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  • Spencer Bennington

New Year, New Vision

Welcome to a brand NEW YEAR at Rhetorical Roundhouse! For the past 12 months, RR has been your home for that wacky combination of rhetorical theory, martial arts studies, and the practice of Tae Kwon Do. Today, I'd like to talk about how I plan to continue that mission as we move into 2020, as well as some exciting new changes on the rise.


This is to say: THERE'S BIG NEWS BELOW!


Before I share that though, I'd like to take one last moment to reflect on all the cool stuff that happened in 2019. If you follow @rhetoricalroundhouse on Instagram, you know that we just celebrated the 12 Days of Rhetorical Roundhouse from 12/20-31 by counting down some of the most popular blog posts from 2019. If you didn't get a chance to see them, I'll share them one last time as a fancy list :)


Day 1: Empowered Women Empowering Women

Day 2: Tiny Tiger Lecture Series


Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Day 3: Photos and Meditations

Day 4: Martial Arts Studies Conference Presentation

Day 5: Double Conference Report

Day 6: Whitman's Bulge and Other Fun with Textual Editing

Day 7: Homecoming Part 2

Day 8: Updated Digital Portfolio

Day 9: Text Mining in Martial Arts Studies

Day 10: 10,000 Side Kicks Part 1

Day 11: Teaching as Learning: The Zarlengo Effect

Day 12: Florida Taekwondo Open Tournament Report

When I look back at these posts, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. I inherited an interesting quality from my Dad that usually predisposes me to be extremely dedicated to something for a short period of time (hobbies, Netflix shows, academic projects) and then, one day, utterly disassociated from them. In fact, even though I consider myself a writer, I've NEVER been able to keep a consistent journal or diary because of this trait. So my feeling proud about RR extends from not only the regularity with which I've produced blogs this year, but from the quality of the content and the memories preserved.


I also feel a sense of pride because when I look at many of these posts, I notice a common theme. Though Rhetorical Roundhouse was born as a class project in graduate school, and though it's original artistic endeavors had more to do with the potential for self-expression through shared pumsae practice, I've come to realize that what I've really been trying to do through the majority of the posts on this site is figure out how to use my talents to help others. So often my writing and research circles back to the transformative power martial arts instruction can have on a student's life, the power I witnessed firsthand in my own journey, and how to apply that positive influence to children and other people who need it most. And that central idea makes me happy because it's a reflection of not only who I want to be, but of the values and morals instilled in me by my loving family and the communities to which I've belonged. Some of these, unfortunately, are no longer with us.


On December 26, 2019, my grandmother (Mama), Betty J. Todd, passed away. While it's going to be a major adjustment for my Mom, neither of us view this loss as a sad occasion. For the past five years, Mama has been in steady physical decline and had to be moved from her home to an assisted living facility, then to a nursing home. During this time, she lost nearly all mobility in her neck and needed help doing even the simplest tasks. Her quality of life was next to zero but, in many ways, her mind was still sharp--she was still with us, but she was still acutely aware of her own position, how her life had changed so dramatically with age. While it was painful and difficult to speak, on Christmas Day I got to hear her wish us both a Merry Christmas and say she loved us one last time...partly due to the fact that Mom fed her some homemade chocolate pie I'd guess. The following day, Mama ate a good breakfast, put on the shirt that Mom had given her for Christmas, had her hair washed, and then fell asleep for an afternoon nap. She was content, she new she was loved, and she was tired--so she never woke up.

While I'm ecstatic I got to see her one last Christmas and I know that I'll treasure that memory forever, I've actually been thinking much more lately about a different visit with Mama just a few years ago. It was becoming difficult for her to talk or hold her head up then, but she entertained my questions as best she could. I asked what the Betty J. Todd motto was and how she'd like to see her family behave. Her answer wasn't really anything earth-shattering or profound, but it's important. She told me to "show kindness to others, let people know you love them, and to just try to be a real good person." When I asked her if she thought her family did those things she said that we were "just like everybody else--you try but sometimes you fail."


I love that she said that. Mama didn't expect me or anyone else to be perfect, just to try. Try knowing that we couldn't fully succeed--try to be genuinely good when you know that you're imperfect. When I asked her then if she was proud of her family she was so quick to respond.


"Sure I am!" she said.


Coincidentally Mama passed away on the day when I re-shared my blog from this summer: Homecoming Part 2: Lessons Learned. This post is one of my favorites from 2019 because it really reminded me of my roots and all the valuable insights I carry with me, the fruits born from my family tree. Over the summer when I originally wrote it, however, I suppose I wasn't thinking hard enough about what I'd learned about kindness from Mama. But I am now and my purpose has become much more clear.


That's why I'm proud to announce that my goal for Rhetorical Roundhouse in 2020 is to transform from an academic hodge-podge hobby-blog to a full-fledged, 501(c)(3) status nonprofit organization, one dedicated to delivering martial arts instruction to students who stand to benefit from it most, one that puts forth the kindness and generosity that my Mama stood for. I set this intention in the name of my grandmother, someone who I wouldn't be here without, and dedicate this journey to the life, the memory, and the legacy of Betty J. Todd. I love you Mama and I thank you for all you gave to us. I hope you're finally learning to dance.



Next Steps


So, what does this mean for the coming year? My goal is to provide weekly blogs like I've been doing in 2019 with some of the same content you've grown to know and love (I'll be adding to the 10,000 kicks section, my martial arts journey, and the Tiny Tiger lectures for sure) but I also want to provide a monthly update on creating a non-profit. These posts will cover topics like writing a mission statement, filing articles of incorporation, grant writing, selecting board members, developing programs and initiatives, and achieving tax-exempt status.


Additionally, I'll be gathering research and data that supports the mission of Rhetorical Roundhouse. That is, I'll be sharing more data in support of critically reflexive martial arts training as connected to positive human development and investigating similar charities in search of allies for the future.


Finally, I'll be working on forging relationships with Taekwondo masters interested in furthering the cause of Rhetorical Roundhouse. If you'd like to be involved with spreading martial arts and the kinds of enriching inter/intrapersonal skills learned therein (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit) to a larger audience of people in need, please, feel free to contact me at rhetoricalroundhouse@gmail.com.


I think that's all for now. 2020 is an opportunity to make a big change and I'm happy to accept the challenge. I know that Mama would see this journey as worthwhile, one that can carry on her legacy of spreading love and kindness for generations to come. I do hope you'll stick around to help make this dream a reality by next 2021.


Happy New Year everyone! And, as always, thank you for reading.


Kamsahamnida!





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