academic, arena mexico, art, Cultural Studies, culture, exercise, lucha, lucha libre, Lucha Libre Volcánica, Lucha Volcánica, masculinity, Mexican wrestling, mexico, performance, Performance Art, Professional Wrestling, school, strength, training, travel, Washington, wrestling school

The Final Post Edition, or Goodbye For Now

Friends,

It is with some sadness, albeit zero trepidation, that this will serve as my final blog post. My reasons are few: mostly I have just become too busy to dedicate the time required to write at the level that I demand of myself. Although I have not talked about it here, I recently began picking up stunt work for commercials and film, which—in addition to regular lucha gigs, full time employment, and my 7-day training regimen—not only occupies more of my time, but also has forced me to broaden my focus from just lucha libre. Given this personal shift, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to dedicate the same rigor to thinking and writing about lucha libre that I was once capable of maintaining.

I started training as a luchador in 2011 during my senior year of college. During that same year I applied for the Watson Fellowship, which would have funded an entire year of studying lucha libre abroad in South America, Spain, and Japan. Unfortunately I was selected as an alternate awardee, Although disheartened, I was undeterred, and redirected my existential flightiness: I moved to Mexico City to immerse myself in lucha libre. The exodus was relatively brief: I quickly ran out of money and my lack of Spanish made employment opportunities scarce. Despite emptying my savings account, my experiences were invaluable, and the relationships I forged with locals and other luchadors during my tenure continue to this day.

Another byproduct of the trip was this blog, which I had originally intended to use as a diary to chronicle and share my experiences from the road. But now that I was no longer pursuing lofty goals within lucha libre’s mecca, what would be the scope of this blog? After returning to the States, the blog unintentionally became a smattering of cultural theory approaches to lucha libre—to mixed reactions from many readers who just wanted a “wrestling blog”—as well as observations about interpersonal relationships within the sport. Although the theoretical lens seems a bit far afield from professional wrestling, I am by no means the first person to give pro wrestling an academic treatment.

Despite the breadth of topics, my quarterly workouts (which were initially just filler posts) proved to be my most popular posts. I feel it’s safe to say that post-Mexico, I had no coherent vision for the blog and thus it never found a voice.

To that end it should be noted that I am not abandoning the blog on account of it not gaining monumental popularity: I knew quite well that the blog of a non-famous luchador would garner only a specialized, rather small audience (nevermind the fact that the blog was simultaneously academic in tone). Rather, this blog represents a particular chapter in my life that was rife with uncertainty, fear, and passion: uncertainty in the wake of moving to Mexico City to pursue the impossible; fear of said uncertainty; the unbridled passion for a sport. I was in an intense, naive, love affair with lucha libre, for which I flung myself into a personal exodus, into Mexico City, into the birthplace of lucha libre.

While I still love lucha libre, our relationship is now an established one; the maddening, lusty, honeymoon phrase has passed. And although my visions of performing in CMLL during my time in Mexico City did not come to be, I have not abandoned my passion for lucha libre nor the pursuit of excellence, and opportunities within the sport. In fact, I will achieve one of many lucha goals this August when I perform in Arena Naucalpan alongside three of my colleagues from Lucha Volcánica.

I am leaving behind this blog because of it’s significance from a specific period within my relationship with lucha libre, and by extension, a period within my life. I am instead shifting my focus to my future with lucha libre.

Put differently, I am moving on.

No, I am not moving on from lucha libre: when I started this blog I was pursuing, thinking, and dreaming about doing lucha libre. Now? Now I am simply too busy with the doing to be dreaming, a luxury that I was dreaming about back when I first started here.

And I like it that way.

With love,

Ave Rex

PS: You can still find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

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.

 

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 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.