Greatness: The Art of War

Even in my happy indifference to athletics, I could understand something of the competitor. The Olympian urges his body on toward the moment that will redeem the years and pleasures and normalcy he had laid on the altar of glory. He challenges the unrivaled to best himself. But men who attack one another – invite the blows and blood – and go on to hug after beating the brains out of each other? (Right, it is women who make no sense.) Baffling brutes, I’ve thought.

A year or so after my boy had started in Mixed Martial Arts and I too had learned some moves in self-defense, I was strolling past the octagon at the gym when the sparring in there took on a startling light. Suddenly, the irrational violence I’d dismissed made every bit of sense and the fluid logic of the moves blew me away in its beauty. So this was the art of war.

I became intrigued by men who put themselves in harm’s way, not for a greater good but to test themselves. Fascinated with these creatures of discipline – so many who I discovered are really nice guys – I set out to ask fighters of all caliber in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, “Why do you fight?” But it was the questions under the question that pressed me. Aren’t you afraid? What do you do with that fear? What makes you spurn that bed of ease and climb the path of great resistance? Are you born different from the rest of us? What is the stuff of warriors – are they born or made? What inner battles are you fighting?

These questions played in my head as I watched a mesmerizing rerun of the epic fight between Dan Henderson and Mauricio โ€œShogunโ€ Rua.

A minute and a half into the first round, and blood rains over Shogun’s face. He stays bloody to the end. By the third round, both he and Hendo have drained their reserve. Round Four, they pummel. And Hendo looks at the clock. An eloquent moment: two hundred pounds of muscle and he wonders when he can stop.

The men hang by a thread through the distance, the longest 25 minutes of their lives. It’s not muscle in the last round. Shogun and Hendo find themselves in the mental corner. They have given up their all and for one of these men, it won’t be good enough. What follows will ride on mind and will. Shogun gives Hendo a run for his money, but Hendo had done too much damage too fast from the first round not to win in the judges’ eyes. The call remains a technicality for many, fans the world over moved by the warrior spirit of both men.

Soon after, I caught some words from The Korean Zombie on the gym screen, a crash introduction to the relatively new but popular mixed martial artist who earned the moniker from his singular ability to plow unthinkingly through injuries and blows. Thrilled to his wildest dreams to be slated to fight UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, Chan Jung said, “I’m willing to put everything on the line…I would give my life to be fly1champion.” How stupid. How marvelous. Beautiful. I became enthralled. Three years he had chased the chance to take the title from the eight-year undefeated champion. I asked The Zombie in my head: What makes you define years of your life by a moment you hold in your dreams? Where does the confidence even come from, to disagree with the masses that your opponent is superior?

Aldo: “I don’t even see a chance of losing.”
Jung: “I push my opponent to his breaking point.”

I had the recent privilege of reaching The Zombie in Seoul, Korea. His agent took the time to translate the interview and afford me a more personal acquaintance with the star. Chan, like some of the other fighters I’ve spoken with, found martial arts after being bullied as a kid. His aunt enrolled him in Hapkido. As to the qualms, he echoes the others, “There is always the fear, but mostly of losing.” Fear of injury becomes a minor concern. After the first blow, they’re good (something I don’t quite get as a woman) – the anticipation over, the adrenaline on. Beyond any anxiety over a black eye, they’re afraid of letting the coaches and themselves down. The goal is to free themselves from the fear of fear. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor at our gym says he competes to face his fear of vulnerability and stay ahead of his insecurities.

Former UFC champion Vitor Belfort said it simply on TV: “Nothing can distract.” The Korean Zombie doesn’t just dream. He labors in the vanguard of those who sweat, breathe, beat that dream into reality with laser beam devotion. These guys seem to live on a different plane altogether. I remain mystified. All those months and years and daily dogged minutes of self-denial. Though C.S. Lewis was speaking of spiritual appetite in his observation that we are far too easily pleased, his commentary captures the human spirit. We worship comfort, especially as postmoderners. I am blown away by the single-minded who take no excuses for themselves, repudiate mediocrity, forgive nothing substandard. In this case, by fighters who put themselves in a place that exposes what they’ve got and what they’ve worked for: they ran the extra mile, or they didn’t. The cage door closes and you have two guys hell bent on winning. No one trains to lose. They force each other to their best. The contenders risk it all before a watching world. And the months of toil can all go down in seconds. It hit me (pun intended) that this death grip on commitment resonates with me for the crazy work ethic Koreans have branded themselves by.

