Guy Windsor: I’m here today with Jana Howson, who is a historical fencer, a Ph.D. candidate, mother and spouse, as well as being a Lutheran pastor. And I guess the main question we’re going to be looking at today is how the hell do you fit it all in? So without further ado, Jana, welcome to the show.
Jana Howson: Thank you so much. It’s an honour to be here.
Guy Windsor: That’s very kind of you to say. Now, whereabouts in the world are you?
Jana Howson: I am in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, in the States. Bolingbrook, if you want to be specific.
Guy Windsor: Okay, so I’m guessing that you fence with people like Kari, who was on the show earlier?
Jana Howson: Yes, I do. Yep. We have a great group of fencers in the area, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to benefit from the wisdom and experience that’s in this neck of the woods.
Guy Windsor: Okay. And is that how you got into the historical martial arts? How did that come about?
Jana Howson: It came about through a college roommate and a separated shoulder, actually.
Guy Windsor: Okay.
Jana Howson: So my college roommate got me connected with the SCA, which is where I do my historical martial arts through. But for a long time I was not a fencer. I started out in archery and scribal work, actually, and that was a little bit of an intentional choice as my beloved spouse went into Rapier immediately. So I figured balancing things out, not overlapping too much with our kiddos. He’d do this. I’d do the other.
Guy Windsor: So you were already married with children when you started.
Jana Howson: So when we first started in the SCA, already married, the children were imminently pending, shall I say.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Yeah.
Jana Howson: So started out in this other neck of the woods, again to help manage time so our interests wouldn’t overlap. He could do his thing, and then we’d trade off the kiddo and I could go do my thing and outside of the SCA, I’ve also practised Eastern martial arts. I’m a taekwondo black belt and a Karate brown belt at this point.
Guy Windsor: So are you still actively doing karate?
Jana Howson: I am.
Guy Windsor: All right, So black belt coming up?
Jana Howson: Yes. I hope. We’ll see.
Guy Windsor: Hang on, so you must have started out in martial arts quite a while ago.
Jana Howson: Yes, I started at TKD in college, practised that for about a decade. And then when we moved to the Chicago area, we had trouble finding a school that both aligned with our values in practising martial arts and our budget at the time.
Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. So what got you into martial arts in the first place?
Jana Howson: A good friend who came home from university said, hey, I’ve been doing this new thing, you should try it. And he taught us a couple basic kicks at the side of the pool, at the pool party we were at. It’s like, oh, this is cool. And there was a TKD club at the university I was attending at the time. So that’s how I connected there.
Guy Windsor: Okay, so you didn’t, like, grow up punching and kicking stuff. It was sort of introduced to you quite late.
Jana Howson: No, I had a mother who was far more concerned about the dignity of young women growing up.
Guy Windsor: Oh, okay. Personally, I find a young woman who can break my nose with her foot anytime she feels like it, to be extremely dignified.
Jana Howson: You would love my daughter.
Guy Windsor: So basically, you were steered away from the punchy kicky stuff when you were younger because it’s not proper for young ladies.
Jana Howson: But came into it as an adult. That was my whole rebellion when I went off to university.
Guy Windsor: Okay. I’m doing this all wrong because my kids have had absolutely every opportunity to do as much martial arts as they like, and they just could not be less interested. My youngest did, like a year of judo, and that’s about it. So I’ve been doing this all wrong. What I should have been doing is saying, absolutely not. Girls aren’t allowed to do swords. Stay away from them. Put that down. No, not allowed. And then maybe when they were grown-ups they would have taken it up.
Jana Howson: It’s the allure of the forbidden fruit, right?
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I got that one completely wrong. I was like, no, come and train and practice and have a go. And when they were very little, they were very happy to play with Daddy. So that’s fine. But you know, now they’re 16 and 14, they have sadly no interest at all.
Jana Howson: So anyway. Training in karate and had a grappling injury and separated my left shoulder. That meant I couldn’t do karate for about three months, but my right shoulder was perfectly good. It’s like, oh, fencers start out with one hand. I can go multitask. I’ll do this for a little while until I can go back to training on the mats.
Guy Windsor: How did that work? Did you get seduced to the sword after that?
Jana Howson: I did, very quickly. I’m a sucker for martial arts anyway, as you can tell.
Guy Windsor: Clearly. Yeah.
Jana Howson: So I started and went, okay, this is kind of fun. Okay. I like this. Okay, let me figure out. All right. And then we needed to hire a babysitter full time for Tuesday night practices, and it all went from there.
Guy Windsor: Okay, so you’re training once a week, and you and your husband get a babysitter in to cover you while you’re out?
Jana Howson: We do.
Guy Windsor: Okay. That’s a sensible solution because, I mean, I’m guessing your club would be very happy for you to bring the kids along. But if you do, then you’re not going to get any training done.
Jana Howson: Yes. So our kids are now 13 and six, so they’re at the age where it would be a little bit more viable to bring them along, particularly the 13 year old. He’s great. But up to this point, we did kids kind of the worst way possible for having hobbies because we got our first one to 7 and then ended up, oh, let’s restart at an infant.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. So you’d forgotten how to change nappies by the time the second one came around.
Jana Howson: It did take a little bit of work.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, we time ours a bit a bit more easily. So the eldest was still in nappies when the youngest was born, and so we just had one very long nappy period. Once you’re in the nappy zone it’s actually no problem. I mean, you can travel around, you can do stuff and you’re all geared up for it and you’ve got the bag and you’ve got all the stuff in it and it’s like, no problem. But I’ve noticed that with a lot of these parenting things is this thing which is absolutely critical and essential and a major part of your life suddenly you don’t even notice you’re not doing it anymore. It’s like I remember when we I went downstairs and had a look in the bike shed and I saw our double pushchair thing and I realised, hang on, we haven’t used that for like three months, then we should sell it because the kids have just grown out of it and we hadn’t even noticed that we weren’t using anymore.
Jana Howson: Yeah. The first weekend sword fighting event we went to without the diaper bag. That was a landmark.
Guy Windsor: I can imagine, but actually the nappies are in many ways more portable than the young child who is just out of them, because then every bathroom incident has to be dealt with immediately. And whether they say now, I’m sure my youngest will kill me if she finds out I say this online, but she was about two and she’d just come out of nappies and we were doing some errands and she said she needed a wee and we were just like getting to the front of the queue in the pharmacy. And I was like, okay, just hang on a minute. And while I was doing this, the last 2 minutes I was there, getting some medicine for something. I forget exactly what. And she kind of just looks at me, standing in a little puddle. So I look at the shop assistant across the counter. I say, I’m very sorry, but my daughter has urinated on your floor. What would you like me to do about it? Finland is famous for bad customer service. But what this guy said, meant we never went to any other pharmacy ever again. He said it’s natural. Don’t worry about it. We’ll handle it.
Jana Howson: Oh, wonderful.
