After catching up with Tuomas Karhunen (Forgotten Horror, Deathchain, True Black Dawn, ex-Jess and the Ancient Ones) last week about his life as a musician, this week's interview is all about his MMA journey, what it means to be a man, and maybe surprisingly in this context, love.
If you missed it, check out Part I of the interview.
Before we dive into the interview, a short excursion on MMA. MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is defined as "a contact sport that allows a wide range of fighting techniques including striking, kicking, and grappling." (Merriam Webster) The best person to explain a bit more on this is Tuomas himself, so these excerpt stem from his own article 'Fight Philosophy: The dark side in all of us' which is part of an upcoming article series about MMA, especially from a philosophical point of view.
"Once upon a time, there was an ancient competition, where two men fought. The only rules were that biting and gouging the eyes were forbidden. One of these fighters used to write down his thoughts from the depths of his mind. That fighter was called Plato. The competition in question was the main event of the ancient Olympic Games, the ancestor of modern MMA, called Pankration(Greek, meaning ”all of power”) and it was respected as the ultimate physical and mental test.[...] A key aspect of martial arts is that both competitors attend voluntarily, prepared both mentally and physically. [...] Perhaps [these philosphoers] believed, that extreme physical struggle and a battle of wills with the fellow competitor was good for one’s character, teaching humbleness, respect toward others and perseverance. The deepest meaning in fighting is not hurting the other person, but to conquer one’s own fears by facing a scary situation. Martial arts and MMA are tools for growing as a human being."
Now onto the interview and Tuomas' MMA journey.
The Metal Phenomenon: For several years now, you have been sharing very personal things on your blog and it seems there has been a lot going on. I was just wondering if the personal stuff just stays on the blog or maybe goes e.g. into the short stories or translates more into the art side?
Tuomas: The original purpose of my blog was simply talking about physical training, nutrition and MMA, but as writing became a large part of my current and future work life, I’ve expanded my website to cover basically all topics and areas of life I’m working with.
There I kind of explore certain childhood fears and document the process of trying to overcome and face them – mainly in the form of cage fighting, but also by making my dreams come true. Eventually arriving to that “end of the rainbow”, which I already see so clearly in front of me. That’s where the writing as openly as possible thing comes from. Because the thought of sharing very personal things feels kind of scary, that’s exactly the reason to do it.
And again, in connection to Ayahuasca – that’s one side effect of Ayahuasca, by the way, that you cannot stop talking about it, which can be very annoying for others (laughs) – it has kind of shifted the focus or the target of how I see this whole existence. With that I mean that instead of writing about violence just for the sake of violence or just pouring out aggression, which can of course be very useful and therapeutic, I am thinking more about what is the purpose of being a man – learning about what power is, how to channel it and how to become stronger.
It’s not just dwelling on destruction just for the sake of it anymore. It’s about liberating oneself from fear and earning the right to become your own authority.
Training at Allstars Training Center, Stockholm.
TMP: So, the whole journey with MMA sounds like a journey to find out for you what it means to be a man, what is masculine, what belongs to that with the rage, the anger, facing your fears.
T: Yes, the concept of a ‘tough guy’ or an ‘alpha guy’ has changed for me. When I was a teenager, I was “that guy”: the one who got the drunk and beat up people. But now I see that that was just a scared little boy who was doing that. It’s not power, and it is not strength. It’s fear.
Real strength, real power comes from love. Love is definitely the highest power, and hatred and anger are so secondary. They do not have the capacity that love has. Power means also to transcend those negative emotions and do the right thing, not to take the easy route. Even carrying some burden on behalf of others.
So the concept of a man I aim to become has evolved for me. With the MMA stuff it’s about searching those inner fears, tapping into one’s inner potential and growing your body stronger and learning about its capacities.
I’m sure I cannot help that it’ll reflect on my music as well and everything I’m writing about. But there is no need to reinvent the wheel with music, nor with Forgotten Horror, so no cage fighting lyrics for FH(laughs)! Or who knows.
Jess and the Ancient Ones live magick from Kuudes Linja, Helsinki. (Photo by Eugene Doe)
TMP: So how do love and MMA go together? Where do you find the love in MMA?
T: Before I fell in love with MMA, I’ve practised different martial arts [Ed. Judo, Taekwondo, Krav Maga] and I’ve had some use-of-force security training, all in all for about a decade. Even still, I’m a complete novice in the art of Mixed Martial Arts, so I can’t talk on behalf of the warriors, the fighters themselves. Yet. But I feel cage fighting is about fighting against yourself and exploring your own fears, limitations, the ability to overcome obstacles and on dealing with extreme mental pressure.
Maybe love is a strong word, but with MMA people there is a strong tribal connection that I feel very drawn towards. The people that train at the MMA gyms are the most positive, optimistic and encouraging people that I know. Everybody elevates each other, supports each other and everybody benefits from that.
One word that I just have to throw in with MMA is respect – respecting each other is a big thing. The fights can be brutal and extremely bloody but after a fight, many times the fighters hug in friendship, and congratulate each other for a good performance. It’s not about doing it because you hate the other guy. It is competition in its absolutely purest form and I find great philosophical beauty and honesty in it. So did the Ancient Greeks, as the “original MMA”, which back then was called pankration, was the main sport of the ancient Olympics. Many philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates actually practised it.
So, maybe love doesn’t transmit directly to an MMA fight that much, but the mutual love for the sport and love for improving yourself is definitely there. And love is a huge source of power and this sense of connectedness, comradery and brotherhood in a tribal way is there.
Regarding music, the love aspect shows up in my lyrics as love towards life, and as love and devotion towards the Dark Goddess.
Training at Allstars Training Center, Stockholm.
TMP: I was just wondering regarding respect and love with MMA – maybe it is because you face your fears and overcome them, so you find love of yourself and self-respect which then means you can actually support the others as well. So maybe that’s where the love comes in – you face your fears and learn to love yourself as well.
T: That is exactly what it is, you said it better than me. That’s exactly what it is because it is about fears, facing them and eventually conquering them.
Respect is related to being humble. If you practise MMA or any other martial art, you’ll learn right away that talk is nothing. You’re not such a badass after all, there are guys who can absolutely dominate and physically man-handle and ragdoll you at will with their bare hands.
Through that kind of humbling you can learn and improve your own potential, and it that way you earn your self-respect. I think this is what a lot of young men would need; to learn about respect and humility instead of being an anonymous online troll. After all, Plato tells us: “The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
Hate is not the opposite of love. Fear is. If you can learn to love and respect yourself, maybe through that you’ll learn to love and respect others as well.
Video: UFC 202: Fight Motion
If you missed it, read Part III, Part IV and Part V of the interview.
You can find more information on Tuomas and the bands here: Website, Facebook, Forgotten Horror, Deathchain, True Black Dawn.