Why We Fight
“Why do you do it?” It’s a question I’m asked more than any other (the second being what brought me to Missouri from California). From the outsider’s perspective, it’s a fair question; it hurts like hell, and it seems infantile, two grown men (or women) trying to beat each other into submission. At the end, you’re left beaten, bloody, bruised…and loving it?
Yeah, maybe we are a little crazy.
I’ve studied martial arts for more than twenty-five years, and I’ve yet to articulate why we put ourselves through this. Last night, after getting my bell rung by a former semi-professional boxer, I think I may have found a way.
First of all, I’m not a fan of street fighting. Two (or more) people banging away on each other in an uncontrolled environment isn’t something I enjoy. It’s violence that serves no purpose and could’ve been avoided, had the parties involved been smart enough to think things through.
Sufficient training teaches you to avoid, and then diffuse these situations altogether.
So, why do those who can, fight?
1). You Never Stop Learning.
I love to learn. I love the learning process, I love the experience, and I love the accomplishment. You can study one style of martial art forever and never grasp everything there is to know. You can never stop improving; there is no limit to how far you can go.
I’m also fascinated by the education; Capoeira, which I’ve studied for about five years, was originally founded as a method for slaves to defend themselves against their captors. The theory of the style was that the foot, supposedly the hardest part of the body, needed to connect to the head, which was considered the weakest. As slaves were traditionally chained, learning to use their feet in self- defense was mandatory. To prevent their captors from learning what they were up to,ey were up to, they disguised the style as a dance. No joke.
I find Capoeira not only compliments Tae Kwon Do nicely, but it’s great for cardio and rhythm training.
You never quit learning.
In its original form, a lot of martial arts were meant to take life. Some styles were developed specifically for killing. Krav Maga is a great example of this; it was taught to soldiers who had to kill their enemies quickly and silently, usually in close quarters.
A lifelong practitioner’s knowledge of human anatomy can rival that of a surgeon’s. As martial artists, we’re trained to do everything in our power to avoid a confrontation (I’m admittedly weak on this point), but if we’re forced into something, we cannot give into anger. Doing so means we will either cripple or kill our opponent.
I think the best aspect of the martial arts is not the power it endows, but the discipline it ingrains. Anybody can fight. Not everyone can walk away.
I confess; when fighting, I’ve done real damage to my opponents. Sometimes, it was to put them down, sometimes, I did it just because it was what the crowd wanted. I wasn’t justified in any case, and I should’ve paid more attention when I was training.
Imagine for a moment what would happen if you were able to unify your mind, body, and spirit towards a single objective.
You punch; in a single moment, you’ve told your fist exactly where to strike, to put your whole body into it for extra damage, and to lock your arm at the elbow for impact’s sake. You’ve conditioned your mind to hit hard enough to knock the other person back, to convey to them physically that you can hit them much harder if you like. If your spirit is in the punch, your opponent will feel it. I have a hard time articulating how the spirit factors in; you have to feel that for yourself.
When you’re able to channel your mind, your body, and your spirit towards a single objective, you will find that very few things can stand in your way. You learn how to do this from your first day of training, and as you progress, you learn to apply it to everyday life. The unification is what other people sense when they’re in the presence of someone who has devoted their entire life to studying the martial arts.
I know how to do this, but I haven’t figured out how to harness it full-time yet. I have yet to rise above the lure of fighting’s brutality.
Now, given these three things, you may understand what draws some of us to the martial arts, but it doesn’t explain why we fight.
Human beings are naturally competitive. We pay big money to see people who what they do best, against each other. Hell, we put big money on the outcomes.
Fighting is no different. We compete to determine the best.
Going a bit deeper…
Trust plays a huge role in it. You have to trust that the person will not hit you hard enough to (severely) hurt you, and you have to trust that they will stop when you tell them too. When you’re sparring someone, you may be putting your life in their hands. My strongest friendships are with those I can trust with my life. My closest friends are former opponents.
This kicks off my next point; beneath whatever reason you may be fighting, there’s almost always respect. Win or lose, you have to respect someone who is willing to take your best shot and ask for more. I don’t see that kind of respect in everyday life. Between fighters, you don’t have to ask; it’s either there or it isn’t. You just know. Chances are it will be there by the end of the altercation.
This may be just me, but I love the moment-to-moment. I live by my instincts, and nothing exemplifies this more than a good match. The earlier point I made about Unification; when you’re sparring/fighting, you have to trust in yourself that you will react appropriately in the right situation. You can plan in advance, but if you hesitate in the moment, you lose. The punch comes; you block. You don’t think about blocking, you just do it. You do it because you’ve spent so much time training yourself to respond that way. When the same works for your opponent, it can be beautiful to watch—and experience.
I’ve just spent about a thousand words on my favorite subject, and truthfully, I could probably write a book. Studying martial arts can open your mind up to unbelievable experiences, and give you ways to control yourself—and the world around you—that you can’t even imagine.
I love to learn, because it makes me better. I love the physicality of the martial arts, I love the trust that comes from fighting a friend (before you think I’m too out there…remember when you were a kid, you had beef with someone, you guys went outside and knocked each other silly, and were best friends from there on out?). I love the power you can achieve and the discipline to wield it.
I love the idea that our bodies can be more dangerous than anything we create.
This is Why We Fight.
(c) Avery K. Tingle for Akting Out LLC
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