Mixed (message) martial arts

CBS recently announced that they will begin airing cage fighting (aka mixed martial arts or MMA) this spring. In reading the article, I was reminded of something I see quite often whenever advocates of the sport defend it – they try to play up the strategy aspect of MMA and how it does actually prohibit a lot of nastiness such as gouging eyes or striking groins. Then they actually try to pass MMA off as some kind of beautiful ritual – in the case of this article, the CEO of an MMA promotion company said,

“This is a sport of highly trained, highly talented … world-class athletes,” he said. “It is a chess match when these guys get in there and fight, when you understand exactly what they’re doing. It’s like a beautiful dance.”

OK, I’ll grant that most of the MMA participants are actually highly trained athletes. But the “beautiful dance” part kills me. Why, just last week I took some tango lessons, and I finished up every session by punching my partner in the face. 1-2-3 WHAP! It was real beautiful, man.

I also see a lot of comparisons made between MMA and other violent sports like football and hockey, in an attempt to lump them all together. True, there are some very violent aspects to other sports as well, but they are tangential to the objectives of the game. The goal of football is to score points, and to stop your opponent from doing the same – hard hits are usually necessary to achieve that goal, but you can beat the snot out of your opponents and if you don’t score enough you still lose.

As you can probably tell, I am not an MMA fan. But I really do have no problem with people who are into it. I just wish the sport’s defenders would be honest about why they love it, and stop with the lame rationalizations. It’s not for the strategy, and it’s not to admire high-class athletes in action. They simply get a charge out of watching two men pound the shit out of each other. That’s it. Would it be so hard to just admit that?

4 Comments

  • I agree up to a point. I do think people should admit they like watching two people beat the snot out of each other. But there’s also artistry to fighting — in boxing, in normal martial arts competition, even in staged pro-wrestling. So I don’t have trouble believing people like the strategy and the athleticism or even that it’s “like a beautiful dance” although that’s not the simile I would have chosen.

    But people shouldn’t pretend that it’s not still fighting.

  • I agree up to a point. I do think people should admit they like watching two people beat the snot out of each other. But there’s also artistry to fighting — in boxing, in normal martial arts competition, even in staged pro-wrestling. So I don’t have trouble believing people like the strategy and the athleticism or even that it’s “like a beautiful dance” although that’s not the simile I would have chosen.

    But people shouldn’t pretend that it’s not still fighting.

Comments are closed.