Originally published at: https://quillette.com/2021/02/25/the-rise-fall-and-rise-again-of-conor-mcgregor/
Thou knowest this man’s fall, but thou knowest not his wrassling. ~James Baldwin One of the truest tests of a person’s character is how they respond to failure. Wins and losses come and go and we can’t always count on the desired result. What matters more than results is the process by which we navigate…
Originally published at: https://quillette.com/2021/02/25/the-rise-fall-and-rise-again-of-conor-mcgregor/
Martial arts are primarily about self-improvement, refining our strengths and weaknesses, and learning to cope with discomfort and danger.
I respectfully disagree. To my way of thinking, martial arts are primarily about two things; 1) the sheer, unadulterated joy taken by a martial artist when he is pounding and kicking the living daylights out of another man.
And 2) the sheer, unadulterated thrill on the part of those watching a man getting the living daylights kicked and pounded out of him.
This is a blood sport, but without the killing at the end.
Notwithstanding prevailing mainstream misconceptions of MMA as a barbaric relic of an ugly past
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Mainstream? It’s MMA that’s mainstream. It’s the ugly classist bigots who would never, ever use words like “barbaric” in any other context, feel free to use them to describe these sports. Wrestling and boxing are, along with running, literally the oldest, noblest sports in human history.
In fact, I would go so far as to say the “barbaric” slur is aimed at the fans of MMA. The type of people who write these articles, particularly those in the American media, are the epitome of privilege. The whole tone was horrifyingly high-handed, as if they were an anthropologist studying a “savage” tribe in Africa.
The first step to legitimacy is often when the people in charge simply start taking people outside their tribe seriously, rather than treating them as a pestilence to be eliminated. Citation: People of higher status are more likely to think that those who disagree with them are stupid or biased — even when their high status is the result of luck.
How would you know? Do you feel sheer, unadulterated joy when hurting people? How many times have you done that, that you would be such an expert? How many times have you stepped in the ring?
I think this is a case of textbook psychological projection. Projection is when a person projects zir own unacceptable thoughts onto The Other. Insecurities and self-loathing manifest themselves externally as hated enemies. Evidence is not required - the feeling of internal loathing is all that is necessary to prove the existence of an enemy.
Certain citizens like a good game of cribbage or chess. Yet others like to see men (usually) battering one another into semi-consciousness. Or be the one doing the battering.
We would classify chess as a battle of minds. The worst damage will be to one’s self-esteem if they don’t win the game. But it’s still taken very seriously by its adherents.
MMA is reviled because it’s brutal, barbaric and bloody. Damage to self-esteem will be somewhere at the end of the list of hurts at the end of the fight. The physical toll to body and brain over the years will accumulate. But these guys are young and tough and middle age is a long way over the horizon.
Is it stupid and pointless? Sure. So what’s your point?
I loathe this whole discussion.
Respectfully, I disagree. Most martial arts are very much so about discipline, character, duty, and in many societies service. I would agree the competitive side of many martial sports can be as you described, especially the fan base. However, I wouldn’t lump all into that category.
The Quillete article and I were addressing “primarily about”. I believe you are saying something along the lines of “also about”.
Possibly yes. But it might be better for those inclined to test their martial prowess in sport as opposed to more permanent manners.
Regardless, just my two cents.
Thou knowest this man’s fall, but thou knowest not his wrassling.
They don’t show his wrassling, but the shot of his bare upper body is nice.
“Above all, McGregor’s success can be attributed to an attitude in which there is no opponent and we are always competing with ourselves, embodying a spirit of antagonistic cooperation through the metaphor of combat that uses adversity, struggle, and suffering to become a better human being.”
If you’ve ever spent much time around boxing you’ll always discover every boy has a story. It usually starts off with fear or humiliation. Many of these kids start out after suffering some kind of traumatic experience that makes them feel very vulnerable, helpless, frustrated, but not as victims, but rather with a growing wish for redemption, not so much vengeance on who shamed them, but rather that they are never again subject to having their rawest vulnerabilities, confidence, ego, and fragile adolescent identities put through shame. But that scared kid that first enters a boxing gym isn’t the kid that hides or manages his character by adapting to avoidance, the first time he walks in that gym all eyes will briefly turn to another with a story just like theirs, and walking in is the first and toughest hurdle. Now all you have to do is grow.
So you’ll usually be led to a heavy bag, be given some mitts and be given some basic instruction. The coach will eye you from time to time as he does all the kids. He’s checking your commitment, desire, aggression, he’s checking your mind. After a while you’ll be put to task, you’ll lace up these massive gloves and momentarily feel like a gladiator, that’ll be quickly followed by a hard jab in your face and then another. You’ll never forget this, and it’s not horrible, it’s what you knew would happen. The coach interjects with instruction and you keep thinking about punching, he’s screaming defence, footwork. You just want to punch.
