...an experience that is simultaneously aggressive, strikingly symbiotic and awkwardly frictional: a form of collaboration that could otherwise be described as human connectivity...
One person outside their comfort zone, while the other person is comfortably within theirs, creates an imbalance of power. Two people outside their comfort zones opens up the possibility for mutual understanding or “empathy” – the ability to feel, understand, and possibly identify with the other person’s situation.
This is an art project and all participants are fully informed, and understand, that the activity that they are engaging in is not a licensed therapy practice.
Drawing from exhilarating and sometimes awkward experiences practicing close-contact martial arts and working in various countries over a period of sixteen years, I have been investigating the humor and aggressions involved in interpersonal and cross-cultural (mis)communications.
The discussions after the training session often reflect this newly opened space in that they are usually less composed. I have follow-up sessions with those that want to continue training. The culmination of their training results in a public or private grappling match. I act as both a coach and referee, sometimes putting myself in the role of one of the grapplers.
See video here.
I began Fight Therapy in graduate school after returning to the U.S. as a way of recreating some of those unpredictable moments. It involves teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts to sometimes unlikely participants as a method of exploring psychological and physical relationships with themselves and others. Both humor and discomfort come into play as the absurdity of some of the moves breaks down walls of composure. The awkward and uncomfortable moments can be valuable in understandings one’s physical role in the relationship being explored.
Between 2006 to now, over 150 fight sessions have taken place in various locations around the US and abroad - my grappling mats travel with me. I conduct both public and private sessions.
A few of the public Sessions/events are listed below:
WEDLOCK, Ep 2: Fighting (2017) Fight Therapy was featured on this podcast by married comedians Kurt Braunohler and Lauren Cook. The session starts at -13:50 after the interview with a hostage negotiator.
Fight Therapy Chicago (2012) took place at Error Plain 206 Gallery in the Chicago Arts District for their 2nd Friday. I conducted Fight Therapy sessions with the art going public as well as invited people to write on, draw on and deface my paintings and drawings that were on display in the gallery. See photos here
Costume Fight Therapy (2009) took place at a performance night hosted by Michael Hunter. I invited participants to explore the entanglements of performing identities through wrestling each other in costumes. see photos here
Arts vs. Craft (2008) was a collaborative project with artist Andrew Tosiello (Art) and action weaver Travis Meinolf (Craft). Andrew and Travis trained with me for an intense two months before having a un-choreographed match at California College of the Arts for all to see. See photos here
Art vs Artist (2007) was one of the earliest Fight Therapy collaborations with Jen Rhoads who had embarked in a rather intense psychological grapple with her art. She began training with me as a way to engage her work in a physical dialogue. After several training sessions and many discussions later, post-media artist Torreya Cummings stepped into the role of 'Art'.
The training culminated into a very tough three-round match in the Social Practice Space at the California College of the Arts. Listen to Jen discuss her decision to grapple with art here
***Also see the Documentary about Fight Therapy created by Killer Banchee Studios.