academic, Cultural Studies, exercise, lucha, lucha libre, Lucha Libre Volcánica, Lucha Volcánica, Mexican wrestling, observations, performance, podcast, Professional Wrestling, school of lucha libre, strength, training

Why I Haven’t Been Writing: A Explanation for Both You and Me

For those of you who follow my adventures, you’ve probably noticed a distinct descrease in posts over the past few months, something that I would like now to address.

For me there seems to be a inverse causal relationship between doing and thought: the more I’m doing something, the less time I have to think about it abstractly. Conversely the less I’m doing a thing (e.g., when I first started Rex N Effect), the more time I may spend exploring it intellectually. Beginning back in January, Lucha Volcánica has had monthly shows in Seattle. We have scaled back our training regimen from daily, to 3-hour sessions on Saturday & Sunday. This schedule affords me more time to focus on weight training and conditioning, as well as to train for stunt work. However the increased frequency of shows also means that I’ve been spending more time preparing for shows than I have previously, which in turn, seemingly leaves me less time to ponder the sport in which I am participating.

While I never set a particular scope for Rex N Effect, I did pride myself on writing a non-wrestling wrestling blog of sorts. Further, I never wanted this blog to merely a newsletter of my activities, but now that my activity level within the sport has increased, it may mean that I will need to take a different approach to how I share on Rex N Effect. Although I still intend to explore lucha libre through writing, I will likely be diversifying how the exploration occurs, including more photos, videos, and perhaps (maybe) the resurrection of the mythical podcast.

Exciting things have been happening: I recently won my first mask vs. mask match, and Lucha Volcánica hosted a training seminar featuring the legendary Negro Navarro, both of which I intend to talk about at a later date. Today however, is another training day

exercise, lucha libre, Lucha Libre Volcánica, Professional Wrestling, school of lucha libre, strength, training, wrestling school

A Luchador’s Workout: 2016

I admittedly intended to stop posting the quarterly training updates, but due to the bizarre popularity of these posts, I am compelled to continue sharing said workouts.

Historically, my workout updates have always featured moderate regimen changes. However Lucha Volcánica’s recent relocation has forced us to change our training schedule, which in turn has altered my personal exercise schedule. LLV now trains in 3-hour blocks on Saturday & Sunday, which includes 1 hour of conditioning—lead by La Avispa—and 2 hours of in-ring training and drills. While this change has hindered my usual MWF lifting schedule, the increased time between in-ring sessions does permit me to maximize my lifting time, as I have more recovery time between lucha training sessions. Accordingly, while my exercise regimen itself has undergone fairly modest changes, I’ve increased the number of repetitions whilst maintaining moderate to heavier weights as well as maintained various max rep sets throughout. Essentially I am able to work harder during the week without fear of muscle failure or exhaustion whilst in the ring.

Additionally I’ve included a sort of high intensity interval-based “second leg day” at the end of the week, which allows me to work on endurance with low weights. Elsewhere I’ve also added a few short runs to switch up the cardio schedule, as well as a yoga day to force myself to focus on general flexibility and take stock of any sore muscles.

I’ve included a printable PDF below which outlines the entire program, including weight regimens as well as the HIT/Tabata circuits. If you happen to try any of the training programs, message or leave a comment: I’m always open to feedback!

Early 2016 workout program

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.

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.

 

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)

Image source: http://manichysteriastock.deviantart.com/art/Greek-Statue-303276398
art, Cultural Studies, diet, exercise, gender, lucha libre, masculinity, Mexican wrestling, observations, performance, Performance Art, strength

The Body (image) Issue: Aesthetics & Ideology in Pro Wrestling (Part I)

I’ve been pretty open about my lack of interest in American pro wrestling. I am however, a fan of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and I recently listened to his interview with former WWE star CM Punk, who at the end of his interview stated how he often feels fat and out of shape. Not that I enjoy the misery of others, but it was affirming to know that I shared an insecurity with another—although significantly more prominent—pro wrestler.

I want to make clear that this is not a covert public confession to an eating disorder, something with which I am not affected. If anything this could be considered an admission that for years I struggled with insecurities regarding my physical appearance. More broadly it is an attempt to illustrate that such insecurities are not uncommon, and further, are exacerbated by aesthetic ideal conceptions of masculinity proper. In doing so we will look at a series of case studies that will illustrate how the physicality of pro wrestlers bear signs which adhere to particular conceptions of the otherwise complex milieu of social constructs such as race, class, gender, and so on. That being said, it should be immediately obvious that it would impossible to give such a topic a proper treatment within the average blog post length. Consequently this will be the first of a series of installments: this discussion will primarily set up the theory within which I understand the aesthetic and physical expectations of the masculine body; subsequent additions will examine case studies such as the Ultimate Warrior, Viscera, and other pop-culture icons.

Further it should be noted that this is not an attempt to equivocate the physical and aesthetic expectations of men’s and women’s bodies, but rather to explore the social and cultural expectations of beauty that are particular to male performers—and perhaps men in general, although such a broad claim is well beyond the scope of this discussion.

The dominant cultural presupposition holds that body image issues are inherently a women’s problem. For example the phrase “manorexia” is clearly a verbal play on the eating disorder anorexia: the addition of the “m” masculinizes the word thereby distinguishing it from “anorexia.” But this action presupposes that anorexia is inherently a female disorder, and thus the anorexic man is an anomaly as he is suffering from something that is thought to only afflict women. While this example is specific to a particular condition, it indicates a broader cultural understanding of body image issues as being exclusive to women.

