interview, lucha, lucha libre, Lucha Libre Volcánica, performance, Professional Wrestling, training

StoryCorps — A Chat with Trueno Verde

Late last summer, myself and other Lucha Volcánica luchadors were invited to share our stories on NPR’s StoryCorps. I sat down with friend and fellow luchador Trueno Verde, a conversation that was recorded and stored in the Library of Congress. As a whole the conversation meanders, although after revisiting our conversation, I realized there was on particular point that I had failed to address.

Outside of the context of lucha libre, many of us would never have had the occasion to cross paths. Lucha libre has brought us together into an environment where cooperation is imperative, for both the sake of the show and the safety of the performers. This experience is not exclusive to us: instead it seems to be common amongst many performers within the sport.

As Trueno and I both note, there’s an implicit trust that we build with most of our luchador colleagues, which in turn creates a particular kind of friendship that involves a  mutual trust—essentially a trust that you will not commit undue physical harm to each other whilst engaging in a sport that is founded upon violence. While neither of us explored the nature of these relationships, it’s a profound and unique aspect of our sport. For me, lucha libre has helped to build friendships that I hope will continue long after we stop performing.

 

Image Source: Wikipedia
lucha libre, Lucha Libre Volcánica, Mexican wrestling, Professional Wrestling, Washington, wrestling school

All Politics is Local III: Back at the Capital

As some of you may remember from last year, myself and other local performers took to the capital in attempt to change Washington’s strict regulations on pro wrestling. Because many of you asked about the legislation, and it’s a consistent inquiry from colleagues and fans, I thought I’d share a recent statement I gave to Seattlish.

Lucha Libre Volcánica was established in 2011 as the premier lucha libre company and training school in the Pacific Northwest. Since our inception, we’ve had a successful training school, and have performed for regional festivals such as Seattle’s Taco Truck Rodeo, to our own annual show scholarship fundraising show at the University of Puget Sound.

Theatrical pro wrestling has innate hazards like any other athletic endeavor. Accordingly we’ve always emphasized proper technique, safety, and protection amongst our students and performers. Unlike athletic competition, the competition in lucha libre is more akin to theatre—it’s an intellectual and performative competition. Our acrobatics almost always require cooperation between two or more individuals, an essential characteristic that both pro wrestling and lucha libre share. Because of this important distinction between combative sports and pro wrestling, the regulations that have hitherto hindered any development of a pro wrestling scene in Washington are superfluous, and horribly misguided—they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of pro wrestling.

Fortunately a handful of active supporters managed to gain attention of the Washington State Reps and the DOL, both of whom agreed that the regulations are constrictive, not constructive. Through a series of meetings with the DOL, 3-2-1 Battle’s Josh Black, local performer Jake Stratton, and Lucha Libre Volcánica’s Michael Leveton and owner José Gómez have been able to shape a series of regulations that will hopefully cultivate an active pro wrestling scene in Washington State. While we have been actively petitioning our State Reps, the DOL’s cooperation has been integral to any victories pro wrestling has won in Washington.

Hitherto the regulations have been cost-prohibitive, particularly for small family-owned companies like LLV. Paying for performers, a venue, and promotional materials is already an assumed cost. However the previous regulations would hold that a promoter would also have pay for the following: ringside security; an ambulance and an EMT on site; a promoter’s license; $1 from each ticket sale to the DOL; 10% of the overall door to the DOL. While some companies like the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) may be able to afford these costs, the average promoter cannot. Furthermore these costs deter any would-be trainers from operating a training facility school, as the performance opportunities are scarce.

HB 2388, in conjunction with the changes made with the DOL, will create and incentive for wrestling companies to operate in Washington by removing some of the restrictive and costly regulations imposed upon promoters, owners, and performers. By doing so, we hope not only to create a opportunities for touring companies such as Lucha Libre USA and WWE to visit Washington, but also for small business entrepreneurs such as LLV’s José Gómez.