I had to puzzle out the deepest answer I was seeking in these interviews. The men told me, “I fight because it’s what I love. What I’m good at. The thrill of victory, the arm going up.” But why do you have to punch someone in the face to feel so good?

If man ever did evolve he stopped over 2,000 years ago. I realized MMA is not so new. I am watching the Spartan warrior and the Roman gladiator in their most primal fight for self-preservation. History is battle, the fiercest of physical arguments over land and power. My son has been learning, “Assyria falls to Babylon, Babylon to Persia, Persia falls to Alexander the Great.” The Conquerer has been redefining boundaries – of space and within himself – since ancient times and on he goes. Man’s quest for greatness.

The current of the past carries these fighters on to their future. Competitor Phillip Brown is not only chasing his dream but living it. He stays present so that the training is not only a movement toward possibility but joy: “You wake up and realize it’s already tomorrow. You feel really alive. It’s a presence. All your hard work has paid off. All those minutes on the bag, all those tap-outs in practice. Tap-out means I need to get better. Martial arts is the art of bettering oneself. When that cage door shuts, I’m exactly where I wanna be: win, lose, or draw.” How many of us know exactly where we want to be?

Part of my fascination with these contenders stems from the mystery of the Other, as they are talented with their body in a way I can never hope to be. After a year’s sorry attempt in self-defense, I discovered I have as much survival instinct as I do coordination. But I’m drawn to the sport for the resonance; I fill with hope and pride in people who seek excellence in their craft, partly for this very pursuit in the roles I have played as mother and as writer. Whether or not I have succeeded remains a different matter. But what I’ve asked the competitors were really parenting questions that continue to replay themselves. How much do I push my son to free him – to borrow from Gloria Vanderbilt – to follow his bliss? How do I encourage him to refuse distractions from his purpose? How to reconcile the wisdom of balance with the virtues I prize: stamina, discipline, passion? You lose, sometimes excise, a part of yourself for the greater gain on the hot trail of dreams.

“The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream.”ย  Benjamin Mays (1894-1984), American minister and educator

Enjoy the Wayfarer in MMA action here – most notably not in her element.

143 thoughts on “Greatness: The Art of War

  1. Hi Diana, this is a fascinating and brave exploration that you’ve pursued. I like your reflection on how to balance pursuit of goals with freedom and following passions and impulses. Overall, when I read about extreme commitment to goals, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the trait that is feeding the harm to our planet, greed and other excesses?

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Brad. I share my grapplings (again, pun intended) with my readers. Wasn’t out to pay blind homage. There is always a cost. Where do we lose? But this was an almost-ancillary point. For the most part, I did want to express my fascination for the fighters and what they do, with due praise. And share the funky journey as to how it all unfurled for me. Steep, fun learning curve. Thanks for your time.

  2. A deep, insightful look on a subject that many dismiss as crass and brutal. (I don’t) It made for a good read.
    Thanks Diana,

    • Hey Laurie, I appreciate the good word. If you knew how many days I spent on it. Not counting the research and notes the last two months, today alone, six hours straight before posting. I appreciate your faithful support.

      • You’re welcome Diane. I don’t think people realise the work that can go into writing an article. Are you considering approaching a fighting magazine with this article? It is very good and I think, from a woman’s point of view it would be something editors may be looking for. Just a thought.

      • (DianA.) =) I, actually, have. The only issue remains that of TiMe ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I so appreciate the encouragement, Laurie. I’ll talk to a fitness instructor at the UFC gym who has written for magz. Thank you dearly for your time and the words that go a long way. And yes, I realized when I started the 90 Seconds on the Round that the exploration’ll probably be cool coming from a woman. =)

      • Sorry about the spelling mistake, I correspond with Susan’s and Suzanne’s, Diana’s and Diane’s I get a bit flustered. Time’s always a problem, I’m retired so it’s easy for me. That’s good Diana I hope that you get some good feedback and an opportunity.

      • ๐Ÿ™‚ I love learning new things about new things. Especially when it starts to spark my interest. Who knows maybe I will be watching UFC, like I watch Tennis one day.