My interest in this topic was rekindled by ESPN’s decision to feature professional baseball player Prince Fielder on the cover of their annual Body Issue, which subsequently fueled a public discussion about men’s physique. Despite the fact that Fielder is a professional athlete, his perhaps “husky” appearance incited public criticism of his “less than ideal” physical appearance—in other words he wasn’t svelte enough to conform to the masculine ideal aesthetic that we’ve attached to athletes.

Image source: http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/5915/prince-fielder
Above: man.

Such aesthetic expectations are omnipresent in sports, and given the hyperbolic, theatrical nature of professional wrestling, such aesthetics tend to be overrepresented. But the representation of ideology within the body is not new, and is in fact a somewhat intentional and integral part of pro wrestling sport. Despite the athleticism of pro wrestlers, it differs from sport proper in that pro wrestling is simultaneously steeped in theatre. This theatrical nature gives professional wrestling a sort of license to intentionally draw upon ideological conceptions of beauty, heroism, and masculinity.

In his famous essay The World of Wrestling, Roland Barthes states “What is portrayed by wrestling is therefore an ideal understanding of things; it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations and places before the panoramic view of univocal nature, in which signs at last correspond to causes, without obstacle, without evasion, without contradiction.” In other words professional wrestling distills otherwise complex intersections of—among others—race, class, gender, good and evil, and reifies them as physical signifiers within the body of the wrestler which in itself constitutes a basic sign. These signs are constructed to resonate with and conform to dominant ideologies of the audience, and thus are simplified and hyperbolized so that there is no need to connect the signs to what they signify—they are immediately readable.

Barthes also helps us understand the importance of the appearance of the body in pro wrestling. Unlike most sports wherein a particular body type is produced from repetitive movements and actions, pro wrestling’s theatrical nature means that the body of the professional wrestler is crafted in order to fit an ideal aesthetic: a continuous cast of Spartans.

Image source: http://www.history.com/photos/sparta/photo6
Above: historical conception of “man.”
Image source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/ultimate-warrior-death-wwe-hall-of-famer-died-from-heart-disease-autopsy-concludes-9262036.html
Above: modern hyperbolic conception of “man.”

While Barthes wrote specifically about wrestling, he wasn’t the only academic to understand how the human body is used as a conduit of signs. The late French philosopher Michel Foucault noted that “the body is directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it; mark it, train it” and force it to “emit signs.” The signs themselves are a product of “an overall effect” of the “strategic positions” of hegemonic power. By using Foucault’s and Barthes’ ideas as lenses through which to view professional wrestling, we understand the body of the wrestler as a hyperbolized sign which functions as a signifier for pre-existing ideological conceptions of race, class, gender, good and evil, and national identity.

But how does all of this theory relate to body image issues? Given that their bodies are a central feature to the sport, wrestlers are often hyperaware of their physical appearance. The narrative structure within professional wrestling—from long-form storylines of the WWE to the minute narrative of a single match itself—are constructed upon these very ideological conceptions. When these popular conceptions break down there is a sort of ideological disruption. The most relevant and obvious example lies in the aforementioned Fielder case, wherein Fielder’s masculine form failed to conform to the ideal athletic body.

I am specifically interested in a variety of things: if the theatre of pro wrestling functions as a sort reflective field of ideological conceptions, it can be used as a means through which to gain perspective on how a particular culture understands itself. What do I mean by this? In case studies—which we will examine at length later—we will look at Hulk Hogan’s (Terry Bollea) super-patriotic gimmick from the 1980s. I argue that his “American hero” character would have been unsuccessful if, for example, Hogan had been a man of color. This claim, of course, is an historical one and thus cannot be divorced from the context, a context that we will examine in order to illustrate the conversation around race and national identity during Hogan’s run as the “Real American.” Thus we can use this information to gain a particular understanding of how viewers perceived American identity itself—i.e., American identity proper—during that time.

Peripherally I am also suggesting is that these “ideal” masculine forms are hyperbolized and distilled within pro wrestling in such a way that drives wrestlers to aspire towards an unrealistic—and often times unattainable—physique. Repeated failures to achieve such perfection undoubtedly lead to a sense of inadequacy, and many wrestlers end up altering and sometimes destroying their bodies striving to such ends.

As someone who has to continually fight back impulses to try semi-promising fad diets or health supplements from body building websites in order to drop to an unhealthily low body-fat percentage, I often find myself contemplating this fleeting sense of inadequacy. While some of the aforementioned theory may seem obtuse on its face, it can be instructive to help trace a sort of metaphysics of masculinity, as well as a broader means through which to inductively unpack cultural self-identity. I find both of these ends to be simultaneously intellectually and personally fulfilling, and the former can be a theoretical framework with which one can confront their own body image issues.

We’ll continue the discussion with a series of case studies. This is an open-ended project, and thus I cannot enumerate subsequent entries. However anticipate a multifaceted analysis including not just pro wrestling photos, images, videos, and excerpts from interviews, but also social and political history where contextually relevant.

Sources:

Barthes, Roland. “World of Wrestling.” Steel Chair to the Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. 23-32. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Print.