Guy Windsor: Wow. Okay. But yeah. So I can imagine in a fencing event, if your two or three year old is like, you know, Daddy, I need to wee. Yeah, that’s it. Sword down and go. You have no time. So I’m curious. You’ve taken taekwondo to quite a high level. What made you switch to karate or did you just add karate to the next?
Jana Howson: The switch came when we moved to the Chicago land area and we couldn’t find a dojo that aligned with our budget and our martial arts values.
Guy Windsor: Okay, I mean, I get the budget part that’s fairly straightforward. What is the values element?
Jana Howson: So an important part for me is training martial arts as an art. So looking at understanding the mechanics of what you’re doing, not just being able to go out and beat something to smithereens, one of the shadow sides of taekwondo becoming an Olympic sport is a lot of dojos became highly competitive and highly focussed on competitive sparring. And I’m somebody who’s more interested in the whole experience, the forms, the techniques, the roundedness of it. So finding something that lined up there, I wanted to find a place that acknowledged the previous training I had and didn’t just go, Oh, well, you have to restart and pay for all these belt ranks again.
Guy Windsor: Oh, God, yes. The belt factory.
Jana Howson: Yes. So I have a friend who calls them McDojos.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, absolutely. And they’re not wrong to do so. If you’re coming into an entirely new art it makes sense that you show up as a white belt and when they notice that you know what you’re doing and you discuss your previous background, they might say, well actually okay, but you should be training over there with the blue belts. And some sort of accommodation is made. So you’ve got to approach it with that humility. Oh, okay. This is not exactly what I was doing before. I am not part of the system. So I start at the bottom, but at the same time, a well-run space will recognise previous experience and treat you accordingly because the point for them should not be getting those examination fees for every bout.
Jana Howson: Yeah. So when I found that there wasn’t a dojo nearby that was a good match, I started exploring other arts because I was perfectly willing to go back, start at the beginning and work through and stumbled into this wonderful program run by our local park district with an instructor who had that rounded approach who when I walked in and I bowed my first time and he’s like, okay, you know what you’re doing. Come tell me what you’ve got as a background. And I did start as a white belt, but he also honoured that previous training. So it’s like here on this thing, go train over here, and the belt fees were very reasonable, so it never felt like he was churning for that.
Guy Windsor: I’ve run gradings because my students have in them wanted a grading system and the students in Singapore wanted it even more. So we developed this grading system and the way I always ran the grade exams was there’ll be a full days seminar where people will show up at their various levels and they would practice the stuff they were supposed to know and they would get taught the next stuff, whatever that was. And if their training level meant that they were eligible for an exam, then we would examine them and, if necessary, teach them the thing that was missing or just pass them or what have you. And the point is they’re paying for a seminar and they get a seminar that is useful to them, whether they grade or not. And there was no actual additional fee for me checking this element or that element. And yes, okay. You go through to the next level. Because yeah, I’ve always been really, really suspicious of these like it’s $100 for your orange belt exam sort of thing.
Jana Howson: And I found that a lot of the Taekwondo dojo tied it to time rather than experience so, oh it’s two months, here, pay for this next thing, oh it’s another two months, here, pay for this next thing.
Guy Windsor: Right.
Jana Howson: And my current instructor, Master Carr, I love what he says. He says, I don’t care how long you’re sitting there with a white belt. You’re going to be sitting there with a white belt until you know your stuff. And we figured it out. And the elevation isn’t what it’s about. It’s about actually having the skill.
Guy Windsor: So for people who aren’t familiar, what is the process of getting a taekwondo black belt?
Jana Howson: Again, varies school by school, but typically you go through, you train for a certain period of time and you’re looking for both basic techniques. Oftentimes in taekwondo, there’s a series of step sparrings, which are fighting patterns that they’ll teach you, and then a formal kata or form, which is a series of moves. A lot of times in taekwondo you need to demonstrate free sparring experience as well, where you actually go and kick and punch other people.
Guy Windsor: Did you do that?
Jana Howson: I did. And then board breaking as well tends to be like the big showcase thing.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of taekwondo board breaking stuff, it is great fun to watch.
Jana Howson: It is.
Guy Windsor: So you’ve done the board breaking stuff?
Jana Howson: I have.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Well, what’s the how do you do it without breaking your foot?
Jana Howson: Good technique, like everything else. How do you do this without breaking yourself? Good technique. I happen to be gifted with particularly high arches, which means I am ridiculously good at doing top of the foot breaks. Which is a relatively rare skill because a lot of times you want to break with something solid like your heel or the ridge of your foot. But I’ve got this great ridge right there that I can go through on the top of the foot. And it’s very, very showy at tournaments. I got first places in so many tournaments because of this weird physical gift I have.
Guy Windsor: So you’re breaking a pine board. If it is your hand, it would be like the back of your hand.
Jana Howson: Yeah, right there. That first bone.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, that first knuckle. Yeah, that’s hurting my feet just thinking about it. I wouldn’t do that. Yeah, well, I would do it in sabatons, no problem. Okay, do you not have to do any sort of hardening techniques, like building up the toughness of the foot?
Jana Howson: Not so much with the pine boards. They break a lot more easily than you think they might.
Guy Windsor: Okay. You’re not supposed to tell us.
Jana Howson: Here I am giving all these secrets away. Edit this section out. So again, breaking is far more about mindset than it ever is about physical hardening.
Guy Windsor: And I’m guessing a lot of the people listening who do sparring in fencing would be curious to hear about how the sparring is set up in taekwondo.
Jana Howson: Okay, so I did Olympic style sparring. There’s different styles, and in that one it’s a continuous free sparring. You have typically three corner judges who are watching for points. You have set scoring areas either on the torso or on the head, not the face. And you need to have a body jolting blow. So you need to hit hard enough that there is a movement of the spine is typically what they’re evaluating. Since I’ve done that, they’ve started doing these sensor systems within the chest protectors, and I was never advanced enough or it’s been long enough. I’ve never had the chance to work with those. But when I was actively sparring, that was how it was judged.
Guy Windsor: Okay, so you’re relying on the ability of your judges to spot that you hit the person hard enough. Okay. And what is the sort of final score usually, are you doing it to time or are you doing it to a certain number of points?
Jana Howson: You’re generally doing it to time. There’s usually two rounds, often 60 seconds.
Guy Windsor: Okay.
Jana Howson: At the end of two 60-second rounds, depending on the level of sparrers, of course, you’ll see anything from like two points to 5 to 7 points. So you’re looking in that range.
Guy Windsor: All right. So do you find that that was a helpful sort of precursor to your fencing training?
Jana Howson: Yes and no. So it was very helpful in that I had fought before, so I wasn’t coming into fencing, sparring, going ah! Somebody’s hitting me. And the blows you take in taekwondo are at a much higher calibration than the blows you’re supposed to take in SCA’s sparring. So honestly, making the transition into rapier fighting, it’s like, oh, this isn’t even full fighting. We’re just playing tag with swords because we’re looking for that light touch. So that helped a lot with the weasel brain. On the flip side, I learned that the bad habits I had from Taekwondo unfortunately followed me into rapier fencing.