Further, because of the current restrictions many companies end up hosting guerilla shows and operating underground training facilities. The removal of the regulations will attract professional companies, sincere entrepreneurs, and higher-quality performers, thereby increasing the legitimacy of the professional wrestling scene in Washington. Such competition will increase the accountability of self-described (read: hack) “trainers,” and therefore both the safety of performers and the quality of performances.

With the (hopeful) passing of HB 2388 and the less restrictive DOL regulations, we’re hoping to build a better and more robust pro wrestling scene in Washington State.

Cultural Studies, lucha libre, party

Who Will Protect the Piñatas? White Savior Syndrome Strikes Again

I recently had the pleasure and honor of being a guest judge at the 2015 Annual Piñata Bash in Seattle, Washington. A day or two preceding the event, a random individual posted on the Bash’s event page on Facebook, asking if we were partnering with any Latino organizations, and (not so) subtly accused the Bash of co-opting Mexican culture. Initially I was only put off by the condescending—yet blissfully ignorant—tone of the post. However through 30 seconds of Facebook stalking, I was instead offended by the fact that the perpetrator was white. And by “white,” I don’t mean just physically white in appearance, I mean clearly in no way a Latina. Chicana. Mexicana. Hispanic. Whatever nomenclature you prefer.

Which of course, brings me to the focus of this discussion: white people, please stop trying to tell us how to conduct our culture.

Before you assault me with angsty retorts in the comments section (I’m looking at you, recent liberal arts graduates), let me clarify two things: I’m not saying that you ought not to align yourselves with historically oppressed peoples, as we love and appreciate your support; I am *also* not trying to speak on behalf of oppressed peoples everywhere. What I *am* saying, is that not everything which vaguely resembles a thing that you understand as a tenet of a specific culture is a potential battleground against cultural appropriation.

Let’s take the case in question: the Piñata Bash is, in fact, organized by a group of white individuals. Never mind the fact that less than a minute of research would have revealed that the event was being sponsored by Lucha Libre Volcánica, which is owned by a Mexican and is an exhibition of a Mexican folk art. The point of contention for this person seems to be the central theme itself: the piñata.

This is one place where her critique breaks down: another minute (I know! So much time…) of research yields that the piñata may originate in China well before it ever became a Spanish tradition. For those of you who are unaware, China is not in fact, in Mexico. Further, Spain (if you’re following, happened to have adopted the Chinese tradition) was an imperialist occupier of Mexico. Essentially this means that the piñata is at least two-steps removed from Mexico—Spain’s cultural imperialism notwithstanding, of course. This is where I encounter a second problem with the critique: at what point do we judge something as cultural appropriation?

Had the Bash utilized reductive Mexican stereotypes of poncho-wearing, brown-skinned Mexicans in sombreros, I would have had nothing to do with the event. However, the event consisted of people building piñatas of any theme, none of which were in any way reductive or in any way demeaning towards Mexicans (such themes include one piñata titled “The Patriarchy”). If anything, the Bash was a celebration of the piñata in and of itself as an an idea: a demarcation of cause for celebration.

But beyond assaulting papier mâché (spelling and accents courtesy of the internet) with a stick, this misguided inquiry provoked further questioning about how authenticity and culture are policed. Where would such a conception of cultural currency put a luchador like me: a half-Mexican adoptee who was raised functionally lacking of any relationship to Mexican culture? What about my white colleagues in the sport, who are sometimes better performers than their Mexican counterparts? What about my friend La Avispa, who is white but speaks way better Spanish than I do? Do her language skills have more cultural currency than my skin tone and Mexican blood? Does it matter that she’s a white woman performing within an arena that is traditionally occupied by Mexican men? Sex and gender aside, how ought we to go about quantifying one’s ethnicity, and at what point does one lose the “cultural privilege” of being “ethnic?” Did I even technically qualify as a “supervisory Mexican” for the Bash? Did she know that I am adopted, and that’s why she insisted that we partner with a local Latino non-profit to “legitimize” the event?

