Fighting is in our nature. It is embedded in every culture from Albania to Zambia. Fighting is what makes us human… alongside eating, sleeping, breathing and, most importantly, watching Come Dine with Me. To most people the act of combat or martial arts seems like a brutal, random and useless chaos. But, there is a reason it is called Martial Arts. They keyword is ‘art’. All art is useless as Oscar Wilde says. And by that token the physical act of hitting someone is the most useless act; other than in self-defence arguably – and maybe at a push if someone steals your bagel. To learn a rolling thunder kick is not going to help you get a First in your Metaphysics and Existentialism exam, is it? However, that does not mean one shouldn’t find an appreciation in a perfectly placed spinning-wheel kick, or a hard left hook. Pointless acts executed to the highest degree, which sounds remarkably like the synopsis to Britain’s Got Talent.
Fighting or an interest in fighting is commonly labelled as the past time of the uneducated, meathead, masculine degenerate who couldn’t work out how to use the tin-opener so raged against the world. An excess of male-testosterone culminating in the swinging of fists. But it’s not just men who are engaging in full body contact sports. By the time you read this the first female UFC Championship bout will have taken place between current Bantamweight Champion and Olympic Judo Champion Ronda Rousey, and Liz Carmouche. A note to the guys out there, Miss ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey is very good-looking… and could beat down 100% of the readers of this article. The key to having a successful relationship with such a specimen is that you do the damned dishes when she says so or you’ll also be reluctantly scrubbing the floor with a broken arm, several-popped ligaments and a bruised ego. People who fight do not align with any stereotype. UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St Pierre has a degree in History and is a keen Palaeontologist, Middleweight Champion Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva’s hero is Michael Jackson (I know, Thriller!), and it’s not common knowledge that my hero Oscar Wilde was an amateur boxer, who successfully defended himself against 3 attackers at University. Now I wonder if there was anyone in the 19th Century who could live down the shame of getting their asses judiciously handed to them by a dandy and aesthete who said things such asTo love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
Mixed-Martial Arts (or Cage-fighting as it is sometimes known) is the fastest growing combat sport today. It is a complex blend of boxing, Muay-Thai kick-boxing, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Yet, the sport suffers from the stigma of being seen as a blood-sport. I was asked by a friend how many people have died competing, the answer of which was a resounding zero. In comparison, it is cheer-leading that is statistically the most dangerous sport, accumulating more injuries than any other. That being said, I’ve never actually seen a cheerleader who wasn’t in a shower…
Learning a discipline of self-defence is worth every physical exertion, if only to stave off the humiliation of getting mugged by Quakers and conscientious objectors.Anyone who’s ever trained in boxing or kick-boxing will tell you that hitting someone is a lot of fun. Getting hit however sucks a fat one. I’ve been unfortunate enough in my life to take a few solid leg kicks to the liver. The pain I would say is almost comparable to that of stepping on a plug – which everyone knows is the worst pain known to man. And it’s completely understandable to not want to take up a Martial Arts for fear of taking severe corporeal punishment. It reminds me of the classic Richard Pryor bit on his first boxing match as a teen, with someone who ‘looked like he just killed his mother’. After landing a few stiff jabs, over-confidence turned into his undoing when he was countered with a monstrous left hook to the ribs; the pain was so substantial that he wanted to fall and be counted out, but couldn’t go down because his legs were in real good shape.
Conversely, but most importantly, learning a Martial Art teaches you not to be a moron and pick unnecessary fights. Nothing will make you plainly realise your own physical limitations more than being punched, kicked and tapped out daily at the gym. Sadly, I only learnt this fact after I decided to pick a scuffle from an Eskimo, who proceeded to beat the living daylights out of me – yep, in case you were thinking it, the beating did last 6 months.