Once upon a time, there was an ancient competition, where two men fought. The only rules were that biting and gouging the eyes were forbidden.
One of these fighters used to write down his thoughts from the depths of his mind.
That fighter was called Plato.
The competition in question was the main event of the ancient Olympic Games, the ancestor of modern MMA, called Pankration (Greek, meaning ”all of power”) and it was respected as the ultimate physical and mental test.
During the past few years I’ve noticed that some of the people I know have very uninformed and false concepts regarding MMA. This pisses me off to the extent of starting to write about the topic.
I’ve been told: ”Why do you want to get involved with something this rough and violent? You can’t punch or harm other people, that’s not nice or right. I don’t like that stuff at all.”
A person who thinks like this has mixed two entirely different scenarios in their mind: the controlled competitive bout situation and a violent assault on the streets – or unfortunately at home. This misunderstanding must be corrected. In a physical assault, the other part is a victim of violence. But a key aspect of martial arts is that both competitors attend voluntarily, prepared both mentally and physically. Often times after the MMA fight, even the bloodier ones, both fighters smile, give each other a hug and give compliments to each others’ good performance. So where is the innocent victim or the evil assailant? That’s right, you won’t find either one in a mixed martial arts bout.
Fear and insecurity cause conflicts. An MMA fighter has taken the mystique and insecurity away from a physical conflict situation, and that is a game changer. For a professional fighter won’t get the ”fight or flight” stress reaction from a drunk person shouting at them outside of a night club. He can remain calm, because he knows that the situation is under control, everything’s fine and no one will get hurt. Not himself nor the drunk. He knows what he’s capable of and thus he can also evaluate what the drunk person is capable of, or incapable of. Everything is okay and he can politely wish the drunk loudmouth a pleasant evening.
FIGHTING STRENGHTENS CHARACTER
Many philosophers from ancient Greece practised a martial art called Pankration, which is similar to modern MMA in several ways. The samurai of ancient feudal Japan practised flower arrangements, tea ceremonies and poetry besides of jiu-jitsu.
These philosophers and warrior poets must have seen some beauty, some true value in fighting.
Perhaps they believed, that extreme physical struggle and a battle of wills with the fellow competitor was good for one’s character, teaching humbleness, respect toward others and perseverance. The deepest meaning in fighting is not hurting the other person, but to conquer one’s own fears by facing a scary situation.
Martial arts and MMA are tools for growing as a human being.
TOLERANCE WITH AN OPEN MIND
Every one of us has a dark side, or at least a dormant, subconscious caveman instinct, a leftover from our time as hunter-gatherers. I firmly believe that denying and supressing this instinct leads to domestic violence, addiction, depression and all in all toxic behaviour towards our fellow humans. It’s good that everyone has a channel to release this ancient subconscious energy, and it doesn’t have to be MMA for everyone. It can be soccer, jogging or any other way to challenge oneself to physical strain. It would be especially healthy and educational for kids to learn how to deal with losing, and to show how hard work pays off, through martial arts.
Even though I don’t have a negative attitude towards people disliking MMA, because it’s only due to ignorance, false, old stereotypes, I’ve noticed that the common denominator with almost every MMA critic I’ve encountered is that they don’t like sports, they don’t follow sports and they don’t do sports. Everyone has the right to decide whether they want to exercise or not, but one should also respect those who practise something that might not interest themselves. When examined with an open mind, one can find even something positive from something that’s unpleasant for them, respecting those who dare to throw themselves into the mix.
In contrast, all the MMA fighters I’ve met are without exception the most friendly and calm people, and this is not even an exaggeration. One of the biggest factors why I want to practise MMA is, that the people training at the MMA gyms are always so positive, and the atmosphere is always a cheerful and supportive one. I believe this is because these fighters go through a physically demanding and tiring workouts every day, and thus they get to let off some steam, so to speak.
I’ll end this article with a following quote from Socrates, taken from Xenophon’s Socratic dialogue Memorabilia:
“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
The fight philosopher has spoken. For now. Over and out.