I am the byproduct of a Mexican immigrant father and a white (mostly German, with a hint of French, and tidbits of Native American) mother; I was later adopted as an infant by a white family. During the course of my life I’ve been told by several (usually white) adults that I should “connect with my culture.” As a child I was completely unclear as to what that meant, short of learning Spanish or eating exclusively Mexican food. As I have become an adult, I am not any less confused as to what it means to “connect with my culture”: I am unclear as to where culture ends and begins. Regardless of my “connection” (or lack thereof) to Mexican culture, I grew up as a person of color. The quality of being Mexican is always already thrust upon me by a culture that identifies white as normative, and thus my “authentic” Mexicanness is largely irrelevant to my life experiences as a brown male. Regarding the Bash, this particular individual was out of her depth in the attempt to level a critique about the event. And although frustrating, I found myself asking more questions about cultural appropriation and who has the right to officiate public events involving (not white) culture. While I do not have the answer, I know for damned sure it was not this particular person.

lucha libre, Lucha Underground, Professional Wrestling, training

A Luchador’s Workout: Break it All (Bonus: Death Match 2015!)

The quarterly workout update is back!

To those who follow the workout updates, I apologize for missing the first quarterly update of 2015. This occurred for two reasons: one, I spent two weeks in Mexico City training, which due to the increased training load, my workouts were slightly more sporadic and irregular in their intensity and workload; two, due to the increased number of performance opportunities early this year (including 3 dates already this year, and 3 more dates in the first week of May alone!), I’ve had trouble pinning down a workout that will continue to build strength and endurance without sacrificing my in-ring training stamina. While I think that I have constructed a regimen that will satisfy the former, this week will be a test-run to see if I need to make any adjustments regarding the latter.

On the note of shows—which I’ll write more about at length at a later date—I am happy and honored to say that I performed in Death Match 2015 alongside former WWE stars Cryme Tyme, & Ezekiel Jackson (now known as Big Ryck on Lucha Underground), as well as Lucha Underground talents Mariachi Loco, Willie Mack, Little Cholo, and Famous B, amongst others. La Avispa, Gringo Loco, Guerrero Aguila and myself were ecstatic to be a part of the show. I can’t thank Ryck enough for the opportunity, and for being so remarkable friendly and accessible. I also want to give a huge shoutout to Josh Black (of Seattle’s 3-2-1 Battle fame), for connecting me to Ryck for the event.

As per usual, the workout is listed below, and I’ve attached a spreadsheet in case you want to sing along.

Weekly Overview

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Lucha training X X Training X Training X Training
Weight training Legs X X Push X Pull X
Cardio/plyometrics/agility Box jumps, 3×2@max height Swimming Sprints X Sprints Sprints X
Core exercises Balance X X Low rep/high weight X High rep/no weight X
Neck 3×3, 10-15 reps X X X X X X

Weight regimen

Sunday

Squats (4×12, 1×3 heavy)
Dead lift (4×10, 1x max)
Kettlebell swings (4×12-15)
Leg Press (4×15)
Step ups (4×10)
Calf raises (4×6)

Wednesday

Pull-ups (4×10)
Chin-ups (3×10)
Bent-over row (3×10, 2x max)
Reverse flies (4×10)
High pull (4×10)
Hammer curls (4×6)
Bicep curls (4×6)
Shrugs (4×6)

Friday

Bench press (4×10, 1x max)
Weighted dips (4×10)
Incline press (4×10, 1x max)
Chest flies (4×8)
Front/rear/side deltoid isos (3×10)
Tricep isolations (4×6)
Jammer press (4×8)