      • Cool =) I mean, that’s what makes us human…progress! You remind me of an old post of mine….I wanted to include this excerpt in the MMA post but didn’t want to run it so long:

        “I think of my husband who is ever pushing the frontiers of his own learning, creating the next place to get to. The next instrument to craft, the new Samba beat to teach. While setting fresh goals for his son. Were we to devolve, we wouldn’t be living our human potential. One of the most tragic sights is the rich, talented, and beautiful executing their own ruin, squandering faculty and resources on addictions. When, on perfectly good legs, they turn and walk away from the horizon of promise.”

        Try watching a match….and observe the rhyme and reason to the movements.

        Xxx Diana

      • Sounds like you might to the poem just behind the recent MMA post, if you didn’t catch it. I thought it’d be cool for a woman to attempt a poem….on the subject. And from the mind of a man.

  3. My husband was in Ju Jitsu for many years. I have never fully understood MMA, having been primarily interested in classic martial arts. In reading your entries on this subject, I’ve come to a greater understanding. The in-depth look, coupled with such nice writing, is a pleasure to read. I’ve enjoyed this entry so.

    What intrigues me the most about MMA is the intuitive “street fighting” speed with which these competitors employ myriad fighting techniques and styles.

    There are always the thugs who are good street fighters. So the best was reading that some of these fighters appear to embrace the greater understanding of what martial arts ARE.

    In pursuit of excellence in any sport, I’m seeing that it almost always consumes the person. It’s just a given, in my opinion.

    • So glad to know you better, to know of your husband’s skill. =) Maybe he’ll enjoy the post ha ha. The coach/fighter whose picture I put up below the Zombie’s made a neat distinction between street fighting and the art of MMA. The first is so fast. But 5 rounds that require stamina and a tough, tough mind….that’s different. I love your input. Readers like you leave me gratified for all my hard work here.

  4. Friend ~ Magnificent post balancing the motivation and the spiritual needs; personally there is a need to meet all types of oppositions/ forces producing negative & positive reverberate, depending on the individual motive. I can’t believe most of these athletes are seeking to kill, injure etc. Nevertheless ~to me, every good thing could be turned into a bad thing– indeed, the body is a miracle ! Terrific writing ! Peace be granted you, Debbie

  5. Always hated the idea of violent sports, particularly boxing. Went to a match and scared myself. On one level I got it…the beauty, the skill, the devotion, and willingness to risk pain.
    But I caught myself standing up screaming “Hit him. Get him!” not even caring how much damage “my” fighter might do or even sustain. Don’t really want to go back to the gladiator days inside me or outside in our culture.
    An Irish priest with a Phd in Scripture and Philosophy, who had started a now thriving college in the Philippines from scratch, was the child of immigrants. His mother had worked as a maid. He had gotten a football scholarship to college. He told me that immigrant groups or others that have somehow been excluded from society almost always worked their way up in society through sports. Which was a new awareness for me and helped me value sports for the discipline and drive and as the means to a better life.
    But I am still inclined to value it more when applied to something other than just the physical. I value the historical influence of Athens more than Sparta.

    Your insights and writing skills stimulate thought and stretch me where I have tended to rust.
    Thank you.

    • Oh, Eileen, what rich feedback. I love every bit of it – and couldn’t help laughing where you found yourself egging on the fighter to do his business. The immigrant drive…. so interesting that I too had felt the connection. Though I didn’t spell it out bc I didn’t want to detract too much from the main point, the insane Korean work ethic is what enabled the wave of immigrants in the last century to build second lives from scratch in America. I love your take on Athens vs Sparta. It might take me a bit to get over there for my revisit. Carpal Tunnel – from the days I poured into this post. Thx dearly for ur time and encouragement. I wouldn’t be here apart from readers like you.

  6. Diana, Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I just had to come over to see you too. I know well the parenting struggle you speak off. My personal take on it has to come from an immigrant perspective (Malaysian Chinese currently living a raising a child in the UK), and yes, i too struggle with the ‘to push or not to push’ (perhaps ‘challenge’ might be a better word) question.
    I am slowly learning to ‘let go’ and ‘trust’ in the journey, not unlike the purpose of your blog.
    We (my husband and I) are now reconciled to doing the very best that we can – financially, educational-support, curricular-activities and beyond that, we are learning, learning, learning, to let go, because we have to trust that we have done all that we can do.
    Take care.