Guy Windsor: Like what?
Jana Howson: Do I have to give away all my secrets?
Guy Windsor: No. But I’m sure listeners will be interested to know what kind of weaknesses you’re talking about, because I guess most of the people listening have never actually had a round kick to the ribs before.
Jana Howson: Fair enough. So for me, my biggest enemy is head space. Being able to get into that. I’m here and I’m coming with intention to do a person harm within a controlled environment, so I’m not actually looking to harm my opponent. But that whole all right, I’m dealing with the adrenaline dump and the weasel brain kicking in.
Guy Windsor: Also, they want to win and you’re trying to take that away from them. So you are doing them some kind of harm if you do your job properly.
Jana Howson: Fair enough. In terms of fight or flight, my weasel brain likes going to freeze and that’s really, really bad with taekwondo and the fencing, you end up flat footed and hey, look, you’re an easy target.
Guy Windsor: It is the worst of all of the responses really. You’re literally standing still getting it. Yeah.
Jana Howson: Which is the one that you don’t want to do. Stand still and get hit.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. So presumably if you were trained properly in taekwondo, you were given solutions to these issues?
Jana Howson: I was. So I had an instructor who was a former national sparring champ, but he did point sparring. So that’s the other system you do in taekwondo where you go until one person scores and then reset, which should be familiar to a number of the sword fighters listening. So he really worked with me to come up with things that I could do to help combat that reaction. One of my favourites was sort of keeping my weasel brain busy with something else so my body could do what it needed to do. One of the tricks he taught me was to count my breaths when I spar. So as I’m out there on the mat, moving around, counting in one, out one, so my brain is churning on that rather than going, oh, somebody’s trying to kick me in the head.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. I actually often sing a little song to myself.
Jana Howson: Oh, really?
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Because again, it occupies the bit of the brain. And also when you get really close to someone and they hear that you’re singing a little song, they get really freaked out, which is very good. Okay, so is the karate you’re doing, does that have a similar sort of competitive component or is it more of the traditional stuff?
Jana Howson: More of the traditional stuff, particularly in this school. My current instructor doesn’t love the commercialisation and the competitive nature of tournaments and such, so he’ll support students who are interested. But he also doesn’t encourage us to go out and do that, which is great because it’s one less obligation on my rather busy plate right now.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about some of your other obligations. So you just handed in your PhD dissertation. Firstly, congratulations. I hope it goes very well.
Jana Howson: Thank you.
Guy Windsor: And, you know, just getting that damn thing done and out and off your plate is. Yes, I sympathise. So what is it about?
Jana Howson: It is about looking at how geeks make meaning within their fandoms. So how a Star Trek.
Guy Windsor: Oh, my God. That is genius. Yeah, absolutely. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Please, carry on.
Jana Howson: No, it’s great. I love enthusiasm when I say that and how we might borrow some of that natural meaning-making that’s happening in fandom spaces and bring it back into Christian education. Because here’s one of the things I may say to get myself in trouble with the bishops, but a lot of Christian education really stinks. And people are looking outside the church to figure out, who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? These big meaning-making questions. And people are using, less so with the horrendous nature of the creator, but used to use Harry Potter houses, so oh, I’m a Ravenclaw. That says something about me, who I am, how I behave, how I respond to things. Or looking and Star Wars that the Jedi/Sith alignment, you know, how do I view the world? So people are doing these things. And this is the type of meaning making ideally we’d love to see in the church within the religious texts.
Guy Windsor: It does seem to be kind of like one of the points of having a religion.
Jana Howson: Small detail there.
Guy Windsor: So okay, so what fandoms did you look at?
Jana Howson: So the worst part of a dissertation for me is you have to narrow it in so specifically. The thing I had to do within my dissertation, because most church people go fandom, what’s that? Why do I want to think about it? Was I had to make the point that meaning making was happening in these fan spaces. So the pandemic influenced my research methodology a little bit because it was not the best time to go out and do interviews or wander around comic cons. So I looked at digital artefacts that looked at the post Disney acquisition Star Wars era to see where people were making meaning within the sequel trilogy or the latest live action shows or I even got to pull in like the last season of Clone Wars was in that era.
Guy Windsor: Okay, I should probably maybe just sidebar briefly and say my biggest claim to fame is that in 2006, when I was teaching a seminar in Singapore, I also went and a class at Lucasfilm animation in Singapore, and I actually taught longsword to the animators who created the Clone Wars.
Jana Howson: Oh wow. That is a serious claim to fame. I am standing in the presence of greatness right here.
Guy Windsor: So a little bit of a Jedi geek myself. So what kinds of meaning are fans generally sort of bringing to or getting out of Star Wars?
Jana Howson: I found evidence of the type of meaning making we’re concerned with in the church, which is using the language of fandom to express understanding of the world, using that same framework to approach new challenges or hard situations in life.
Guy Windsor: Could you give us an example?
Jana Howson: Sure. I wish I had my papers in front of me. You know the point when you’re so far deep in your dissertation, you have no idea what you’ve said anymore.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I’m also totally familiar with the when it goes off to the examiners or to publication or whatever, your brain just deletes the entire thing. I should perhaps have warned you that I might ask this question, but if you could dig up an example that would be great.
Jana Howson: Sure. So one of the really interesting things about looking at that era of Star Wars fandom is the idea of canon, what is in and what is out for making meaning. So I really pulled on that to say, one of the really interesting things about fandom is people can define canon a little bit for themselves. So we have these Star Wars fans who are completely excluding the sequel trilogy, saying, “That’s not my Star Wars.” And then you have the relationship with authority because Disney is saying, “Well, the only canon is the movies, plus whatever Disney makes and excluding the entire expanded universe.” So what does it mean when you have somebody saying, well, the thing you’re making meaning from that’s not real or that doesn’t meet the muster for being official texts. So talking about how we approach scripture in that same way, because we have this canon that’s been set centuries ago.
Guy Windsor: There’s canon and there’s the Apocrypha.
Jana Howson: But not only that, what do we do with modern day prophets and people who are bringing new meaning and modern meaning? Jesus didn’t have a whole lot to say about how to ethically use cell phones or interact in digital environments. So how do how do we take seriously the work that’s being how that’s being done there and bring in these new sources of authority? So relationship to authority is a huge component of this. Ownership of the texts, an ability to play with the texts was a huge thing.
Guy Windsor: Fanfic.