Circuit Guide

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Cardio/plyometrics/agility X Swimming ~ 20 minutes 1:2 interval sprints, 5x sprints Ladder drills 1:2 interval sprints, 5x sprints 1:2 interval sprints, 2x sprints, 1x 2 minute sprint
Core exercises 3 exercises (abs), 2 exercses (obliques) 2 sets of each exercise X X 3 exercises (abs), 2 exercses (obliques) 2 sets of each exercise X 3 exercises (abs), 2 exercses (obliques) 2 sets of each exercise
Neck 3×3, 10-15 reps X X X X X
Image courtesy of Erich Von Tagen
Documentary, lucha, lucha libre, Mexican wrestling, mexico, observations, performance, podcast, training

On “Lucha Doc”: A Chat with Director and Producer Erich Von Tagen

As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been the subject of an upcoming lucha libre documentary which is being produced under the working title “Lucha Doc.” During a recent visit to Portland, Oregon, I had a drink and a chat with my friend Erich Von Tagen, the Director and Producer of Lucha Doc. We discussed (of course) Lucha Doc, La Avispa’s most recent blog post, Erich’s experiences watching wrestling in Mexico and Japan, and our upcoming trip to Mexico City together.

Follow Lucha Doc at:

On a side note, there are two obviously censored moments within the interview wherein Erich accidentally mentioned luchador’s real names. Also, moving forward I’ll be publishing podcasts here, but I will eventually archive them on the iTunes store for all of you iPhiles.

 

lucha libre, Mexican wrestling, mexico, travel

Roadmap for 2015: Back to Mexico, Lucha de Sound, & Beyond.

Happy New Year! 2015 is already shaping up to be a busy year for lucha, starting off with another trip to Mexico! This trip will undoubtedly be not much different from previous trips, in that it will include several viewings of lucha libre and lots of training. However an entire team will accompany me this time around, including a pair of luchadores and three film professionals.

Catchphrase: "Arrrrgghhllle."
Above: Loco. Not pictured: body hair.

In tow I will have my friends Greengo Loco and Cazador del Alma. Greengo Loco is still a fairly new, albeit promising, luchador who has been training with Lucha Volcánica for around 8 months. He made his (somewhat premature, although successful) debut against Trueno Verde at the Radio Variedades’ 17th Anniversary show this past August. Cazador del Alma started his career with a yearlong tenure in American Pro before switching to train under Vaquero Fantasma, with whom he has now been training as a luchador for over four years. I have been acquainted with Cazador since before I started training at Lucha Volcánica; he was one of two other students at my premier lucha training session. Although Cazador and I have performed on the same card (hell, even in the same match!) we’ve never had the occasion to face each other in the ring, something that we’re hoping to reconcile soon—perhaps even while in Mexico. My profe José is attempting to get us booked at Arena Naucalpan; I’ll share info when I know more.

Woot.
With Cazador del Alma in late 2014.

In addition to my luchador homies, I’ll be dragging along the trio of lucha-documentarians who have been following me around and collecting footage over the past year. You can check out some of the things they’ve captured in the recent Lucha Volcánica promo video. Unfortunately there is not a lot of information to share on the documentary right now, but they’ve captured a (figurative) ton of footage so it has to be good, right?

In late 2014 I neglected to share details regarding a trip to perform in (a rather disastrous match in) Sacramento for Lucha Azteca. While my partner (who happened to be Cazador del Alma) and I both agreed that the match was garbage, I did learn one thing: there are always opportunities to perform. One of my biggest complaints about living in Washington as a luchador is that there are scant few opportunities to perform. Spending time in California made me realize that I must continue to strive to find opportunities to perform and train everywhere, not unlike like my pursuit when I began this blog. That being said—following Lucha de Sound, of course—I intend to not only return to Mexico a second time, but to also spend more time training with Vaquero Fantasma in San Jose, in addition to other trainers in California.

In accordance with a trip to Mexico, wherein I will be doing lots of training (and hopefully at least one show), I am spending the next month intensively conditioning to prepare. Because I regularly share my training regimens here, I’ll post a more in-depth workout update soon. In short I added more, heavier sets, and 4 days of interval cardio.