  7. Having dabbled in martial arts, I can see the attraction for the participants themselves, and I agree there is nobility there, although not always. What I still don’t get is the spectator. In ancient Rome, crowds often got unruly and nearly out of control if there was not enough blood. Warriors, yes. But war should be left to the warriors; we have no business ogling them.

  8. This is so good. Absolutely intriguing, the profound contrast between boxing … and martial arts. This is good: ” … questions under the question that pressed me …” You pursued something deep that you KNEW was worth the FIGHT to pursue. And this is …congruent (?) … with the process of finding the question under the question (my opinion). Excellent quote from Mays at the end …”Tragedy” is a prolific word, to be used carefully; and it fits in Mays’ quote, when considering the absence of goals. Hey, you might not recognize my blog picture. I started a third blog, and that is the blog picture that came up. Peace to you my friend. Keep writing. T

    • How grateful I am for the enthusiastic thought-out feedback. I’m so glad to know which parts spoke to you. You would not believe how long I labored over this post. And you tapped something big about me: yes, I myself am one to pursue, to fight. I don’t know why I am so blessed with generous readers like you. I’m also impressed you got the apostrophe right (at the end of Mays). =) I use all words carefully. ^^ Boxing is part of MMA. My boy has been learning it along with the rest of the arts since he was a wee thing. Third blog: overachiever! Blessings…

  9. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts – Week 7: Balance and the Art of Succeeding in an All or Nothing World | The Seeker's Dungeon

  10. Reblogged this on The Seeker's Dungeon and commented:
    Please check out this great article that was shared with Dungeon Prompts: The growing appreciation of a mother for mixed martial arts, is a perspective that we haven’t read a lot about.

    • The last two posts were a way for me to stretch myself as a (female) writer. Thank you for the follow. You’d followed a long time ago and I am mindful to thank my readers but some get lost through the terribly busy cracks sometimes. I’ve visited you a few times, and plan to again. Blessings.

  11. Interesting article. As I read it, I thought about a male friend who has been teaching Aikido for more than 40 years and two women friends who are so passionate about their fencing practice.

  12. What Mr. Skele might not realize is, the spectators, by cheering on their favorite fighter, release their own anxieties. It is a outlet for tensions that do not realize they build up in everyday life.

  13. Pingback: Emotionless | Contemplating Me

  14. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts – Week 8: Guilt – Illuminating or Engulfing the Darkness? | The Seeker's Dungeon

  15. Brilliant post. Your reference to the Roman gladiator was interesting. What if MMA fighters truly are the modern equivalent? Wouldn’t that imply that our civilization is in a similar process of decline and fall as per Edward Gibbon?

    • I so appreciate the commendation, Navigator. I wanted to think about your question before responding. I’d say no. No suggestion of decline, at least by virtue of the Gladiatorship. Because the point was the art of it. I was unearthing the beautiful nobility of the sport, though of course human nature can twist anything good. Thank you for your support.

      H Wayfarer

      • Wayfarer,

        I fear I owe you an apology, as mine was a loaded question. I will be arguing in a future book that we as a broader Anglo-American civilization are in fact in the midst of a similar long term decline.

        Hopefully I am wrong. Regardless, your post was beautifully written and I did very much enjoy it.

      • Navigator, apology not accepted bc none is in order. I absolutely agree that we in so many tragic ways are in decline – even in the most fundamental of things (like our increasing distance from nature, in the ways technology has become indispensable to survival). I was just tapping the primal nobility in the outworking of the gladiatorship. =)

    • I completely agree with you, Navigator, though I would suggest that Reality Television is closer to the carnage of ancient Rome. Perhaps both it and MMA provide adequate distraction when other pursuits might be more worthy of our attention, as our ’empire’ falls?

      On a tangent, as a woman who has been involved in martial arts for as long as she can remember, I feel no disconnect here. There is no gender in the training hall. The competition both against your peers and yourself demands self-knowledge and self-actualization. There’s an undeniable intimacy to it — you learn how to anticipate people based on their movements, and how they walk into a room.

      We know how much pain we can dish, how much we can take, and in many cases how to recover from it. Of all the friends I’ve made, the ones I’ve bled with are the ones I trust the most. We’ve carried each other through the most grueling circumstances. We know ourselves and we know each other.

      • Setsu, such eloquence. I feel honored for the caliber of commentary. On MMA and distraction, my point wAs its merit, that it is more than distraction. It certainly can fall below the belt, pun intended, can turn into carnage and something unworthy. But I was sharing the glory and intelligence of it I only recently discovered.