Jana Howson: Exactly. Fanfic, cosplay, all of these things that we do that help us relate to these fandom texts. We’re almost prohibited from doing within the religious environment. And part of my dissertation is to say, you know, what if we loosen up the grip a little bit here? What if we let people write fanfic about what it might have been like? I also got to make the argument that, like Life of Brian is a great piece of fanfic, Monty Python skit. So it’s like, let’s take this seriously. Blessed are the cheesemakers, indeed.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. And he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy. So basically, your conclusion from this is having looked at how fans in the Star Wars arena create meaning and interact with the canon, basically you think the church could learn something about how to run the church from how fandom operates?
Jana Howson: Well, at least Christian education.
Guy Windsor: Okay. What do you mean by that?
Jana Howson: So at least how we teach people to make meaning from the faith. I don’t know that we want to run our Sunday services like a fan convention, although there’s some potential there too. But the scope of mine is looking at that educational component.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Like what?
Jana Howson: So a big thing that at least in the US mainline Protestant churches are wrestling with is our coming of age education, often called confirmation, has really been struggling. So we’re dealing with six to eighth graders, so 11 to 14, give or take, in that range. And kids’ brains are doing some really cool thing here. And this is when they’re really starting to ask questions and make their own meaning and move from their family being a site of authority to their friends and their peers and external sources. One of the great things that fandom does is give some agency to the fans and how they make meaning. So what if we bring that same sort of agency in the way we teach conformation, rather than trying to indoctrinate with certain right beliefs or dogma? What if we trust our kids a little bit more and encourage them to explore meaning making in their own ways within the Christian fandom?
Guy Windsor: Okay, that’s a very interesting idea. Of course, because I got church stuff thrown at me for ten years in boarding school and I hated every minute of it and none of it stuck, frankly. So it’s interesting to me that basically you’re coming at it the same way that I teach historical martial arts to students, which is it’s not my job to tell people what to do. It’s my job to figure out what they need to get where they want to go and provide that. So, like, if one particular student really wants to be good at tournament fencing, another particular student really wants to understand what Fiore means when he says this that or the other. It’s not my job to say, well, actually, you have to do all of the Fiore stuff and all of the tournament stuff. It’s my job to go so you’re interested in this bit. So what’s stopping you getting where you want to go. Okay. You’re having difficulty sort of perhaps figuring out the syntax of the Italian, let’s work on that or you’re having difficulty when under a lot of pressure you tend to step back and you need to be out of step to the side instead. So let’s look at that. And basically letting it come from the student rather than being imposed from outside.
Jana Howson: It’s reimagining the role of pastor as educator and resource rather than authority figure. How can I support this student in their understanding with where they want to go?
Guy Windsor: I formalised this sort of gradual shift in my approach because back in the early days I was relatively authoritarian, because I was terrified that if I didn’t keep control of everyone that somebody would get killed. But as I gradually learned to trust my students and learned how to teach better it evolved from being kind of a fairly classic sort of sensei-ish teacher in charge thing to being more of a consultant. So I actually redefined my job in about 2015 as Consulting Swordsman, right? So you’re basically you’re basically floating the idea of pastors being consultants rather than authorities. How do you think that’s going to go down?
Jana Howson: Oh, about as well as many of my great ideas go down.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Because obviously the church is not famous for relinquishing authority or control.
Jana Howson: And I mean, part of it is an element of who I am. So I live in the U.S. now, but I was raised in Canada, grew up in the United Church of Canada, far less hierarchical structure than many of the religious institutions in the U.S.. And I was raised in a model that was far more supportive of this type of learning, had a much lower understanding of ministerial authority. And it was one of the biggest culture things when I came to the States was going, okay, what’s going on with the church here? This is not the church I know or I’ve understood or what this relationship between me and the Minister and God was. So I come by a bit of my stuff, honestly, through culture and upbringing. But to really look at it in a way to say, how can we approach the educational component and think about the role of the teacher in a different way in this context?
Guy Windsor: Okay. So what actual changes would you like to see happen?
Jana Howson: Oh. As you mentioned at the beginning of the interview, I’m in the Lutheran denomination now I’m with the ELCA, which I fondly call the liberal Lutherans in the U.S. And Luther’s big Reformation, was putting scripture in the hands of the people. I would like us to continue to see that trust that came out of the Protestant Reformation taken to another level of saying, okay, so we’ve trusted them with the Scripture. Now let’s trust them to make the meaning with the Scripture as well.
Guy Windsor: So not just being allowed to read the Bible, being allowed to interpret it, too.
Jana Howson: And it is happening.
Guy Windsor: That’s a bold move.
Jana Howson: It is happening. We’re moving in this direction simply in the same way that the printing press changed things with Luther. The internet is changing interpretations. Now we have access and forums for debate, but we still have problems with control. So just trying to navigate a graceful way through all of this and take that next step of trust.
Guy Windsor: When people have control and they have power, it is very, very difficult to persuade them to give it up, generally, because the sense of power makes you feel safe. And as soon as you lose any of that. It’s like when I went through that process of giving my students more and more and more control, more and more and more power. It was scary because there could have been an accident, somebody could have died. So I think I can intuitively sympathise with the elements in the church who are like, no! Because if they fuck it up they’re going to go to hell and burn in hell forever, that’s a very bad outcome. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen and therefore we have to make absolutely certain they are doing everything exactly that’s supposed to do, otherwise they are all fucked. What’s your argument for letting go of that?
Jana Howson: Well, that’s the second cool thing that we have in both fandom and ideally in religious environments is community. So we’re not trying to set you off as a free agent and go, okay, go figure this all out on your own. And whatever you come up with the gospel of Frederick. Great, you’ve got it. But rather, we’re having these conversations in community. We gather in fandom, in conventions or clubs. We gather in churches and community for interpretation and understanding. And hopefully that community nature helps mitigate that tendency to go off down some really deep heretical rabbit hole over here. And I imagine it played out the same way in your sword community as well, that you had this group that if somebody did start to go off the rails, it’s like maybe let’s bring that back in here.
Guy Windsor: But I mean, that’s the thing. Like safety in a historical martial arts club is primarily about culture, right? That’s what keeps everyone safe. It’s not the equipment, it’s not the style, it’s not the rules that you fence under. It is the culture of having a really deeply ingrained expectation that you are required to look after each other. You are responsible for each other’s wellbeing.
Jana Howson: But your church would be able to manage that too, that we’re required to look after each other and think about each other’s well-being. And the church is not always the best at that but it should be one of our core convictions.
Guy Windsor: Pretty much the same as it came out of my mouth, I was like, hang on, that sounds right. But yes, generally that’s that doesn’t seem to be how much churches seem to act. So what is your concern with heresy?
Jana Howson: My concern or the concern that others in authority might have?
Guy Windsor: Well, I can guess what others in authority might have and they’re not on the show. So what is your concern?
Jana Howson: So I don’t think I’m concerned about heresy as a “oh, no, you can’t think that it might be heretical,” but rather for me, I think heresy would be taking these texts in a way that does harm to others. And there’s been a lot of that in the history of the church.
