Monday, November 29, 2010


“To fight is a radical instinct; if men have nothing else to fight over they will fight over words, fancies, or women, or they will fight because they dislike each other's looks, or because they have met walking in opposite directions.” - George Santayana

This year, the astonishing spectacle of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was held in Australia for the first time. The event is brutal and very bloody, attracting thousands of screaming enthusiasts, delirious and drunk with a demonic frenzy propelled by the tall, imposing, tattooed men wrestling one another violently in a caged boxing ring. Skin is savagely torn open, to the crazed delight of the cheering audience, and competitors will often continue to fight in the disorientating daze induced by a severe blow or while covered from head to waist in streams of bright red blood. The debut of the championship, which features fighters competing in various styles of martial arts, has unsurprisingly provoked negative responses across the country, confirming for some the vulgar celebration of violence and blood sports embedded into Australian culture. Damon Young wrote a couple of days ago in the SMH, “Behind this anxiety is a simple idea: violence is always negative. It is anti-intellectual, uncivilised, coarse.” However, with such mindless savagery largely and quite swiftly condemned by its critics, there may be something surprisingly edifying, if not at least reasonable, about the impassioned celebration of raw, physical combat, and the underlying philosophies of martial arts.

The gritty expression of masculinity through violence
 portrayed in the film Fight Club
 While senseless combat is often associated with the likes of dim-witted brutes yet to catch up with evolutionary developments of the civilised species, I was very interested to stumble across this piece of knowledge yesterday for the very first time: according to Diogenes Laertius, Plato, one of the greatest and most influential thinkers of the ancient world, was also in fact, a wrestler. “Plato”, apparently, was not even his actual name, but rather his wrestling nickname, which translates to “broad”. So in between writing sections of The Republic, we can now imagine the robust ancient intellect taking to the local arenas to participate in some brutal, bloody violence which he also recommended for the ‘masters and scholars’ of his proposed ideal state. Plato, along with the famous philosopher and martial artist Bruce Lee, note that fighting and various styles of combat, if restrained and practiced with self-discipline and mindfulness, promote certain virtues and flourishes both character and mind. Self-restraint, self-discipline, respect, concentration, strength and confidence are some of the ideal objectives outlined by martial arts philosophy, teaching that one can exercise aggression without hatred, as well as force and brutality without cruelty.

Of course, this is combat taught and regulated in a controlled environment. The practice of throwing chairs and beer cups at cheering Queensland fans at the next State of Origin will probably not lead you on a virtuous path of spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. There is one other thing I’ve observed in physical violence, and that is the major differences in fighting styles between the two sexes. I recall in high school when two male friends would come to a disagreement and proceed to tackle one another to the ground, throwing a few punches here and there until all would be well, settled with a handshake, and promptly forgotten. Girls would always be more subtle, but deadlier. Quietly spreading rumours that would spread across the school like an infectious plague and poisoning the minds of mutual friends, perpetrators would effortlessly continue to chatter happily to the unknowing victim, a charade that could carry on for months. Speaking for myself, I think I’d opt for the bruised eye, but I should make a final note: in this day and age one must exercise great caution in condoning any form of violence, as the wrong kind of course often propels the most severe and devastating outcomes.


  1. It won't be long before we're throwing people to the lions on primetime network television.

  2. I can't see organised fighting with men throwing all they have, benefitting anyone - sure it's entertaining but it seems pointless. Martial arts and other ancient forms of fighting is organised, and there is also some degree of competition, but it does test one's control and mutual respect for one's opponent.

    Fighting for the sake of fighting....I will pass!

  3. I think what Bruce Lee did was more dignified than two men bludgeoning each other in front of a frenzied audience. But girls...don't they pull each other's hair?

  4. Culture I'm going to respectfully disagree here a little bit. While the UFC can be violent and bloody,(it's fighting after all) it is still less brutal than other sports that are considered legit such as football or rugby (BTW not one death or real serious injury has resulted in the UFC as occurs in football).The UFC had to get sanctioned and licensed to make the sport more mainstream and they did this several ways:
    1- They outlawed several acts such as hitting behind the head or kneeing while a person is down.
    2-They included weight limits so that a 160 person will fight another 160 pound person.
    3-They limited the time in a round to 5 minutes versus the original 15 minute or no time limit rounds of the original UFC
    4-They implemented a point system similar to boxing where a person can get points for certain actions like take down or for pushing the pace.
    5-The refs are trained to stop a fight if one person can not intelligently defend himself.
    6-The fughter can tap out to end the fight if he's had enough.
    7-Both fighters agree to fight and are aware of the risk making the Roman fighting analogy not applicable.

    The truth is that the sport has evolved and the level of skill needed to fight at the UFC is very high. Today's fighter needs to be well versed in wrestling,boxing,kick boxing, etc and must be a well conditioned athlete. To the casual observer, the fighters are two meat heads beating the crap out of one another but those that follow the sport see it as a sport and appreciate the skill that is necessary to compete in today's era.

  5. Hi Isreal,

    Yes I actually do agree with all the point you've made. It is my fault for being misleading; on controversial topics I cowardly exercise subtlety to avoid harsh back lashing, but yes, what you've said sums up exactly what I wanted to say.

    Also, thank you for sharing these points!

  6. I should probably also mention that the original title of this post was going to be "In Defence of Violence", but again, writer's cowardice prevailed

  7. I will use this forum to reveal my findings. After decades of research I have concluded that pro wrestling is REAL!

  8. To control the basic instincts, that's what we call sivilization >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  9. There are certains styles of fighting in which a philosophy of the style itself is about peace and defense. This is the case in many martial arts and that why there are great thinkers and philosophers such as Bruce Lee, etc., because the philosophy of the style takes them to deeper levels of consciousness and understanding of the human condition.

    However, getting together in a mob to fight over nothing, causing great damage for no reason, and cheering over the pain someone else feels is not elevating at all. My worry about this kind of activity is that the pleasure certain people feel from watching this or taking part in it has to stem from some violence within them, some anger or frustration that they cannot act out in real life so they have to go to events like this fighting championship to watch it being acted out there.

    I can't condone such behaviour or thought, ever. Those people need help. They need to figure out what they're so angry about and deal with it because until then they can have no peace inside them.


  10. I can't quite understand fighting, but I do think that women can be just as wounding in their own way. And over here, I think more and more women, when very drunk, are starting to fight each other - usually egged on by watching men, who seem to derive some dubious pleasure from seeing them.

  11. Fighting for sport is, I guess, much better than fighting for any other reason. I'm just not interested in either. But -- the discussion is interesting.

  12. Plato was his wrestling name? That is officially the coolest piece of knowledge I've learned in a long, long time!

  13. I remember my father watching the boxing matches on TV. Fighting, and the whole "male competition" thing I find annoying. Even sports has no allure for me whatsoever, I find it all pointless... and pointless pursuits have no interest to me.

    I blogged about my experience with sports, competition and fighting in particular a while back.

  14. I don't enjoy watching boxing or hockey either live or on TV. It's rather strange because watching a violent movies doesn't bother me too much. I thinki part of it is how the audience reacts. I went to one live pro hockey game. I was sick to my stomach by the reaction of the audience to first blood on the ice. I adore football, basketball and baseball...I take kick boxing...I have no trouble watching my nephew it karate meets.

  15. p.s. The more I stare at that painting, the more I'm at awe in the drawing of the musculature. What an amazing job.

  16. It is time to return to the blog world!