        I love what you share of your own experience and how you put it. Thank you for enriching the conversation.

      • Setsu,

        I can only speak from a very humble background of a year or two of Tai Chi some time ago. What I see as noble about martial arts in general is the ultimate mastery of both the art and one’s self in emotional, psychological, and spiritual terms. The ultimate victory is over one’s own fears, insecurities, and emotional weaknesses such a jealously, hatred, materialism, etc.

        I suppose this is why I tend to not view MMA in as noble terms as others might. He or she who has mastered their art and themselves have no insecurities which propel them to seek unnecessary conflict. The physical MMA conflict reflects the inner conflict of its fighters.

        I’m not trying to be disrespectful to those who support MMA. This is just how I see things.

      • Navigator, I so appreciate – and can see clearly – the position you lay out so well. I agree with the different points you make (on the ultimate mastery of art and self, and how MMA is a mirror of unsettled matters in the fighter) and concede that your conclusion bears weight. But it doesn’t seem that insecurity is what drives all MMA fighters categorically. I don’t think I can make that blanket assertion.

        And while I find your take on self-mastery just wonderful and pivotal in the definition of greatness, I still must ask: given the complexity of the human soul, envy, the desperate need to prove oneself (attitudes I personally do not applaud) still do fuel man to unspeakable heights. We can’t invalidate his astonishing achievement entirely, can we? Only God can judge purity of motive.

        The whole time I’ve been writing on the topic of greatness, I have been studying this theme of the human heart from my outsider Christian perspective. I long since recognized the emptiness that many of our heroes – across the fields of endeavor – have been hungering to fill by feats of will and industry. The distance they cross nevertheless merits attention – I think it in and of itself does warrant praise.

      • Diana,

        Your eloquently expressed thoughts delve into an area which has occupied my mind for a few years. I speak from the perspective of one who has lived with the results of narcissism for over two decades. In my view, greatness is but a milder word for grandiosity, a defining narcissistic trait.

        I see the narcissism as the antithesis of genuine spirituality. The truly spiritual person has no need to achieve greatness. Paradoxically, true greatness (in my view, of course) occurs when one transcends all narcissism and has no need to be “great” in any way. Not great in terms of intellect, gender, income, beauty, parenting, popularity, career progression, athleticism, or achievement.

        Not that one shouldn’t be a loving parent, or a reasonably industrious worker, or pursue knowledge or wisdom for its own sake, etc. But that this should be done with modesty, humility, reason, and without a need for it to define oneself (said the navigator), or for meaning, for ego, or for greatness of any sort.

        What has any man or woman created that rivals the majesty of a planet travelling around the Sun in an ellipse with the Sun at one of the ellipse’s foci? A squared + B squared = c squared for a right triangle before Pythagoras, and it remains true after Pythagoras. He merely was the vector by which humanity came to know this was true. Is one great if one discovers some existing fundamental truth, for example? Was Alexander, who had all of Tyre put to the sword or crucified, great?

        Or was the humble, caring, and devoted Mother Theresa great?

        My thought, or perhaps concern, is that if we exalt works as being great, we must by definition act to encourage narcissism and thus act against a spiritual world.

        In terms of MMA/martial arts, in my view a necessary component of “greatness” is to be devoid of any desire or emotional necessity to prove one’s self in conflict, even if the proving is only to one’s self. This is not to suggest that there could not arise a situation or circumstance in which actual employment of the art would not be necessary. Only that the artist would have absolutely no need for this to be so, and could spend his or her entire existence with this so and be at peace with it.

        Thank you for your wonderful forum and kind hospitality in permitting me to express myself.

      • Nav, do you mean your own in the reference to the narcissism you lived with?

        I embrace every word you took time to share with us here. In fact, you beat me to my last post, the way I knew I’d end the series even at the starting gate. After exploring the different faces of greatness, I was going to come home to the spiritual side of it. I refrain from details – would not want to spoil it. =)

        Exalting works isn’t quite what I’ve been doing (and I know this isn’t only or exactly what you mean to say I’ve been doing). The investigation to date has been largely on the question of drive, or persistence — in my mind, actually, where it stands in contrast to talent. I plan to discuss this soon. That is, the simple ques of nurture vs nature. What people can do with talent, how they can multiply it with industry and fortitude — even with a death grip, blows my mind. Some examples of the fruit of this persistence are what I have supplied in the series.

