As we get older, we tend to forget a lot of things. How to build the perfect pillow fort, say, or how much fun it can be to climb a tree. Or just how much getting punched can hurt
See, for most of us, as we get older, we start to concentrate more on finding a job, making some money, keeping a job, buying some nice things, taking a break from the job, going on a little vacation. The older and more job-centric we get, the less we think about getting in actual physical altercations.
But note: I said *most* of us.
Some people, you may have heard, get into fights. Even though the world has been getting progressively less violent over the millennia of human history and prehistory (hard to believe sometimes, but it’s true - check out Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature for a book-length exploration of that sometime), we’re all only human - and humans do still occasionally get annoyed at other humans and try to get their point across with fists rather than words.
Moreover, we Homo sapiens like to watch fights as well. From the crowds in the Coliseum cheering on gladiators going at each other (and lions and other exotic beasts), to medieval knights jousting with lances or getting involved in huge melee tournaments, to Wrestlemania and the Rumble in the Jungle and Ultimate Fighting Championships, combat-oriented athletes draw huge crowds. And don’t even get me started on Drunken Master and Fight Club and all that...
And finally, there’s the whole health/gym culture thing. With magazines advertising 300 different ways to build abs or lose weight or whatever, and tons of people taking up running and cycling and golf, it’s not like the health benefits of a combat lifestyle have gone unnoticed.
Put all that together, and you have thousands of white collar men and women who are trying their hands at the way of the warrior, spending morning and midnight trying to become the Ultimate Fighting Champion, and then heading off to work like it ain’t no thang.
For the record: It is a thang.
And it’s a thang I wanted to know more about. So with the help of some of my way fitter, better centred and more dangerous friends, who also happen to be totally boring accountants and supply chain managers and all that, I’ve been exploring ways of becoming Batma...I mean, learning to fight.
It’s a long process. There’s fitness sessions and gym, and learning techniques, and sparring - which for me mostly just involves getting beaten up - but in a kind and informative way. At least, that's what they tell me...
So what have I learned thus far?
Well, I learned that Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is a form of stand-up striking combat sport that uses elbows, knees, shins and all that to take opponents down. Both arts require high levels of physical fitness, and can do some serious damage - and aren’t really useful in most day jobs.
I learned that Brazilian jiu jitsu is an evolution of traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu, developed by the Gracie family. It focuses more on technique and leverage than strength, the premise essentially being that it allows a smaller and/or weaker person to effectively defend themselves against a larger/stronger/more athletic opponent.
And I also learned...
- You can't win a fight if you're afraid of getting hurt. Take the punch if it helps you set one of your own up. (But remember, you also can't win a fight if you take all the punches - unless your opponent falls asleep while pummelling you, I guess, and I’m not sure of the legality of that kinda victory.)
- Getting hit (or kicked, headbutted, trapped in a lock, etc.) hurts...a lot. (I may have said this before, but It really does bear repeating.)
- So does hitting someone else – especially if you don't know what you're doing.
- Sparring is exhausting – just bouncing around for five minutes, trying to avoid getting hit or throwing a few kicks is tiring stuff. I have no idea how they manage to do that while trading trash talk and quips (at least in the movies).
- Every fight ends up in a grapple, unless one of the combatants is massively overmatched.
- Fighting people who know what they're doing (as opposed to people who gym a lot and watch action movies, say) is an exercise in humility (or humiliation, depending on how you look at it).
- Conversely, most of my subjects don't brag about their fighting or their fitness – but they have a certain sense of pride in knowing that they can handle most troublemakers they're likely to come across in their regular lives.
- For some folks, training and fighting aren't necessarily about violence – they're about setting up boundaries and maintaining some form of discipline in their lives. Though there is an undeniable adrenaline surge that accompanies a good sparring session…
- Going to work tired after a good training session is way better than coming from work tired - there really is a good tired and a bad tired.
So am I the Ultimate Fighting Champion yet?
That depends...Is the ultimate fighting champion the one who ends up tapping out all the time and begging for mercy from evil little kids who must be midget martial arts assassins in disguise? Cos if so, I gotta tell you, I’m killing it.
But until then, I’m enjoying it...and I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it yet to do so right away. Mostly so I have more beginners to contend with, really...but my heart is in the right place, honest. Unlike the rest of me, sadly...but hey, that's the price you pay for enlightenment, right?