Welcome back! I have another fun steampunk interview for you guys. Today's guest is Michael C. Holdsworth. He's the creator and lead instructor of an inventive exercise program called Torque Blade. It combines fitness with fantasy, which is quite appropriate for steampunk fans and anyone else who embraces creativity. Michael is also the author of Blades of Torqueadia, a steampunk fantasy novel that influenced the Torque Blade program. This is going to be a unique interview.
Q: Why did you become interested in steampunk as a genre and subculture?
A: I think the aesthetic of the Victorian era and up to the 1930’s resonated with me at a young age. I would wear my grandfather’s flat cap with my drain pipe trousers and granddad vest at 12 years old. From then on the top hat, bowler with vests and baggy pants became something that I wanted to wear, but didn't have the courage to step outside of the accepted norm at the time. However, I would get away with the top hat when traveling on my own in my early 20’s. Comics such as 2000 Ad and shows that used the Victorian era as a back drop were also favourites of mine, but at the time I had not heard of the label of steampunk.
Q: It seems like steampunk is quite popular among teenagers. Why do you think youth crowds gravitate to steampunk?
A: I can't answer for the youth, but I can extrapolate from my own inner dialogue that the popularity is due to the belief that the past had a different pace and a sense of security. There is also to some extent a romantic slant. However, the future also offers a chance to master a course of ones own whilst maintaining the technology of the day and a potential future. It gives a person the opportunity to be creative.
Q: Do you have a favorite type of steampunk? Victorian, Wild West, post-apocalyptic, or something else?
A: I think something else works for me. Alternate Dimensional History perhaps is where the timeline strayed. A what if dimension? Except the aesthetic remained within the borders of the Victorian and Diesel era. All the technology of today, beyond, and a dash of sorcery would be my preference.
Q: The Mortal Engines is going to be released in movie theaters later this year, but I’m afraid it’s going to be a box office flop. Hopefully, I’ll be wrong. Why do you think steampunk struggles to thrive in films and television?
A: That's a good question. I think its because when steampunk is touted as a product it misses the goal. Dr Who, Firefly, The Tales of Jules Vern for example may be defined in that way due to aspects of the content, but to be promoted as such may potentially be a kiss of death (I believe the norms’ may not appreciate the concept). Perhaps its a promotional issue born of funding? If you consider the backing that the Wizarding World or superhero genre receives compared to new movies that may have a small chance of financial gain for example. However, the creative folk on those movie projects will draw from the steampunk culture when inspiration is needed. The more steampunk becomes mainstream the more successful the genre will become unfortunately. To steal a line form the Incredibles and twist it a little, “When everyone is a steampunk, no one will be.” I for one hope that The Mortal Engines does really well and I am looking forward to watching the film.
Q: Every steampunk fan has their own definition of the genre and subculture. What does steampunk mean to you?
A: It allow me to express who I am. It gives me an avenue to promote my ideals. My self expression can be augmented into regular daily living and allows me to draw from many inspirational points.
Q: Are you interested in additional “punk” genres? Cyberpunk, dieselpunk, atompunk, biopunk, etc.
A: In a manner yes, but not as a defined parameter. I admire the art work and the aesthetic.
Q: You wrote a very interesting and lengthy steampunk book titled Blades of Torqueadia. What’s the basic premise of this novel?
A: I use the unique concept of promoting wellness through fantasy. If you enjoyed the fantasy concepts of Dune or are a fan of the imagery of the Sherlock Holmes movies, then this coming of age story has a lot to offer. What if you could exist as a thought and live for millennia; moving from unknowing host to host, traveling in the form of an overheard word or by a gentle touch? The Veho are such beings. The Veho elders, once worshiped as gods, guardians and mentors of humanity; almost extinguished through campaigns of internal strife. Now remembered only in nursery rhymes by the uninitiated and whispered in dark corners by true believers. Its 1884 A.T.E. (After Torque Era) and Aefry, a young girl comes of age. She is gifted with a pair of archaic wooden blades used for physical prayer by a disbanded religious sect. Beneath the wood, an ancient secret seeks release and with it, the Veho come out from the shadows. For me, the fantasy book is a catalyst that speaks to change and how to adapt to it by developing those coping skills. My background is immersed in these subjects and I wanted to promote them in a manner that would potentially allow people to become emotionally engaged and influenced the potential totality of wellness for the reader. This is achieved by the subject matter of the book, coupled with the training programs for health and wellness.
Q: How long did it take to write your book?
A: I started the book three times and must have edited it about six or seven. Between that, we moved homes twice, had two babies, and I went to college for a year to retrain to work in a different industry. So in total – six years. A labor of love you might say. I first had to learn how to write a book that coupled with my dyslexia and it really put a crimp in my giddyup. I knew what I wanted to say in the story. I knew I wanted to use characters to promote my wellness concepts and I enjoyed doing the background work (research that encompassed nuero-pharmacology to the history of pneumatic weapons and everything in between) of inventing the world.
Q: What were some of the biggest influences on Blades of Torqueadia?
A: I drew a lot of my inspiration from many areas. Primarily the book and the journey within is based on the concept of the paradigm in the fable. I didn't a want to write a self help book nor did I want to write a book a health and wellness, as I find both quite dry. For people to have an interest, they must be engaged emotionally and fantasy allowed me personally to be very motivated. I have been fortunate that my career has taken me in a path where I have been exposed to Jungian psychology, health and wellness trends, theology, etc. However, in truth when looking back at my time as a youth and in the military, I found that books would allow me to enjoy a respite from reality. Some of my favorite writers such as James Herbert, David Gemmel, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and Terry Pratchett have been a great inspiration.
