I’ve been thinking about why I love to watch people fight. Especially if both combatants are skilled and each has a good chance of winning. A big part of it is the vicarious thrill–imagining myself in the ring. But sometimes I wonder…am I just bloodthirsty?
I don’t enjoy watching people get beat up (by cops, bullies, boyfriends, etc.). That kind of violence makes me sick. But when two fighters compete, and each think they can win, and the chance of permanent injury or death is low, and the fight is as fair as possible–count me in. That’s thrilling.
Consent is the difference between combat sports and assault. And not every fighter knows the difference. Some are gentle outside of the ring, others are brutes and bullies. But inside the ring (or on the football field or wrestling mat), there’s enthusiastic consent. Human beings who want to test themselves, with high stakes.
Even consensual violence should be regulated. Children shouldn’t be allowed to play tackle football, or kick each other in the head during martial arts tournaments, and kids don’t know enough to give proper consent (and they’re too vulnerable to pressure from peers, parents, and coaches). There’s too much of a chance of permanent brain damage. But I’m glad MMA, wrestling, jiujitsu, football, and boxing are legal for adults.
For me, 2017 has been a great year, but it’s been rough physically. My broken foot is healed, but I still get the odd twinge of pain, and my skateboarding days are over. My stomach is mostly healed as well, but I’ll probably be a cautious eater the rest of my life. Even without combat sports, life beats us up.
But combat sports teach us to fight, and to think clearly when the stakes are high, and to not give up even when we’re hurting.