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Meeting James LaFond
James Anderson: Portland, Oregon, November 15th, 2022
© 2024 James LaFond
APR/23/24
Since James LaFond so often recounts his meetings with friends and strangers I thought it would be interesting, especially to those of you who have not had the pleasure of his acquaintance, to describe my first meeting with the crackpot.
Portland, Oregon, November 15th, 2022.
It was a sunny and crisp day, I was in Portland visiting my then girlfriend, and had just dropped her off at work. I had reached out to a certain James LaFond a few weeks prior via email, knowing we would both be in the area at the same time. I did not know what to expect. I had been reading his website and books for some six years at that point. I was turned on to his writing by the wonderful Wrath of Gnon twitter account, an unexpected but perfect source.
We had exchanged a few texts and emails and spoken on the phone briefly before today, mostly about the kind of training we were going to do and a little about my background so James had an idea of what he was working with. I was anxious; this man with his depth of knowledge and experience whose writing I had admired for so long and who was so willing to meet and train, simply hearing his voice over the phone was a strange experience.
I pulled up to a small house in a neighborhood of Southeast Portland at the agreed time. Right on schedule a man clad in all black opened the door. He had a white duffel slung over his shoulder (the sign I was told to look for), and a black headwrap pulled low on his head. I stepped out of the car to greet him. As he turned his long white beard was revealed, and I could see the headwrap was pulled low over one eye in particular, an Odinic figure straight from the sagas.
We exchanged greetings and shook hands, he was stocky, shorter than myself, but spry and his grip was firm. His eyes (or eye, that I could see) have the shine of life in them, that unmistakable glint of real feeling and deadly intellect only a few possess. After looking me up and down he remarked, “I hope you can’t fight”.
We drove a short way to a nearby park, James graciously lent me some sparring gear and we got right down to business trading sticks. As soon as we began I could feel the raw fight skill and knowledge he possessed. Despite my height and weight advantage he kept me well at bay, and I could tell if he truly wanted to could have cracked me several devastating blows.
His coaching style is quick and effective, you pause, he points out something to work on, and you work on it the next round. The kind of insight gleaned over years of deliberate training. I learned more in one session with James than in weeks at conventional fight gyms.
After our session, which included sticks of varying sizes, double stick, boxing, and knife, we talked for a while and I offered to buyJames to breakfast, which he graciously accepted. We drove to a nearby dive bar. I immediately began to grill James on his thoughts about Robert E. Howard and the Conan stories, what his favorites were and so on.
James is a thoughtful conversationalist, and answered my questions fully and patiently. He speaks with the care and mirth that only experience can produce. It is clear he is someone who has lived, and reflected on the living. Just as he appeared an Odinic figure at first sight, it felt as if I spoke with a wizard of the violent arts.
After our breakfast we said goodbye to the friendly older waitress and I drove him back to the crackpot garage. We agreed I would send him some writing and exchanged farewells. He walked back to the front door, duffel bag full of training tools slung over his shoulder, and went inside.
There are people you meet every once in a while who have the spark of true life in them. Real warrior-scholars, who exude energy and a terrible joy, and are happy to share it with you. James LaFond is one of those men and we are lucky to have him.
Read more at: jamesrandersen.com
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