I went to a stage combat workshop the other night, and while I was pretending to beat up on my roommate, I discovered that I am a mutant (again). I am conventionally right-handed for all of the various fine manipulations you would expect -- I use my right hand to write, draw, mouse, paint my face, open bottles, zip things, etc. But apparently, I am a left-handed fencer, and more or less ambidextrous at punching people out.

I could probably have predicted this had I thought about it at all, which I hadn't. I knew about the punching; I play Mary Stone in the Mrs Hawking series of plays, and Mary's job is to hit things fairly frequently, and usually rather hard. Mary doesn't know anything about beating goons in the first play, so all of my fights are with a large brass fireplace poker, which I wield in classic Luke Skywalker style, i.e., grab it by the handle and swing it around like a bat. They made me a prop poker out of wooden dowels and paint, with the idea that it would be safer. It probably was, but after I broke several of those (in the same fight sequence, across the same wooden club, with the same overhand swing), they gave up and handed me the real brass one again, with strict instructions not to clobber anyone for real, which so far I haven't.

In the second show, Mrs Hawking has taught Mary a few tricks, so I have some brawling. I've never hit anything in my life, so our tech director, who does krav maga in his spare time, had to teach me how to shadow-box before I made an absolute fool of myself on stage. I kept getting confused as to which hand guarded and which foot went forward in a fighting stance, so we tested and it turns out it doesn't matter -- I'm right-handed and left-footed, which means I am equally good (or terrible) both ways. Great, said our violence designer, we'll just have you hit things with whichever hand is more convenient for blocking! And so it goes.

Mixed lateralization explains why I tend to go the "wrong" way in things that involve turning. A while ago when I was experimenting to see if I could do skating jumps on a dance floor (yes, but it's difficult, and you blister your toes), I ended up going clockwise for all of them. It's not exactly unknown, but the vast majority of figure skaters spin the other way. The preference is typically so strong that most skaters can't do their jumps with the opposite spin. You can theoretically fix this with some effort, but you don't get docked points for being contrary. You also don't get any bonus for doing them backwards, even at the Olympic level, so nobody bothers.

[I've only ever seen one skater switch directions between jumps in the middle of a sequence. It was Stéphane Lambiel, faffing about in rehearsals for something unrelated, and even he keeps biffing it. Lambiel has an interesting brain that way. He's also one of the very few skaters I've seen both throw and be thrown. Maxim Trankov is a pairs skater, and normally tosses around the little blonde lady they're both hanging out with, Tatiana Volosozhar; Johnny Weir is just one of his friends and actively gives no fucks about sexist traditions. The governing body of the sport has decreed it illegal to skate in non-mixed pairs, but as Lambiel and Weir have both retired from competition, I keep hoping they'll get around to doing that in a show.]

My hoops all go clockwise as well, which creates some interesting problems. You can mirror-reverse most of the standard tricks, but that assumes that if you're going clockwise it's because you're left-handed, which I am not. One of the more annoying ones to adapt was the vortex. The idea is to grab the hoop behind you with your coordinated hand, and to switch in the air so that your uncoordinated hand brings it down over your head again. The reason you do this is that the hand behind you needs to be able to continue along the hoop's path, and the hand that brings it down over  your head needs to be able to swing the hoop out and over that elbow in order to not whack any important parts of you as it comes back down.

Well, my coordinated hoop-grabbin' hand is my right, which is the wrong one for following the hoop around, and the hand that swings the hoop back over my head is also my right, because that's the way the hoop is going. I can do it perfectly well one-handed by catching the hoop in front of me, although if I want to go up and down a few times in sequence I have to catch, swoop up, yank down, let it go to rotate around me once, and re-catch. Which I can also do. But fuck me if I can work out how to do the regular ones without barking my knuckles and dropping things.


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