Movement and anticipation is everything in boxing, after a time you can gauge a tenth of a second or two forward of what your opponent can possibly do. There’s only so many ways he can score on you.
After months of this you may have gotten quite good. You’ll be able to defend yourself going backwards and forwards, anticipate shots so that you deflect and defend any real force, your body will be far stronger so the hits you take often don’t hurt unless cumulative. When fighters start a bout with an unknown opponent they’ll get in close to test how strong each other is, you can’t tell just by looking.
You know yourself when you are getting good, and the others in the gym are aiding and abetting in developing your skills, often to fight them. This is what a lot of people never realize. Everybody is helping everyone else improve. You improve, you fight better, you thus improve that fighter, and the camaraderie is just awesome. A lot of kids for the first time find a sense of family in these places. Young kids who would go in for a life of crime and despair, find new direction. The older guys look after the immediate younger kids in like some hierarchical ladder, and you’ll always have major influence from the older kids. Remember these kids have found an outlet for anger and turned it into a major positive, and the older bigger kids are their heroes. The older kids know the development route and are keen to help the younger boys stay on the straight and narrow. You hardly ever see these boys involved in incidences of bullying, in fact I’ve heard hundreds of tales of how they’ve interjected as peacekeepers.
I suppose the greatest test of fall from grace in boxing was Roberto Duran’s second fight against the great Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran had beaten the much heavier Leonard in a brutal first encounter. But Duran’s savagely tough upbringing would often lead to him partying and eating binges. He’d struggled to eat as a kid growing up in Panama and the poverty never left Duran’s mind. He fought for Panama; he was hero worshipped, and he shared his glory and his purse. He’d gained about 40 pounds after the Leonard victory, and he had to lose it all for the rematch. His manager who hated Duran had obligated him to a rematch he wasn’t ready for. A different Leonard fought in the second fight, and instead of fighting, boxed a frustrated Duran into submission. Duran walked off the fight. “No Mas” No More was booed at Duran. Duran had lost his mojo. His wife who adored him, hated him and put his brain back in focus with harsh realities. So what did Duran do? He asks that any tough guy, gloves off and no boxing rules take him on. He entered the back lanes of the ghetto’s and in bloody spirit took on anybody. Duran is the guy at 14 who for a bet knocked out a horse with a single punch, and never possessed a reverse gear. “Macho Man.” From then on “No Mas” started really fighting again. He fought for his family, for his country, and for his identity. To return to boxing after humiliating himself to all his countrymen and become regarded as the best lightweight ever, and perhaps the best boxer of all times is testament to his character.
If you ever want to see “Hands Of Stone” fighting then watch that first Leonard fight.
On a vaguely related note, for reasons still unclear to me, the Daily Caller recently ran an editorial (accompanied by a video clip) of a barroom brawl involving a couple of Oklahoma Sooner football players. Daily Caller doing click-bait? Hmmmmm. In any event, I bit and enjoyed the brawl. The opposing brawlers’ backstory was what made the whole thing interesting.
I’ve tried to explain my fiancée the dynamic that is always present amongst men interacting with each other which is the inherent physicality. I know that in every interaction with another man that there is an extent to which I can push him before things become physical. This dynamic is almost always present. And the few places where it is not present and legal action can be taken, I have always found men to be worse to each other. And by that, I mean weak men taking advantage of the fact that if a stronger man was to put their hands on them there would be legal consequences (for example, I found that weak men tend to use the internet as a safe haven and hide behind fake names and avatars to speak to stronger men in a way that they would never dare to IRL). I have told my fiancée that I believe if this physical dynamic was also present amongst women, there would be less psychological warfare amongst them. It’s part of the reason I believe young girls attempt suicide at a far greater clip than young boys. Young boys know that for the most part that physical altercations are inevitable if interactions go too far. That is even the case virtually. If two young men know each other and where the other goes to school, works, or lives, they know that if I take this too far even in the virtual realm, there may certainly be consequences for me in the physical one. As far as I know, this dynamic is largely nonexistent among women. I have seen women do and say things to each other that if the same scenario would occur among men would certainly lead to a physical altercation. Now I am not advocating that women should go around knocking each other out. What I am saying is the threat should at least be present. I can only imagine how reckless I would be if I knew it was socially acceptable to never hit me and everyone knew it. Now, many women do not take advantage of this societal rule and the rule exists for good reason regarding men putting their hands on women. But, when it comes to the dynamic between women, I think this deserves a second look.
