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A Canadian couple have turned a rite of childhood into adult fun that empowers women and raises money for a good cause. Writer Cat Allen shows us the ins and outs of pillow fighting for grown-ups.
Text By: Cat Allen
Country: Canada

ost people think of pillow fights as child’s play, but one couple in Canada has taken the feather-filled battles into adulthood, turning swirling feathers and costumes into a form of entertainment.

Introducing the East Van Pillow Fight Club, started by Mel Watts and her husband, Steve, in 2012.

They are a group of young, strong women causing a stir in Canada’s west coast city of Vancouver. They clearly mean business with this proclamation on their website:

“Blood stained. Make-up stained. Stitched and re-stitched. Time for some new weapons for the upcoming season.”

Tea-TimeMag wanted to hear more about the movement, their inspiration and which two celebrities she would love to see fight.

Cat: We are so excited to hear more about the East Van Pillow Fight Club (EVPFC)! It is such a great concept, could you please tell us a little about the motivation for starting a pillow fight club?

Mel: We were inspired by the Pillow Fight League (PFL) in Toronto, the semi-professional sports league that was founded in 2004. However, that club has since disbanded, and my husband, Steve, and I founded the EVPFC in Vancouver in 2012.

C: So is EVPFC now the only club of this nature that you know of?

M: Currently it is, yes.

C: What would you say the first rule of EVPFC is?

M: The first rule of EVPFC is to talk about female empowerment, the fighters being in control of their body image, and embracing their aggression.

C: What has the reaction been like from the people of Vancouver?

M: More often than not, people think that we are a sexualized group of attention-seekers, but then when they come and see a show, they are usually surprised by the athleticism and the wholesomeness.

C: It is also fantastic that raising money is such a strong element of EVPFC — can you tell us a little more about that?

M: All of our fights serve as fundraisers for the Vancouver Rape Relief and [Women’s] Shelter, a cause we feel very strongly about. This has been a focus of ours since the club’s conception.

C: So if we were coming to an EVPFC match, can you please explain what would be in store for us?

M: A regular match lasts for four and a half minutes, three rounds of 90 seconds. Each fighter is marked on a scale of 15 points, which takes into consideration offensive combat, defensive combat, and theatrics. Each fighter has her own alter ego, which is usually mirrored in her outfit and actions. Bonus points are awarded for extra theatrics of one’s character, as well as for performing takedowns, dodgingstrikes and disarming a fighter of their pillow. The rules are quite complex. There are many more ways to earn, and lose, points during the rounds.

C: What are fighters not allowed to do during the match?

M: Pillow fighting can be dangerous, and for this reason, there are strict regulations and rules in place. Fighters are penalised for things such as using anything other than a pillow to hit their opponent, performing illegal moves, or attempting to pin down the other fighter.

C: How does a pillow fight end?

M: The judge has the final decision as to which fighter is the winner of the match. The overall points, bonuses and any deductions are added up, and unless there is a knockdown, someone is disqualified, or the fight is forfeited, the fighter with the most points is the winner of the match.

C: What’s a knockdown?

M: When a fighter falls, she has 10 seconds to get back onto her feet. On failing to recover the standing position in this time frame, it is referred to as a knockdown. During this 10-second count, the other fighter is free to continue striking the opponent with her pillow; additional points can be gained doing this.

C: Are all the members of EVPFC female?

M: In the regular fights that we hold, yes, the two contestants are women; however, we also have drag queen fights.

C: Amazing! So drag queen versus drag queen or mixed with the women too?

M: They fight drag on drag. We have had three drag fights with another one coming up later this month. The audience absolutely loves it.

C: All of these women must be pretty fit to survive these fights as they sound pretty tough! Can you give us an idea of what the training involves?

M:Our training involves sumo wrestling drills, lots of cardio, and some clowning training.

C: What’s clowning training?

M: Clowning training is the practice of “play.” We use it to get to know our alter ego characters better. This is a really important part of the fight — not only do fighters gain extra points for the theatrics they incorporate into their fight, it is also a big part of the audience experience.

