"A real man doesn't beat his wife and kids. He beats other people with sticks within a structured environment."

And here I thought only socially stunted dorks dressed up in medieval gear, got together in state parks on the third weekend of the month, and beat the crap out of each other with sticks!

Rated, for making my day.
My Gosh, you sound like my husband. Football, wrestling, martial arts, explosives dude in the Marines...
When we saw Fight Club, I secretly wished it were real so he could stop his bellyaching and just pound the dog snot out of some dude who also had signed up for a beating. Alternately he talks non-stop about jumping out of airplanes! Ima hafta put a big veto on that last one. I can't support any sport where if the main something/action that you are required to do, in any way, goes wrong, it means your gonna die. Fight club it is!
I love you writing Jon. I've had the pleasure of watching one of these battles! Ain't for no sissies!
Brilliant post, Jon! People fighting in skirts, where have I seen that before......? Only kidding, put that stick down!!!!
Gah! I'm flashing back to high school, where I would go hang out at the Denny's parking lot for shinai (sp?)

You are SCA - I direct a show at Faire - according to both groups, we are mortal enemies.

Screw their rules ... rated.
So I suppose you have nothing to say about the knight scene in GARDEN STATE?

Actually, this looks like fantastic f, um, something. Good on you. rated.
OK Jon, I don't have dangly bits but I somehow can relate to the need for violence/aggression/ass kickery in a controled environment. My inner preditor scares me sometimes. Tried to deny it my whole childhood. When I discovered women's rugby at age 21, I thought I died and went to heaven! Martial arts gives me an outlet as well. Not many people guess this side of me. I do wonder at times what I would be like if I was a guy.

Very interesting topic. And what a good read! Love the photos.
My fiance does something similar. He is into Filipino stick fighting -- essentially beating the crap out of each other with sticks.
I love the new link to the battlefield. Thanks!
As another member of the SCA, I would like to point out that anyone who is running around during a melee and just hitting other fighters as hard as they can with sticks should have their fighting authorization taken away. That is not safe fighting. I realize that it may have been hyperbole, but that is not the image that we as recreationists should be presenting.
Men enjoy wielding sticks...fact of life. Glad you enjoy beating on people in reenactment garb. I continue to enjoy watching said reenactments so keep it up.
I am a forty year old woman who still loves Martial Arts, action films, fighting in the SCA and all that "boy stuff", I also love sewing, gardening, and all the other "girl stuff". Maybe its not about gender, maybe its just about people being themselves. Hurray for figuring out how to honor your individuality without feeling like you have to fit yourself into a stereotype.
I'm a guy, but I never got the joy of combat and hitting. I attended Pennsic once, as the slaveboy beau of a belly dancer, and was utterly mystified by repeated offers to loan me some armor.

I hung with the belly dancers during the war and thought I had, by far, the better view.
Like your style! If you want to try something really fun, check out the Adrian Empire, which fights with real (blunted) steel weapons.
Come to the dark side ... we have cookies!
Jon, excellent piece, and one which I can totally identify with. One of the few differences is that I channeled my energy into martial arts instead of beating people with sticks (though that sounds like a lot of fun too). Though I wouldn't say I was naturally agressive, quite the opposite actually. Most of my closest friends growing up were girls, and I was far closer to my mother than my father. I was picked on a lot as a kid. It wasn't until much later that I embraced my aggressive side, and similarly to you, it saved me. I occasionally compete in amateur level Mixed Martial Arts matches, and there is nothing as exhilirating, nothing that makes me feel as alive.

Rated for honesty, good writing, and general awesomeness.
"gentleness rather than strength"

not mutually exclusive. just a thought.
Do you have this confused with an actual police academy?

They like to do these things to human beings.
Especially when they have the humans outnumbered so they can be brave.
I remember distinctly the first time I came across SCA. I was walking home in the early morning on a Saturday. I had been out all night at a friend's - drinking, getting high, etc. I got bored and wanted to be in My home. I was cutting through a park. (Inexplicably, I had my flute with me - something about Chariot's of Fire....) There were a half dozen people under a tree. There was a lute and a drum and a fife and just some lovely people in interesting clothing, strumming, singing. They gestured toward my instrument. I took it out, started playing. Mellow lain under the trees, staring at the sky. Someone said they were in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Awesome, I thought.

Eventually, the chain-mailers showed up. The war paint was daubed. I thought, What the...?

Don't get me wrong, I love me some good Gladiator! But it was a mellow morn, and became a warrior afternoon.
Very entertaining!
I used to do arnis (a Phillipino style) that also trained with rattan sticks. They are a lot of fun, though they don't look too intimidating, they can hurt like hell. Though we weren't always going full tilt, I did sometimes have bruises to show for it.

It sounds like you have a good outlet! that one fighter in an electric WHEELCHAIR?
Fuck yeah. FUCK yeah.

SCA heals in many ways.

If it weren't for the SCA....I never would have survived the 80's. I'm not kidding. I owe it and the lovely freaks in it a lot. A lot.

I think you have been brilliant in your channeling...and I hope you kept what you liked about the women's studies there is lots of good there too.

In fact...that combination of manly fighting and smartypants learning is ....well.....pretty fucking attractive, Mister.

As you can see from the comments.

Cap’n: If it’s booty we’re lookin’ for, then it’s booty I be seekin’. And I do like big booty, I tell you. How do you divvy up the booty for yer crew mates?

ApacheSavage: Lots of ex-military in the SCA. At times I’ve thought that the discharge paper work contains information about local chapters.

Psychomama: I like hiding my stick in my skirt, if you know what I mean.

AnniThyme: My only problem with Faires is that the battles tend to be scripted. I went to two different Ren Faire events in two different states and saw the same friggin’ battle with different casts.

Fingerlakeswanderer: I do, actually. I liked Garden State incidentally, in spite of all the navel-gazing criticism it had. It was the Singles of its time.

New Blog: Good fighters use their brain. It’s not all brawn.

Kitehlips: Pick up a stick. You’ll love it. If the SCA isn’t your thing, several others here have mentioned Filipino stick arts (Escrima).

Jeff Schult: I love the belly dancers. Nothing better to do than grab some beer and pull up to a fire while everything goes bouncy in my eyes. One of my posts dealt with belly dancers, if you’re inclined. It was actually my first post on here.

Leeandra: The SCA does its best to accommodate disabled fighters. When I first started out, there was some discussion on whether it was safe to let me on the field. Thus far, the steps we’ve taken to ensure that people are aware that I’m deaf have worked. I’ve never seen someone on a wheelchair on the field, but there has to be a system in place.

P13: Thanks, Cheekbones!

Thanks to everyone else who has taken the time to comment. No offense intended. if I haven’t mentioned you by name.
congratulations! you're the first person who has ever made this sound like something i might want to do.

i don't think i like physical fighting, but i LOVE debating when i can really get at somebody's thoughts. it can be dangerous and needs a structured environment with ground rules so no one gets hurt, but i think it's the same kind of test of self/strength that pumps up the adrenaline. those moments are rare in polite society, but we didn't exactly evolve in polite society, did we? really great post!
Jon, rated - not only for a great post, which it is... but for landing the SCA on the cover of OS. Good job, man!
Mr. Testosterone! You rock!...oops...that's an annoying phrase.