Guy Windsor: And in the history of historical fencing, taking these texts and interpreting them in a way that does harm to others. I think, honestly, we agree on the definition of heresy. I’m fairly tolerant of other interpretations, but some of them are heretical. If they get you injured when you tried doing it that way, that is definitely wrong.
Jana Howson: So those bounds of safety, again, I joke with my parishioners that there is a whole lot of overlap between my martial arts practice and my pastoral practice, and they don’t always believe me. They’re like, Oh, what, Pastor? You are gonna come and stab us with a sword some Sunday?
Guy Windsor: Well, you should. Just try.
Jana Howson: You know? They tempt me sometimes, they tempt me. But these boundaries around safety, these boundaries around care for others, these concerns for learning and community, they’re really, really parallel concerns between the two structures.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Okay. So how has your martial arts experience background, how has that influenced your job as a pastor?
Jana Howson: Well, my tongue in cheek answer is one of the biggest things you learn in martial arts is self-control. And that’s a really, really good life skill to have as a pastor.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Why so?
Jana Howson: So one of the in my education and my training to become a pastor, one of the concepts we were taught is that in any situation we are to be the non-anxious or at least the less anxious presence. So being able to be in a high stress situation and still go, I’m okay, calm down lizard brain. Don’t come out of your reactions. Let’s take that extra half a second and think about it, or rely on these trained responses. So rather than elevating, escalating a situation, you’re the one keeping it under control. You’re the one moderating. You’re dealing with the same sort of adrenaline dump that you deal with when you’re sparring.
Guy Windsor: What sort of situation are we talking about?
Jana Howson: Oh, goodness. It can be everything from being in an annual meeting when somebody stands up and says, I think our church should leave the denomination because blah, blah, blah, it can be being in a hospital emergency room with a family who’s got a loved one in the next room and they don’t know if they’re going to make it.
Guy Windsor: Right.
Jana Howson: So anything that causes that same tension, anything that causes that same adrenaline spike, the body and the mind respond in very, very similar ways between the two.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So you’ve actually found having been kicked in the head in Taekwondo is a useful preparation for staying calm when you have to be the pastor figure in a stressful situation.
Jana Howson: Yeah, I mean, the kicks in the head and pastoral life, they’re usually emotional rather than physical. But the brain doesn’t distinguish between those.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Interesting. I’d not thought of it, but I think the church would probably be a lot more popular if all the pastors were martial artists.
Jana Howson: I mean, I recommend it to all my colleagues. Seriously. You should look at doing, even if it’s something like Tai chi, something that trains you in that sort of balance.
Guy Windsor: So you have like a lot of things going on. Clearly you are actively working as a pastor and you just wrote a PhD and you have children and I presume you spend some time doing marriage stuff. You know, if you want to stay married, you have to actually do stuff. You have to work at it at least a little bit. And you are training in at least two martial arts. So how do you have time to talk to me?
Jana Howson: Good scheduling. It’s my quick tongue in cheek answer, but, I mean, there’s a lot of truth to that. And it is continually a matter of looking at all the priorities and figuring, what is it? What is it that needs my attention now? How much can I give to this? There is a hierarchy and ranking because absolutely my kids come first, my marriage comes first, and that’s before job, that’s before school, that’s before historical martial arts. But then also the companion to that is knowing that I am a better parent and I am a better spouse when I am doing the things that help feed my brain and make me happy. Like doing a PhD for fun or stabbing my friends on the weekends. And figuring out how to make all of that work together. It really, really helps that my spouse is also a sword fighter. So this is not only a hobby of mine, but it is a shared interest. So sword time could also be marriage time. Tuesday night practice is Tuesday night date night for us. So we go. We stab our friends for 2 hours and we go out for ice cream after. And it’s great.
Guy Windsor: That is a really good way to do date night. I have similar priorities, like wife and kids first. Then job stuff actually comes relatively low on the list. And it’s tricky because like, one of the hardest things is protecting the downtime. For busy people, often the very first thing that goes is sleep. Pretty fanatical about not getting to bed too late and not getting up too early. Do you sleep well?
Jana Howson: When things are balanced and I’m taking care of myself? Yes. But you’re right that when things get to start to get out of balance, that’s one of the first things that goes. So sleep is almost my canary in the coal mine. When I start to realise I’m not sleeping well, that’s the oh, stop. You need to check out what you’re balancing here. And there are times when my different priorities are inherently in conflict. So much of the historical martial arts, the SCA, happens on weekends and I am always working Sunday.
Guy Windsor: Of course you are.
Jana Howson: So there’s an inherent structural conflict there. And one of the things I had to learn was that I could not do swords in a lot of the way that my friends do swords, because weekends are their off times, they can go to an event all day Saturday, go out for dinner with friends, and then be at the hotel room, post revel afterwards in the lobby until all hours of the night, sleep in on Sunday and then drive home Sunday afternoon. We can’t do that as the nature of my job. So sometimes it’s difficult to fit in the community with having those limitations because if you only get to be there for the stabbing part and not for all of the social time. You don’t make the same connnections. You don’t get to hear the once the Masters have had one or two drinks and they’re willing to wax philosophical about the latest thing they’ve discovered in Fabris. You miss on some of that. And unfortunately, with prioritising family, with prioritising job, there’s a point at which you have to go, okay, this is just part of the experience that I don’t get to have all the time and I have to be okay with that.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I used to work weekends myself, because teaching swordsmanship it tends to be evenings and weekends. And when I stopped teaching regularly, night in, night out, four or five days a week. It was amazing how much other stuff I could do with friends or with the kids or whatever, because I wasn’t working at the weekends and I wasn’t working in the evenings. Yeah, there’s definitely a cost there. It wasn’t why I started this show. But one of the things that people told me that they really enjoy about it is these episodes, they also feel like they’re hanging out in the pub with me and whoever I’m talking to, and they’re getting some of that sort of social interaction and catch up stuff, albeit passively. So they can’t like interject with questions or what have you. But listeners quite often email me questions based on something that has come up in a in an episode. So there are maybe some asynchronous non time specific ways that that that you can kind of fill up that well.
Jana Howson: And I think the asynchronous options have really expanded. It’s one of the positive sides of the COVID pandemic is it’s forced many of us to think about how we do swords differently, how we can communicate in new and different ways and give these spaces, which was a necessity during COVID. But it’s had some really nice side effects for those of us who can’t hang out at the pub on Saturday nights as much.
Guy Windsor: Right.
Jana Howson: So it existed before the pandemic, but I think the pandemic has accelerated the ways we think about it.
Guy Windsor: Do you do social media at all?
Jana Howson: I do on Facebook, but that’s about it.
Guy Windsor: Okay, I’ll cut this out if this is a no. But I’ve recently started a social media platform for sword people and it’s called swordpeople.com. It is as synchronous as you want it to be. And again, its purpose is to connect sword people, but not through a platform that is controlled by tech billionaires who are trying to sell advertising. So I think you should come and join us.