        Just wonderful for having you here. I thoroughly appreciate your perspective, which also gives me a precious glimpse into your character.

      • Wayfarer,

        Thank you for your kind words. I’m very much looking forward to your next and final post on the topic, as I suspect it will be thought-provoking.

        In terms of narcissism, it was my ex-wife of 19 years. Interestingly, I live in a jurisdiction that has been heavily influenced by ideological / gender / gynocentric feminism. The manner in which I was treated by “the system” and its individuals in my divorce was highly similar to the behavioural traits of my ex-wife. I again saw this in the books I read that were academically critical of feminism, which is not about equality and women’s rights, contrary to what it professes.

        To make a long story short, I interpreted existing narcissism theory from the lens of my 19 years of experience to develop what I refer to as a unified construct of gender narcissism. Very simple to understand, yet I’ve discovered that it has a strong Occam’s Razor sort of appeal in that it appears to explain so much from such a humble set of assumptions.

        This construct promises to be the mechanism by which the late Christopher Lasch’s work “The Culture of Narcissism” can be unified with Edward Gibbon’s classic of the Enlightenment “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” A logical extension of the construct is thus that we are living in a period of decline of civilization, and that the primary characteristic of this decline is that it a process of narcissistic decay.

        I hope to have the first in a two-book work on this out by year’s end. I’m using my broader divorce experience as a “journey of discovery” narrative to introduce these ideas to a popular / common reading audience. Test reader feedback has been encouraging.

        I suppose it’s apropos that the books will be part of my ongoing 5+ year struggle against “the system.” In my own way, I am in a prolonged contest that is analogous to a major MMA match. Hopefully I have approached the ideal which I have articulated here without too great a deviation.

        I do hope I haven’t imposed upon your kind hospitality with this comment.

  16. Diana I read all three of your articles twice because I love the way you delivered your words and I could feel they came to life on paper from deep within you. Bravo, excellently done…I can read your posts always without hesitation, because I know they will be very good! Have a wonderful weekend dear sister!

  17. Apart from a dedicated visual artist, I am also a dedicated karateka (Shotokan). I completely get everything that you have just written about except the sense of glory from winning bouts, and the fear of losing. I’ve never felt or cared for these things.

    I fully recognize that the fighters on the MMA circuit are profound athletes, not warriors ( I don’t even accept the notion insisted by my karate peers that I am a warrior because I study and practice the warrior arts), but I do not identify with the MMA enterprise as anything honourable. It’s still brutality to me by individuals with a penchant for violence. I guess I’m still missing something.

    • No — that is your position and I welcome every bit of it here. Fighters (in any endeavor) fight for their own reason. There is no categorical motive we can attribute to everyone. Hence my questions on what drives these people. I have seen – from watching them at the gym and on TV, and analyzing the interviews of the well-known ones – that some ARE warriors. Or become warriors in transformative moments like the match between Hendo and Sho-G afforded. The coach who taught me moves in self-defense is a dedicated fighter with the most tender heart. That’s what aroused my curiosity: a lot of these guys are very nice, and could never be mentioned alongside the word “brutal” in a sentence. As I started the post, brutality was all I used to see of what went on in the ring. After learning the rhyme and reason to the techniques, I see more of the beautity and intelligence to the fighting. And that the fighters are in fact battling themselves while in action is so much clearer.

      Thanks for your time. Your views are always welcome.

  18. Pingback: Well, What If You’re NOT Good Enough? | HarsH ReaLiTy

  19. Thanks Diana for such a great and insightful read. You’ve pretty much smacked it (pun intended) right on the head. The part you were unsure of regarding being punched and feeling better? I can only explain that as overcoming another fear. What’s the worst that can happen? Am I going to die? Is this going to hurt? It happens. .You get punched.. what you feared becomes a reality but the good news is its not as bad as you thought. One less thing to worry about. You mention the mental fight in the latter stages and that is all it becomes. Who wants it more or who is fitter. In a competition setting it’s nice to win no doubt but come the end win or lose you know as a fighter you’ve earned respect from others but. Most. Importantly you’ve no regrets with yourself. In that moment in time you can hold your head up high and say. I am the best I can be. Nobody can take that away from you. Confidence inevitably follows..Hummility is another Important virtue all together but just as important.