Q: Aside from your own work, do you have a favorite steampunk book?
A: That's a tough question as I haven't had the opportunity to read that much at the moment. I have enjoyed in the past many character driven stories in a comic I would read called 2000 Ad. The UK comic played a big part of my childhood and many stories there had art work that imagined an alternate dystopian reality/future. Judge Dredd, Nemesis, and Slaine to name a few. The worlds were visually rich and imaginative, incorporating a certain steampunk aesthetic in some cases.
Q: You’re also the creator of a specific fitness program called Torqueblade. What makes Torqueblade different than other forms of exercise?
A: The TBFB, Two Big Freakin’ Blades. That's the initial comment I get. For me, the Blades allow a person to channel an aspect of their personality. I have had many reactions and as soon as a person holds a blade, a light goes on in their eyes. It's quite magical actually for me as a person watching the experience. As a martial and fitness practitioner for over 30 years and as an instructor since 2000, I am well aware of the emotional component to any regime. I embraced the functionality of those concepts and applied them to my experiences. Torqueblade evolved from that. The exercises are based on public domain exercises that trace back over three thousand years, potentially more as history is always changing. My exercises for the Torqueblade prescription are claimed to originate from the Persian peninsula and are known as Meal or Club training amalgamated with Medicine ball training (earliest exercises of which are described by Socrates apparently?). Both of which were codified in the Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic.
Q: It seems like something called an Aspect Avatar is important in Torqueblade fitness. Would you mind explaining this element?
A: The Aspect Avatar is a cognitive mindset technique to create positive feedback for behaviors that are deemed beneficial by the participant. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is not used to its full potential in my opinion. A person will decided on a part of their personality they would like to define and focus on that with other memories to elicit an emotional response. New skill sets and coping mechanisms can potentially become habitual. In my story, I use the same description of the Aspect Avatar as the manifestation of the Veho. The Veho are an entity in the form of consciousness that can migrate from person to person as an idea or a suggestion. It's anything really that inspires a change. This is my attempt to describe the process of change and how to accept it and that knowledge is useless unless acted upon. For example, a person may know what they need, but will not follow through with the tasks and sabotage the attempt at gaining healthier attributes. Inversely, a person may look like they have achieved their full potential, but have not mastered the knowledge to get to where they are. Of course, not all knowledge is used for laudable reasons and this is where the antagonistic Veho appear. However, in a true sense, no real villain sees themselves as such. This is true with the Dust-eaters of Eresh-Ki. She prefers order and compliance, whereas Torque is an advocate of developing skills to offset chaos. The Veho is/are such knowledge.
Q: What are the major benefits of Torqueblade?
A: There are many benefits of the Art of Adaptability the Torqueblade prescription is part of it. Torqueblade can and does stand on its own as a functional training prescription that develops range of motion, balance, and strength or grace in movement. It is a gateway to other prescriptions of physical prowess, such as the Tribe prescription, a boot camp with the Torqueblades. The Tranquilblade prescription is a form of mediation in motion based on sword forms from Europe and South East Asian Archipelagos. Sentinel is a cardiovascular conditioning prescription applicable for fencing if desired.
Q: Any form of exercise can be frustrating and tedious for the participant. Do you have any words of encouragement to help people push forward?
A: Look inside and seek the voice that cry’s out, “Move,” It can be found in the darkness protecting the light,
It can be found in adversity striving for right,
Standing stalwart, a blade in each hand, protecting that which lies within.
It is a Torqueadian, a knight paladin.
Q: There’s an editorial on your website about The Art of Adaptability. What does it mean?
A: When I came up with the “The art of Adaptability,” (I thought I was unique, however there are many such titles out there. Who knew?) I had been trying to connect my training of martial efficacy, fitness, emotional memory formation, mental health, Jungian psychology concepts, theology, cognitive behavior therapy, etc. A big task for me can be described essentially as three core expressions:
1) Perception of Reality
2) The Link (breath) Between Perception and the Physical Form
3) Manifestation of that Link. Or in other words, “The Art of Adaptability” is health and wellness for the totality of the individual. In my opinion, this process can be used to help people achieve their wellness goals and have a bit of fun doing it.
Q: Did your background in law enforcement and the military influence the development of Torqueblade?
A: Yes, but in an inverse application. I am not an advocate of exercise that has negative connotations, such as using it as a method to cut the wheat from the chaff. Although, it is a quick method and is employed in many activities. For me, the opposite is true and exercise should be used as a tool for the pursuit of emotional and physical health in my opinion.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about Torqueblade?
A: As soon as I touch the Torqueblade, there is emotion for me. I am triggered and I enjoy the process. I do not feel that I am exercising for the sake of it. I enjoy the movement and the flow between exercises.
That's the end of another steampunk interview. I'm sure you learned a lot of details from Michael's answers. If you're curious about Torqueblade exercise, check out his website. I'll leave a few links at the end of this post. Torqueblade has a very cool website with plenty of videos, tutorials, and explanations. Most people want to try something different periodically and this is a good chance. Thanks for visiting my blog and have fun. I'll see you guys next week.
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