Jana Howson: You know, I’ve been listening to a few of your podcasts in preparation for this because that’s what I do to cope with anxiety, I overprepare.
Guy Windsor: Were you anxious about coming on the show?
Jana Howson: Oh, absolutely. I made you are a hero of the sword community. You’ve had people like Kajetan on here who are big names and it’s like I’m some nobody in the middle of Chicago who stabs people when I can fit it in between my kids and my marriage and my job.
Guy Windsor: Well, I’m glad you have to have the guts to come on. It would have been a shame if you said no?
Jana Howson: Again, like I said, it was my honour.
Guy Windsor: Sorry, you said you were listening to…?
Jana Howson: So I’ve heard your advertisements at the beginning of your more recent podcasts about it, and I’ve found myself in this internal conflict of, oh, wow, that sounds super cool. And oh wow, can I manage one more thing? Maybe after I’ve finished my dissertation.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Leave it until after you’ve defended your dissertation.
Jana Howson: March 23rd. It’s close.
Guy Windsor: All right. Yes. Today is February 27th, I think. All right. You have just over three weeks. Good luck. Okay, I do a little research on my guests. I try to figure out what sort of things I should be asking them, what sort of experience they have. And on your Facebook profile, you also call yourself Anna Jokinen which is a nice Finnish name. I have to ask, who is she and why is she Finnish?
Jana Howson: So that is my SCA persona. I am a bad SCAdian in that the historical was the secondary part for me. So I came to the SCA because I like to shoot archery and I learned I like to stab people with swords. So Anna is a tribute to my own heritage. My mum’s family is from Finland.
Guy Windsor: Really?
Jana Howson: Yes. Hence the first name Jana.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Jana Howson: They anglicised the spelling, which I’ve never forgiven them for. I wish they’d kept the double a in it like it should be.
Guy Windsor: My youngest daughter. Her name is Katriina. Absolutely everybody screws up in the double i and it drives her nuts.
Jana Howson: Yeah. Which is why they took out the extra a. But yeah, so my mumma’s family were Jokinens and when I was looking at okay, I need some historical name, it’s like, fine, what can I find from Finland? Let’s pay this tribute to my mum’s family. It’s actually not an allowed name in the SCA because within the defined period, women weren’t allowed to use that structure for the name because it’s much like Anderson, it’s son of Anders, Johnson, son of John. Jokinen is that same sort of male designation.
Guy Windsor: Is it? In Finnish, I don’t think so.
Jana Howson: That’s what I’ve been told by a number of SCA Heralds. I’m tired of fighting the fight.
Guy Windsor: Have you been told by SCA Heralds who speak Finnish?
Jana Howson: No, because there is a strange lack of them in central Illinois.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Because I think that’s bullshit. Because Finnish doesn’t have feminine forms.
Jana Howson: And I know, but I can’t find historical evidence of women having the ‘nen’ ending to the names within the SCA era. And because I can’t find an appropriate tombstone, they say, no, we can’t do it.
Guy Windsor: Okay. What is the appropriate area? Give me the dates.
Jana Howson: So it cuts off at 1600.
Guy Windsor: So it has to be pre 1600.
Jana Howson: Pre 1600.
Guy Windsor: Okay. All right. Now the primary issue with finding this information is that Finnish wasn’t written down as a language until relatively late. And if I’m remembering rightly, it’s 1500s. I just thought of just the person who I’m going to send this query to and he’s head of special collections at the University of Helsinki Library. He is seriously fucking qualified about all this sort of thing. And I’ll see if I can find you an example of a of a woman using surname which ends in ‘nen’ because Jokinen just means ‘of the river.’
Jana Howson: Yes, it does. Which as I’m sitting here staring out my window, I’m looking at a river right there. I grew up in Sioux Sainte-Marie, Ontario, which is literally the rapids of Saint Mary’s, so right on the river. So I love the name, not just for the familial connection, but for the actual meaning of it, too. But the good thing is the SCA doesn’t exactly prohibit you from using the name. I can’t register it officially, but I can use it informally. So that’s what I do. And the Heralds can just cope.
Guy Windsor: Well, all right. Okay. Watch this space. Because it’s making me very cross. I will see what I can do. I will do this all by email. And then hopefully we can get it sorted out for you. All right. Brilliant. Okay. Now, I do have a couple of questions I ask all of my guests. And the first is, what is the best idea you haven’t done yet?
Jana Howson: Oh, goodness.
Guy Windsor: In all of your copious free time, as you lie there twiddling your thumbs.
Jana Howson: Eating bonbons and relaxing.
Guy Windsor: Exactly.
Jana Howson: I would love a way to figure out how to connect other fencers, particularly fencers who are parents to these same sort of connections that allowed me to develop my fencing career. Because something we haven’t had a chance to talk about is how important the community or the village has been as I took on my sword fighting. That same college roommate I mentioned who got me into the SCA in the first place. Part of what she also did when I started fencing was saying, hey, your kid’s about the same age as my kids. You want me to hang with your kid so you can go fencing that tournament? I’m part of that. I’m part of an SCA household. So when my kid was a little bit older and didn’t need direct supervision, but also couldn’t 100% be trusted entirely on his own because mischievous five year olds are a thing, at events we have a day camp or a set up where our household or family gathers, and I could give him boundaries of, you know, stay over here in the household area. If I’m on the list and you need something ask any one of the household and they can help you with emergency needs or safely grab me off the list. And outside of the household, I have had amazing people, primarily women, who have been there before, who have had the chance to say, hey, don’t worry, I’ve got ‘em, you go fence. Or there was one day. We talked a little bit about brain space and how it’s a challenge for me. Sometimes switching between mum brain into stone cold murderer brain is a really hard change to make when you’ve just been dealing with a leaky nappy and somebody crying because they don’t have their goldfish and you’re supposed to go out and go murder somebody. I mean, the urge to murder at that point can sometimes be a little high.
Guy Windsor: And that’s just as bad. That’s actually worse than being a bit too passive.
Jana Howson: Absolutely. And I remember there was one tournament and this was the big rapier tournament in our area. It’s the high pressure one, the up and comers. You’re always looking to make your name here. And I’d been training for this because I was right at the edge in my fencing where it’s like, okay, I want to come out and show people I know what I’m doing, that I’ve made real progress. So I was coming into this tournament with all these expectations and my older kid was about ten. My younger kid was about two or three, so really rough age. And they both had the come aparts since we got there. We had driven down that morning. They were a mess. I was trying to get them straight and trying to get my gear on, trying to go sign in at the list table and it was too much. And one of the elders in our community, and I mean that in terms of experience, not age, but the woman who brought rapier fencing to our region saw me as I was running out to the car to get to whoever had forgotten what. And she said, Are you okay? And I just started to cry.
