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Artist Bio: Spencer Todd Bennington

 

Spencer Todd Bennington is the founder of The Rhetorical Roundhouse Project, a scholar of Rhetoric and Composition, and a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He created Rhetorical Roundhouse as a way to demonstrate to martial artists and academics alike that all things can find balance and harmony in one another, even if they are seemingly opposite in nature. Spencer hopes this project will continue to flourish, inspire new creative additions from other martial artists, and new contributions from other scholars to further advance the field of Martial Arts Studies and the discipline of Tae Kwon Do.

"First: Meaning Heaven"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

 
Artist's Statement 

This poem was inspired by an idea in Richard Chun's Tae Kwon Do (1975) where he alludes to the fact that accepting martial arts as a journey is to accept your own mortality. The more you learn about the techniques of violence, the more you realize your own fragility. Acknowledging death is, therefore, the first step towards becoming enlightened. It's also one way to become more conscientious about human frailty as well as to understand the power you have over others. This form, to me, is about beginning to struggle with some of those realizations and it sets the stage for creating a new person from your former, less mature, self. 

 
"Second: Meaning Joyfulness"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

Artist's Statement 

This second poem takes quite a different form from the first in that it presents a series of images. I like to think of each image or moment in this poem as one ripple on the surface of an endless lake. Each ripple is evidence of something deeper, something bubbling up to the surface. Much like you can laugh at a memory or feel nostalgic for a time, the principle of this form demonstrates that joyfulness is always within us, even if it's not easy to see on the surface of things. As far as training goes (in martial arts or any kind of education) it's important to remember that even the most grueling tasks or difficult learning experiences are contributing to our happiness--even if it's hard to see that in the moment. 

 
"Third: Meaning Fire"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

Artist's Statement 

A good friend once abruptly asked me when my birthday was. After a pause, I realized she was actually asking my Zodiac sign.  I knew I needed to consider my reply very carefully. At the time, I knew very little about astrology. Soon though, with her guidance, I came to understand that, as a Sagittarius, I'm one of three "fire signs." Being that the natural representation of the Ri principle is fire, I decided to confront what this meant about my own identity. Honestly, the qualities of fire that I ruminated on made me a little uneasy. Meditating on this form led me to come to terms with parts of myself which I would ordinarily attempt to ignore. In so doing, I came to understand the true meaning of fire as it exists in the Taegeuk: a symbol of liveliness, warmth, hope, and transformation. 

"Fourth: Meaning Thunder"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

 
Artist's Statement 

In meditating on this form, I realized that I have very few fears in the physical world. Instead, most of my fears are imagined or created in my own mind. This poem explores some of the things I've feared for a long time (my dad's mortality, my own self-esteem issues, etc.) but it also interrogates some of my more immediate fears about love and relationships at the time. Ultimately, the poem equates these anxieties to a passing storm and asks what exactly was so terrifying. I'll admit that as a person and a martial artist, this lesson is still one I struggle with and will continue to revisit.

 
"Fifth: Meaning Wind"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

Artist's Statement 

For the longest time, I couldn't figure out how to write about the Seon principle. I was fixated on the branches, the blades of grass, the leaves and how they bend in the breeze. I thought the lesson I was supposed to learn was how to flexible...but the real trick is learning how to circumnavigate resistance and find a smoother path. So I began reflecting on moments in my life where important changes happened because of gentle kindnesses. I began envisioning role models who I saw as good representations of the breeze and its soft touch in the process of growth and change. 

"Sixth: Meaning Water"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

 
Artist's Statement 

As I did in the third poem, I couldn't help but think astrologically when writing about the Gam principle. At the time, I was meditating a lot on a relationship that was very important to me, one that had just ended. This reflection led me to understand that some people are simply fundamentally different, like water and fire. But, the Gam principle teaches us to adapt, be flexible, and react while staying true to ourselves. For a long time, it was easy for me to adapt, to be mutable, but always at the expense of myself and who I wanted to be. This form reminds me to find balance between who I can be and who I want to be, and this poem helped me reconcile a difficult farewell. 

"Seventh: Meaning Mountain"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

 
Artist's Statement 

This poem is dedicated to my Mom because "even the smallest mountains are immovable." When reflecting on concepts like "commitment" and "decisiveness," I couldn't think of a more appropriate role model than her. I've watched her as she's worked day in and day out for my whole life to provide some level of security for our family. For the past few years she's become the primary caretaker for my Dad and Grandmother and she bears it all with strength and grace. I truly hope that one day I can be more like her and encourage that level of strength in my own students. 

"Eighth: Meaning Earth"
by Spencer Todd Bennington

 
Artist's Statement 

This poem is dedicated to my Dad because he was the one who always encouraged me to develop a solid foundation, one that could be cultivated and prepared to receive all the many lessons the universe has to offer. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be a martial artist, I wouldn't have made any of these videos, and Rhetorical Roundhouse wouldn't exist! I'm thankful that he's prepared me to become the man I want to be, the teacher and martial artist I want to be. I hope that one day I can inspire others to cultivate their own desires and dreams the way he's so often helped me to do.