Finally, moving forward I have decided to diversify the content of this blog. Historically I have shared my thoughts and analyses surrounding various aspects of lucha libre, mostly dwelling in the realm of theory. While I intend to continue to do so, I will also be sharing more videos, sound recordings, and increase my focus on photoblogging. In part this decision is to refocus on the original intent of this blog, which was to chronicle my adventures in the ring. Additionally I hope the decision will make blog-writing less daunting: while I love writing, it is exhausting to regularly research and write such dense posts in addition to a full-time job and several hours of training per week. Fans of my analyses, don’t fret: I will continue to write such posts, but the void in between such posts will be filled by perhaps less intellectually challenging posts.

 

But I promise no cat videos.

Image source: Wikipedia.
exercise, lucha libre, Mexican wrestling, strength, training

A luchador’s Workout IV: Pushing For Gains

We’re in the last quarter of 2014, meaning that it’s once again time to change the exercise regimen!

As I have mentioned in previous installments, changes to my routine are usually more of an ongoing, gradual, organic process instead of drastically changing my workout. If you’ve been following my workout updates you’ll notice that changes are often as subtle as increases or decreases in the amount of weight, a change in the number of reps or sets, to swapping flat bench press for dumbbell press. Ideally this would help me continually make gains in both size and strength whilst simultaneously changing enough to avoid plateaus.  As always I avoid working until complete exhaustion, as I still train lucha libre in between my lifting days.

Noteworthy changes in this installment: moving into the holidays, us luchadores at Lucha Volcánica tend to miss more practice days. Accordingly I’m using this time to work on heavier gains, which is noticeable in the increase in the number of overall sets, and low-repetition, heavy-weight sets. Because of the increased number of sets, I’ve also shaved off a few isolations in the interest of time conservation—after all not everyone can or wants to spend several hours at the gym. That being said, the entire program is a circuit, ergo employing active rest in between sets.

I’ve outlined the workout below, but have also included an Excel spreadsheet which gives a little more coherence to the circuit.

Overview:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Lucha training X Yes Yes X Yes X Yes
Weight training Legs X X Push X Pull X
Cardio/plyometrics/agility HS walkovers Swimming X Sprints X Sprints X
Core exercises Balance X X Low rep/high weight X High rep/no weight X
Neck 3×3, 10-15 reps X X X X X

Circuit Guide:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Cardio/plyometrics/agility Handstand walkovers (2 sets, 15 feet), tuckup into handstands (2×10) Mixed swim workout, ~ 20-30 minutes + Lucha training 4 varied sets, 80-120 contacts 2 sets plyometrics, 2 sets box jumps (5x max height)
Core exercises Balance: 3 exercises (abs), 2 exercises (obliques) 2 sets of each exercise Lucha training Weights: 3 exercises (abs), 2 exercises (obliques) 2 sets of each exercise Lucha training High-rep: 3 exercises (abs), 2 exercses (obliques) 2 sets of each exercise Lucha training
Neck 3×3, 6-8 reps X X

Routine:

Deadlifts (2×15, 3×6, 1×10)
Squats (2×15, 3×6, 1×10)
Thigh adductors (3×6, 1×10, 2×15)
Hamstring curls (4×6, 1×10, 1×15)
Calf raises (4×6, 2×15)
DB Press (2×15, 3×6, 1×10)
Weighted dips (2×15, 3×6, 1×10)
Overhead DB press (2×15, 2×8 HS pushups, 1×10)
Jammer press (4×8)
Front deltoid raises (4×6)
Tricep pulldown (4×6, 2 sets burnouts)
Chest flies (4×6, 1×10, 1×15)
Wide-grip pullups (2×15, 3×6, 1×10)
Seated rows (2×15, 3×6, 1×10)
TRX Bodyweight Reverse flies (4×10)
Bicep curls (4×6, 2 sets burnouts)
Shrugs (3×6, 1×12, 1×15)

Downloadable spreadsheet (.xlsx)