Guy Windsor: Every parent has been there.
Jana Howson: And she gave me a gigantic hug, and she said just that. Oh, I’ve been there. You’re having one of those days. Let me give you a Mari hug and it’ll be okay. And it was. That was enough that I could reset. I could grab whatever had been forgotten in the car. I got to the list on time and I went out and had one of my best performances ever. So that connection, that community, how do we see our fencers, our rapier fighters who are struggling with the same thing, who are doing their best to come and do that thing they love? How can we support them on the sidelines? Because we’re pretty good, not always, but we’re pretty good at the teaching. We’re pretty good for the people who can be there. But how do we notice the people on the sidelines who are struggling to get there in the first place? And what can we do as a community to bring them in?
Guy Windsor: Okay, so what would you do?
Jana Howson: Do I have a magic wand or not?
Guy Windsor: Well, okay, my next question, as you know, because I send everyone questions in advance, if somebody gives you $1,000,000 to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide. You can have as much money as you want, but the spirit of the previous question is more like there’s this thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t got quite round to doing it yet. And the spirit of the second question is more castles in the sky. But you can interpret the questions however you like.
Jana Howson: So I mean a combination of the two, I think it would be amazing if we had unlimited funds and we could get through all the logistics and the safety concerns of what would it look like to have high quality, safe childcare, available at sword fighting events.
Guy Windsor: You are not the first one of my guests to suggest childcare at sword events as a good use of the money and I completely agree.
Jana Howson: So figuring that out and just there’s so many logistics, particularly in this country, there’s so many legalities around that, that I don’t know how to do it without a shit ton of money. That million dollars might cover it for a region, but if we could get it, how to do that and do it well. And then I have to say the other thing I would love to do is buy a copy of Fear is the Mind Killer for everybody in the rapier community and make them read it.
Guy Windsor: So, okay, the getting them the book is easy enough. Making them read it is hard. I’ve been banging Kaja’s drum, you know, telling everyone to go read it since it came out. I don’t know if you spotted it, but the very first sentence in the book, do you know what it says?
Jana Howson: Not off the top of my head. Refresh me.
Guy Windsor: This book would not exist without Guy Windsor. Because I sat Kaja down, we were we were having dinner or something in a restaurant in Vancouver. I was like, “When are you going to write a book?” Because he was telling me about various career interests and was thinking about starting Valkyrie, or it was just after Valkyrie had started. But looking at the process of creating historical martial arts, professional career. I was like a book would be really helpful. And I mentored him through the first draft. Checking in every couple of months. Where is that chapter you said you were going to send me, that sort of thing. First fucking book produces a masterpiece that everyone has to read. That is not fair. That should be like your 10th book. But there we go.
Jana Howson: But we talk about having village. We talk about having support. Things like Kaja’s book are exactly what is needed. Because for me, his book came at a critical point where it’s like, can I really manage all of this? How do I deal with my own brain stuff? Do I just give up and let the brain weasels? I’m always going to freeze. Do I want to bother pushing through this and reading that book at that time, being recommended by somebody who went, hey, I think you should read this. I think it could be really helpful. That’s part of building the village of support for what fencers like me need too. So not just those on the ground supports, but what can we do on the side so I can fit in my 20 minutes of reading before I fall asleep and still be able to look at these things that I love. Kaja gets a huge shout out and I just had another fencer ask me recently if they could borrow my copy because it’s like I don’t have time to read it all. But I heard you have a great edition that you annotated and put all the really important stuff out. So even that handing on of those personalised copies so we can refine the wisdom.
Guy Windsor: I need to bug Kaja to produce an audiobook version of it because that would be epic. Because again, for people who are busy, audiobooks means when you’re driving the kids to school or whatever, you can be listening to an audiobook or when you’re doing laundry. For me, I don’t actually listen to audiobooks myself. I listen to podcasts quite a lot, but I haven’t quite cracked the audiobook seal myself. But having it in that format so basically somebody is reading it to you when you’re busy doing something else.
Jana Howson: It helps with disability and differently abled fencers as well who can’t sit down and do the reading to have it in this other format.
Guy Windsor: Or who are simply blind. I am actually recording another audiobook next month, which, the problem with audiobooks in historical martial arts is they make absolutely no money. Nobody buys them. But for those very few people who do, it can make all the difference. So yeah, I’m biting the bullet and booking a studio and recording a book next month, basically as a diversity play because, frankly it is not a good business move, but it seems like the right thing to do.
Jana Howson: All right. So I’d like to use some of my fictional million dollars to help support that endeavour, both for your book and for Kaja’s book.
Guy Windsor: That is very sweet of you. Well, okay, I will make a note to bug Kaja to get the audiobook out. With Kaja, if I make the point about neurodivergence and disability and whatnot, that that’s a pretty heavy hammer to beat him over the head with, so we might actually get this done. It strikes me that what you are trying to create is a way of systematically creating the support network that sometimes spontaneously emerges. It’s never truly spontaneous, people put effort into it, but it’s not organised from the top down. It just happens by itself and you’re trying to make it so that is more reliable and accessible to people who perhaps, for instance, don’t happen to have a wide network of friends or don’t happen to have brilliant socialising skills so they find it difficult to guilt people into looking after their kids for them. So how would you do it?
Jana Howson: Well, that’s part of why I haven’t done it yet. I think to some degree, one of the first steps is to almost do a PR campaign to make fencers aware that there are these people on the sidelines who could be wonderful members of our community with a little bit of support. I remember there was a certain point I’d gotten like the first level award in the SCA for fencing, and I was hitting that point where I had to make a decision, am I going to step up my game, continue my learning and really move into fighting at the next level, or am I just going to stay here? And I was thinking about this and I was talking with one of my sword fighting friends and I said, I’d love to do this. I want to do this, I love this and I want to improve. But I had just started my PhD program. We had just adopted our youngest, so we had an infant. Our adopted daughter is black, so it meant I needed to change my place of employment because where I worked, the community was not safe for us to be a transracial family.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Oh, my God. Do you want to tell us about that? That’s a big bomb to drop in a conversation and then just walk away from it.
Jana Howson: Okay. So part of being a transracial family is that’s just reality. It doesn’t feel like a big bomb. But I hear you. So I was working in a small congregation out in the cornfields of Illinois, significantly south of this city. And the congregation itself was wonderful and I loved working for them. And it was a one third time call, which was perfect because it gave me freedom to be mum and be spouse and be fencer and be a PhD student. And then we threw our second child in the middle of this, and all of a sudden a Confederate flag went up on the one of the main intersections. And there was a time when I was there with my daughter and I had her in my little carrier and I was walking in the community between the church to the local store, and I got into a verbal confrontation that I was actually really concerned was going to turn physical. And it was around the fact that my daughter’s race did not match mine. So it was at that point where I went to my bishop and said, I need to move. I cannot stay in this community.