  20. You could not be a true Korean if you didn’t appreciate martial arts. I have taken the bus from Seoul to Busan a few times and through out the journey we are treated to martial arts movies. Unfortunately if we arrive in the middle of the movie we are left hanging and wondering about the outcome. lol.

  21. Sorry it took me so long to reply.

    This is very well thought out and written. I really enjoyed hearing a different perspective and how it all came together full circle.

  22. Pingback: Well, What If You’re Not Good Enough? | A Holistic Journey

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  24. I know this article is old but …

    Looking through this I really relate. One of the best moments in my life was when, as a pudgy and scared freshman in high school, I put on my helmet and lined up against a dude at least a hundred pounds heavier and six inches taller. As the guy fell on his back I immediately knew that he bent against me, MY fury, MY violence, MY power. The moment my face mask landed that rising blow on his chest I knew fear was unnecessary. The instant I felt him bounce against the ground I knew my life had changed.

    And it is not just in victory I’ve gotten this feeling. I’ve dislocated my knee six times, I’ve been thrown on my head hard enough to kick myself in the nose, I’ve been rag-dolled by wrestlers and football players vastly more talented than myself. Yes, pain sucks but honestly, it’s not that bad. Yes, that super athlete is going to beat me, but I’m not afraid. S- happens and there is honor, not to mention learning opportunity, in hard fought defeat.

    There’s a purity in dangerous activities that just doesn’t arise in the mundane. Greatness is never achieved in comfort.

    • I didn’t think I’d ever say something like this but what a beautiful (striking, pun intended) montage of violent pain. And you make us understand. I do wonder: “The instant I felt him bounce against the ground I knew my life had changed.” Is there another altogether different way you could’ve experienced this transformative power? You left me a post, the meat of a great magazine article or post.

      • Hmm. I’m sure there are different ways to come to that life kind of life changing experience, but I think the differences would be details. I could probably have felt that way wrestling rather than playing football, or perhaps spear fishing something big and scary.

        It would not have been possible without violence and danger, of that I’m positive. Before that hit, Matthew 5 was a hugely influential part of my life. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the poor of spirit. Blessed are those who grieve.

        I saw myself as meek and poor of spirit. I had imagined football as an experience where I would valiantly try, get run over by “big people” from “out there” and maybe be recognized for my admirable but ineffectual spunk later on. Rudy, in other words.

        The ferocity, the primal glee with which I’d laid that guy on his butt taught me several things. First was that I’m not meek, not even close. The second thing it taught me was that “big people” weren’t that tough and “out there” wasn’t anything to be afraid of. I don’t think that sort of self-discovery happens with lower stakes activities.

        Btw, that guy I laid out is a friend to this day. Last time I was in the states I took his family to sushi. I think one of the great things about violent sports is that they are a relatively harmless way to get these types of self-discovery and safe vents for natural (and healthy, I would add) aggression. Suburban moms pulling their kids from dangerous activities is kind of a tragedy in my opinion.

        If you’re interested.

      • You probably expressed a lot of what they feel out there. But my exploration (from the surprising discovery) was of the art of war, not bestial fest. It was something, finding that fighting was in fact an intelligence and grace all its own. How society, from millenia past, has organized this primal urge in games and competitions, and what the collective backhand (audience response, also primal) does to the fighters are just fascinating.

      • Definitely true. I’ve often explained football to my Korean friends as violent chess. I am sure MMA is the same way intellectually. Emotionally, though, I’m sure it’s very primal.

  25. It fascinates me D, that you have gone down this path. If I remember correctly, you wrote another post on it a few years back? The post is excellent, both interesting and educational. I suspect to be anything great takes great sacrifice, whether you are a fighter or a pianist. It also takes great courage, including the willingness to fail. Good job. I would say it is worth the effort you put into it. โ€“Curt

    • This is the old post. =) I ran it for the new folks who’ve joined us here but really appreciate your time, C. It’s an endless question for me, esp as a parent. The thing is, these crazy achievers would rather die than fail. I don’t know: you need that streak to stay off the path of mediocrity! I want T to achieve what he can! But I also want him to remain sane and healthy. I’ve looked at this ques many years and I don’t know that one can have it all. Don’t you think of your kids and grandkids in the face of these questions on the pursuit of excellence? I spent a couple of months preparing for this post. Thanks, friend. And I loved your Burning Man posts and was bummed P couldn’t join you. I was going to comment after sharing the posts with T but life, of course, got in the way. Talk again.