Let’s even look at the socially accepted norm that men should not hit women. Again, it goes without saying that I am not advocating that men should hit women. What I am saying is that when you give carte blanche to an entire group of people, it encourages them to act in a way that might be counter productive to their good health. For instance, if I had a daughter, I would not simply say that men shouldn’t hit women and let the conversation stop there which I think it does for a lot of parents. Instead I would go a step further and say even though it is not legally and socially acceptable for men to hit women, it is a reality that a lot of men can and will. And those two different framings encourage different types of thinking and behavior. In the first instance, if I just tell my daughter that men should not hit women and let the conversation end there, when she finds herself angry with a man and wanting to say something horrible to him or put her hands on him, she may be more inclined to do so without fearing any consequences. On the other hand, in the second scenario, if I tell my daughter that men should not hit women BUT a lot of men can and will, if she feels herself wanting to say something horrible to a man or to put her hands on him, she will certainly reconsider understanding the potential consequences. I think it is far better for women to operate on the default assumption that men hit women not the social standard that men shouldn’t hit women. I think it leaves them better prepared against potentially volatile situations.
A little upthread I wrote a post about how boxing helped me in my teens. I am mixed race, but appear white. My eldest brother Philip is black. So when I was growing up and I perceived any prejudice against Phil it used to make me feel helpless, and this great anger would sweep through me. I was naturally good at fighting and I would get involved in lots of fights.
Phil was cool and any bigotry rebounded off of him, and he just saw such people as idiotic fools.
Anyway he made me promise to go to the gym. There were white boys, Asian boys and black boys, and through all the training and discipline and stories, anecdotes, and self development I lost my anger and saw that most of the perceived prejudice that I’d felt could be viewed in many different ways. Once thing that helped this was none of those older role models that taught me how to channel my aggression were racist. Some of us were like brothers in there. I believe gyms and army life are great at uniting people. Funny thing is I was pretty gifted in movement and physically strong and balanced, I could train and recover really quickly too, but once I’d sorted my demons out, boxing had mostly fulfilled its purpose.
Boys with fathers will usually play fight. It’s like some primeval instinct of survival training for the hunt. Fathers and boys will instinctively engage in this play. Men always have that perception of violent threat and understand the boundaries of physical confrontation, whereas women who lack this perception fight with their minds. Perhaps it’s the largest difference in the two sexes understanding each other. I do believe it to be a natural survival instinct.
Regarding violence, women are far more likely to want to exercise violence than men, but because of the males strength women largely get laughed off(though I’ve know some girls that could knock large men out). It’s just that when men do get violent, they are far more extreme, and if this means suicide, they’ll often be successful, if it’s in battle then the extremes give them a far larger likelihood of landing themselves in prison.
Anyways, I like your post(s).
I love this point. I gentleman won the noble prize for his research in this topic and how crucial it is for the development of children. And the parent who typically engages in and encourages this type of play is the father. This is why we see both men and women who are raised without a father present show a multitude of antisocial behaviors.
I also like your second point about women fighting with their minds. It has always been my belief that men were blessed with the physical strength but women were blessed with the verbal/mental strength. The key note to point out here is the men are overly represented in the very high and low ends of the verbal and mental distribution though.
Very thoughtful post and I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks RayRay. SameSame, as my wife will often say.
Do you think you (and the author) have the authority to tell millions of people what they think? Or do you have real world data that shows people are primarily interested in the “joy” and “thrill” of “kicking the living daylights out of another man”?
I think the above poster hit the nail on the head when he said you were projecting.
I love boxing and because of this I understand all the positives it offers. Morgan isn’t wrong to put over the other side of the argument, as there are potential dangers especially to the brain in a sport that includes knocking your opponent out. I doubt if it was a newly evolving sport, if it’d be allowed in todays world.
I was fighting a kid that knocked me off my feet. My coach said I was out when he hit me, by the time I hit the canvas I was awake and got back up. The coach loved this btw, anyways my coordination, reflexes and timing were all over the place. It’s a very strange sensation, though not at all painful. It’s most similar to coming out of a dream, only your doing it whilst someone is trying to land hard rights to your face. I managed to recover and continue, but learned not to underestimate another guy.
Some of the MMA stuff looks quite brutal, but that close contact punching off the canvass has little real power behind it, though it can look like someone is having the shit kicked out of them. The worst punches are in the groin or the kidneys, as they cut down your ability to move, and the kidney punches sap your power. Even wrestling with my kid for 5 minutes can be tiring now, so you have to be in great physical condition fighting strong men who are after all trying to knock you out.
I think it is best to add that most fights don’t end in a knockout, but rather knockdowns, failing to make the count, referees decisions, points decisions, tko’s, and that despite all the boxing matches and sparring sessions there are very few fatalities. Most athletes are very fit and in superb health, and that channelling energy and focus into the noble art of boxing steers many young men away from crime and gang culture. Many young men find their self-worth and confidence through years of disciplined training and use this education to adapt into fruitful lives.
Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much
It’s my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay
And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way