Guy Windsor: Okay, so you weren’t getting the problem from your parishioners. It was just the people who happened to live in that town.
Jana Howson: Yeah. So it was no longer a safe place to be in that community. And unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t do my job with these people who I loved very much.
Guy Windsor: That’s brutal. My Goddaughter was adopted from China by Finnish friends of mine, so I was sort of on the periphery of a mixed race family in Finland. I know there were some issues, but no one was waving Confederate flags.
Jana Howson: And I mean, this is 45 minutes from downtown Chicago, so.
Guy Windsor: Right. Wow.
Jana Howson: So anyway, just adopted. Just started PhD. Just transition jobs, which meant moving from a one third time call to a three quarter time call, which has now turned into a full time call.
Guy Windsor: That’s an unfamiliar term for I think most of the listeners. So a one third time call was like one third of normal working hours you’re required to work?
Jana Howson: So a one third time job.
Guy Windsor: So you’re now on a three quarter time job?
Jana Howson: No, I stepped up to the three quarter time job when I transitioned and now I’m at a full time job. So all of this. So I’m saying to my friend, you know, I really want to step up my fencing to the next level. I’m at the point where I can feel I’m ready to learn the next stuff, but here’s all the things going on. And his response was, and he meant this in the kindest way was, “Oh yeah, you’ve really sidelined yourself, haven’t you?”
Guy Windsor: Oh, that’s not a good response.
Jana Howson: And again, it was meant from honest, I don’t see how anyone could manage to do all of this. But as I’ve sat with it more, it’s like, no, I haven’t said to myself, I might need to train differently. I might need different types of support, it may take me longer, but I am very much not on the sidelines. So just raising thinking about how we talk to people who are coming and saying, hey, I like swords, I want to try it, but it’s really hard for me to do weekend events. Or I don’t know if I can afford a babysitter to do a weekly practice. Thinking about these different ways. So we don’t say, oh yeah, well, you don’t fit in the system, but here let me connect you to places in the system where you do fit. Or how can we change the system to make it a little bit more accommodating for these non-traditional fencers?
Guy Windsor: Yeah, my ambition for my SwordPeople thing is it provides some of that kind of connectivity because basically, imagine if you have 200 people going to an event and they’re all grown ups so maybe 50 of them are parents, maybe 100 of them are parents, maybe even 150 of them are parents. If they could all have the parenty conversations first, they could probably just self organise some kind of rota for who’s taking the kids that time or that particular age group or whatever, you know, and it doesn’t necessarily require anything formal or organised or official as part of the event. It could just be self-organized between the parents. That by itself would go a long way.
Jana Howson: It would. But again, figuring out how we do that, for those people who aren’t lucky enough to stumble into great social connections like I did.
Guy Windsor: Right.
Jana Howson: And it was accidental. It is on no social merit of my own that this happened to fall into place for me. But to think about that, how do we help structure this. How do we even turn it, like I said, look and say hey, you look a little overwhelmed today. Can I help with this for just a minute so you can get your gear on?
Guy Windsor: So, yeah, I mean, I’ve certainly held babies while parents are in my classes. Because honestly, I can teach a class while holding a baby as long as the baby doesn’t need, like, actual attention. Yep. That’s no problem. That’s easy peasy. I just stay a bit further back than usual, call halt and tell them what to do next.
Jana Howson: One of my favourite memories and the real transition for me in parenting was once I got cleared to do martial arts again, coming to my taekwondo class with my six week old son and he was fussing a little bit and my black belt instructor said, don’t worry about it, you stay there, I’ve got him. And he went and scooped my son up and taught the rest of the class holding him, including doing a jump back kick while holding my infant son.
Guy Windsor: Now, that’s trust.
Jana Howson: Mom brain, Mom brain. It’s okay. You trust this person.
Guy Windsor: That’s how it ought to be.
Jana Howson: It would be nice if we could evolve our community to include our whole families and our whole selves, not just the little portion of our lives that is our sword fighting selves.
Guy Windsor: And that is the goal in training anyway, I think, for a lot of people a lot of the time. Certainly the goal for me is how do you bring your entire self to this thing which is otherwise super specialised? Particularly if you do it a lot, it can get fragmentary, it can be sort of like compartmentalisation. It’s like, okay, this is fencing Guy, this is teaching Guy, this is parenting Guy, this is writing Guy and I fence better when they’re all present. You have given me a lot to think about. But probably me sitting here thinking quietly for 10 minutes does not make for a good podcast episode.
Jana Howson: There we go.
Guy Windsor: So I’m assuming if you were given the million dollars, this is where you’d put it?
Jana Howson: I think so, yes.
Guy Windsor: Okay. What would you actually spend it on? What would the money solve?
Jana Howson: So that’s the part where I struggle. I mean, once I sponsor your audiobooks and copies of that for everyone, I think. It would be really interesting as a proof of concept to maybe do a season of at every event in, again, I’m an SCA, I fight in the Middle Kingdom. So at every event in the mid realm we have professional legal child care so that fighters can go and do their things and just see how the community changed in that year to say to people, hey, look, this is what we get if we value this thing.
Guy Windsor: And ideally you need a sociologist or anthropologist or something to actually do some proper scientific study on this. What is it like now? So what changes affected by these interventions? That would be fascinating. If I had the money I’d give it to you, but I say that to almost all of my guests. I’m not running out of money, it’s imaginary. But there are just so many things that the money can go on. You know the Swedish furniture store IKEA.
Jana Howson: I do. I have one just down the street from me.
Guy Windsor: Right. I don’t know if yours does, but certainly the one in Helsinki has a creche so you could go there and you could drop your kids off in the creche for, I think, up to 2 hours. Something like that. And it was free. And you can go around and do your furniture shopping without children whining about meatballs or what have you. And then you could go and have lunch in the restaurant just with your spouse if you wanted to. Or you could go and collect the kids and have it with them. But if you wanted a little bit of like a meal alone with your spouse while you have small children. This is this is gold. And is absolutely no wonder that IKEA make billions. Because everybody went there because they could get the childcare.
Jana Howson: I have done exactly that.
Guy Windsor: So they have it there, do they?
Jana Howson: Yep. So it’s called Smalland here. So you go right in the front door, you can check them in for 90 minutes or 2 hours if you’re an IKEA family member, do your shopping, go to the restaurant. I mean, my spouse and I have dropped our child off at Smalland and gone to have just a cup of coffee. Because it was that small slice of sanity.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Okay. Now, I don’t normally say this, but so we’re saying basically that sword events should be more like IKEA.
Jana Howson: Apparently.
Guy Windsor: And a classic take it out of context and that makes no sense at all.
Jana Howson: I just want to see that quote on some of your social media profiles with no additional context, just to see where people go with it.
Guy Windsor: Well, thank you so much for joining me today Jana, it has been lovely meeting you.
Jana Howson: And you. Thank you so much for your time.