C: What do the fighters wear?

M: Fighters can wear absolutely anything they want to enable them to express their character, so long as it doesn’t pose a threat to their opponent. For instance, anything sharp is absolutely unacceptable.

C: What constitutes a bad pillow fight?

M: It is usually a less enjoyable fight when the fighters do not connect with each other. If they aren’t watching each other it usually turns into a frantic mess with no objective. We, as fighters, must be brave enough to look into our opponents eyes, as they will tell us everything.

C: You used “we”, so you fight as well?

M: Yes, absolutely!

C: Does your daughter think you are the coolest Mum ever for not only running a pillow fight club, but for being a pillow fighter herself?

M: She doesn’t quite understand yet as she is still young, but she does love all the costumes.

C: When I first imagined the pillow fights, I nostalgically think of feathers floating around everywhere; however, perhaps this isn’t the most practical option?

M: We use cotton pillows with cotton stuffing. Feathers are WAY too heavy, and plus, I am allergic.

C: Are injuries amongst the women commonplace?

M: Minor ones, yes, of course. Bumps and bruises; in the past we have had dislocated knees, broken ribs and toes, but luckily these instances are not too common.

C: That’s a relief to hear! If you could choose any, which two celebrities would you love to see in a pillow fight?

M: Any of the girls from the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black.”

C: Do you have any funny stories from your time running EVPFC?

M: One time we dressed up one of our friends as [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper and let members of the audience take swings at him with pillows.

C: What goals do you and your husband have for EVPFC? Where would you like to see it go?

M: Vegas, Baby!

C: How would you feel if a competing pillow fight club started up, either in Vancouver or further afield?

M: We would LOVE it! In our opinion the more clubs, the better!

Fact Box
· EVPFC was founded in 2012.
· Fighters range from ages 20 to 35.
· With the help of their loyal fans, ticket sales, bike-washing fundraisers and local sponsors, EVPFC has raised over $6,500 CND for their chosen charity.
· Tournaments last for six months, and the overall winner receives gifts from EVPFC’s various sponsors.
· Each pillow fight starts with a face-off. Both contestants have to run from their corners of the mat, into the middle where the pillows are. It is one pillow per fighter, and if they both try to take the same one, a “tug-o-war” usually follows.
· The referee can, at any moment, stop the fight and send the fighters and their pillows back to the corners of the mat where they started. Once the whistle is blown, the fight is then restarted.
· In this year’s tournament there are fighters with names such as Tinker Hell, Goldie Knocks and Marie Slam Toinette



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The Dark Side of Nursery Rhymes

Do you remember when you were little? You play with your toys all day and after a warm bath your parents tuck you in to bed and sing you a nursery rhyme.

We learn nursery rhymes from our parents and friends, just like they heard them from their parents when they were children. And we will probably sing our children nursery rhymes as well.

Nursery rhymes are usually silly, happy verses set to a tune. Or at least they seem silly and happy. But in reality they have very different meanings than what you first imagine. They can actually be very dark.

For example the story of “Humpty Dumpty” that we all associate with an egg falling off a wall is actually about a large cannon shot down from a tower during the English Civil War.

“Baa Baa Black Sheep” is about paying taxes and “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” is about Mary Queen of Scots and her persecution of Protestants.

The true meanings of nursery rhymes are not obvious and we so we prefer to think of the silly meanings such as a large egg falling and breaking and a lady called Mary talking about her garden than what they really are about.

 

Comprehension

Below you will find text comprehension questions. Read and listen to the text and answer the questions (we recommend you read first and then listen).

Never Too Old for a Pillow Fight

Quiz

 

Grammar in Use

Below you will find PDF documents with the Grammar in Use.

Elementary: Describing Marital Status

Advanced: Idiom: Cut to the Chase

Vocabulary

The Dark Side of Nursery Rhymes

Summary Vocabulary

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