      • Seemed very familiar… ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve debated the question my whole life, D. And ultimately, for myself, I love to do far too many things to devote all of my energies to one. One other thought though, life would be incredibly simple, it seems to me, if you only chose one path and stuck to it through thick and thin. You would want to make sure it was the right path, however. ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€“Curt

      • Interesting. That die-hard devotion wOuld simplify things. But sociologist Duckworth in her book Grit (on passion and perseverance) found that those who pursued a passion to the point of expertise found endless novelty in the nUances of their art. In any event, I was just reminded that one thing I could never be is an MMA Mom. T just hit his face on the table, sparring with Dad, and is in bed with a purple goose egg. I can’t get over his pretty nose being all swollen. I don’t know how those moms and wives do it!!

      • Good point, D. Simple but definitely not boring. Sorry about T’s table encounter. It takes a strong mom to survive their children growing up. ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€“Curt

    • Thanks, Beth. I take that to heart. He just made Memory Master again (recited hundreds of facts across 7 subjects through 4 levels of testing), and was the only 1 among 40 kids to make Bible Master (memorized 24 vs of Ephesians 6 in the King James). But I made sure he enjoyed himself the whole way through. I’ll keep making sure if its kills me, ha ha ha ha.

  26. I experienced some of this in my swimming days when grueling three and four hour practices were the norm, but I was always very much a non-contact kind of gal and these brutal punishing kinds is sports I could never buy in to. Fascinating post.

    • Those practices were commendable, P. And yeah, these coaches would come into the gym with a black eye or cut nose after a fight. Gee. And the ones one TV would sustain such crazy injuries that put them out all year. The Zombie’s shoulder ended up dislocating in that big anticipated fight. I forget what exactly had happened to it but it was serious and he was screaming on the floor. I think we saw the bone sticking out. His inner pain – of the loss of all he had trained for – not just the injury, was painful to watch.

  27. I don’t get the physical “fighting” either. However, “fighting” for what we believe in is essential to feeling alive and finding a purpose greater than ourselves. The self-disciple of those who prepare, fight and overcome fear is the definition of courage, success, and a tad of craziness!

  28. I discovered MMA back in 2003 when I met my then-boyfriend. We met at a bar and it was really the topic of MMA that was the glue, that held my interest because it was so – different. We dated for 6 years and it was 6 years of solid MMA, following the sport and he even particapted in it, although it was not too long because, as you know, it takes crazy discipline. After we broke up, I weaned myself off of it purely because I had been watching everything (UFC fights) and everything before it (Pride fights, etc) for such a long time. These days, I catch the interesting cards, but from my time dating Mr. MMA, I couldn’t help but learn a few BJJ moves!

    • I nEVER thought I’d get into something like that. It is so interesting once you’re in it. But I don’t know how you were able to stand by and watch him fight, open himself up to injury. T hit his head hard against the table while sparring with Dad this wknd, promptly sporting a purple goose egg between the eyes. It was the last straw when I realized his pretty nose had swollen, too. LOL.

      Did you follow the Ronda Rousey drama and how she lost the Belt to Holly?

      I really enjoyed your post on enjoying the moment. Well expressed and I was so happy you reached that place. I haven’t been able to put up a lot of comments. It’s all I can do to even visit folks.

      • I did follow the Rousey drama. And even saw this video criticising her boxing coach as the reason why she keeps losing in the ring. I mean, after her last lost, she’s done.

        It felt surreal watching him fight, and of course, I was worried, but I knew he would win and how. Just one of those lucky/intuitive moments. But he didn’t stick with it very long… ๐Ÿ˜› I mean, who the heck wants to get hit in the face???

        Thanks on the post – I understand, I’ve been much more choosy and sometimes I can’t keep up because I have to work and stuff, so I just let it go. Hope T is recovering well!

  29. My fav underdog Korean fighter who had won is Hyunbin, a comedian, against a Japanese fighter. And who knew he could sing so well? Had posted about him in “k-karaoke (cont’d). Ah, I haven’t seen Belfort in awhile. Great post!

  30. Ok–really late to the party but I’ve run out of your more current selections:). I think some are born with the warrior spirit–and that explains what many of us see as insanity. The world needs all things, right? As long as they’re not truly evil . . .

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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