Stereotyping the Fighter

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About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway, Executive Editor at The Good Men Project, is a former MMA fighter and an award-winning poet. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems and Until You Make the Shore. Conaway is on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.


  1. Powerful piece about your experiences as a fighter Cameron. Im also enjoying the wide range of articles you curate for your section

  2. “Most of us came to the sport broken in some way….”

    Interesting observation….I watched my sensei wrestle with a 17 yo student (who was also a wrestler) once…Sensei was drunk and the teen had grown into a 6’1″ strong young man…they went at it, and Sensei didn’t even wait for the kid to pull off his sweatshirt zip-up jacket….it was frightening for me to watch….some of the gym members in the next room looked in nervously while I had to act like this was just part of judo/karate class….watching the kid put Sensei into a chokehold was the worst….

    I still can’t forget it…and I have been trying to dissect it and figure it all out….why would a grown man do that? What does he need to prove? What does a snotty, obnoxious, spoiled 17 yo kid have that makes a grown man want to take him down?

    Thanks for writing this….your description of martial arts really illuminates the complexities and contradictions inherent in modern masculinity….

  3. Dear Leia,

    Wow. So much to dissect here. Of course the alcohol had something to do with this, but I think it goes far beyond alcohol and perhaps this is because of the alcohol.

    Many Sensei’s take far too much pride in their ability to clean house. When you’re at the top of the food chain in your given martial art and in your particular community, it’s easy to become so complacent in your training that you actually aren’t equipped as you think you are. You teach moves in a vacuum and people ooh and aah (and this can elevate Sensei’s pedestal) but the speed and adrenaline and erratic nature of an actual fight is so different from this. I’ve lately been reflecting on the idea that athleticism in a way is its own martial art. Would I have a hard time in a scrap with Usain Bolt? You bet I would. This has nothing to do with his skill as a martial artist and everything to do with his elite physicality and his ability to control his own body….

    As Sensei’s age they tend to talk often about how technique is all that matters, but, unfortunately, this is often just a mask to cover their increasingly diminishing ability to move and move well. This mask is worn to hide the fear. Questions come: Does all the stuff I’ve been teaching actually work? Do I still have the physical tools to implement said techniques if need be?

    This could also have been Sensei’s way to establish a pack order (we are animals, after all) and it certainly could have been Sensei’s fear that if the fight was fair and he lost, well, he’d lose far more than the actual match: reputation, confidence, pride, yada, yada. That snotty spoiled kid has youth and size and those two things can make others envious.

    You painted such a short picture but it’s a dense one. Thanks for sharing! I’ll continue to ponder on it and it may even spark a future piece. Thank you!


  4. Edwin Lyngar says:

    Quality article, and totally true.

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