Human fighting is an art: Competition enjoyable to watch on multiple levels

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

Since the Greeks first introduced them in the Olympic Games in 648 B.C., combat sports have long been a popular pastime for many around the world.

Over the years they have evolved into different and unique fighting forms, such as wrestling and boxing as mainstream sports in America, while in South America and Asia martial arts, such as karate, judo and jujitsu, have reigned supreme.

However, the popularity of all of these individual events may soon be down for the count in comparison to a hybridization of each — the sport of mixed martial arts competition, or MMA for short.

For those not in the know, MMA involves two competitors, each trying to knock out or submit their opponent using a diversity of fighting techniques that fall under two main categories: striking (punching, kicking, kneeing, etc.) and grappling (sweeps, throws, takedown and other assorted wrestling and submission holds).

While this may sound like no-holds-barred fighting, there are actually several rules for fighter safety, such as no eye gouging, biting or small joint manipulating (finger breaking), to name just a few.

MMA currently is the fastest growing sport in the United States with training centers springing up everywhere — even Soldotna — and championships are held regularly, such as the Alaska Fighting Championships held monthly at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.

In addition, national MMA organizations such as the Pride Fighting Championships and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continue to see the ticket to live event and Pay-Per-View sales skyrocket. The latter organization even has its own television series, now in its third season.

This rise in popularity isn’t coming without any complaints, though. Dubbed “human cock fighting” by some, MMA has political opponents, perhaps the most well known of which is Arizona Senator and potential 2008 presidential candidate John McCain.

McCain, who ironically is a huge proponent of boxing, led a campaign encouraging cable providers to drop MMA Pay-Per-View events from their entertainment line-ups in the late 1990s.

Fortunately, though, McCain is part of an ever increasing minority of people who view MMA in negative terms due to its brutality.

I’m not denying it, MMA appeals to what in Freudian terms would be my “id” — the irrational beast within me, powered by bodily instinct and seeking only its own immoral gratification through tension discharge.

Vicariously, it’s a real stress reliever to watch two fighters do to each other what I would like to do to a million annoying people in my life, if it wouldn’t get me arrested.

But also, MMA appeals to my “ego” — the rational, organized agency within me. I find MMA to be an exquisite demonstration of multidimensional combat techniques combined with athletic skill and stamina.

Watching MMA athletes is poetry in motion. It quickly becomes clear that the fighters, many of whom are doctors and teachers, not bar room thugs as some portray them, are so skilled that their fight is more of a physical chess match than just impulsive aggression or illogical combat.

Seeing them calculate their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses while fluidly moving through their repertoire of offensive and defensive moves, it becomes clear why MMA is called an “art.”

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Clarion.

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